These are strange times for liberal Jews who, like me, were born in America only because their grandparents ran there to escape fascism

My great uncle, Alex Maguy, was a truly remarkable man. Born in 1905 in a Polish ghetto, so poor he forever associated hunger with his childhood, by the time he died in 1999, he was a highly successful gallery owner in France, who lived in a flat filled with paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Chagall.

His brother was murdered in Auschwitz. When Alex himself was captured and sent to the camps, he literally clawed his way out of the train, walked back to France and joined the underground resistance. He also fought in various military campaigns and was decorated by the French, British and Norwegians. Although he stayed in France until the end of his life, he never entirely trusted the French government again; and when, in 1967, Charles de Gaulle described the Jews as “elite people, sure of themselves and domineering”, Alex furiously returned his French military awards to the Élysée Palace. For all of these reasons and more, Alex saw Israel, he wrote in the 1990s in an unpublished memoir, “as the realisation of all of my dreams”.

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