The Jewish Cardinal

Le métis de Dieu (The Jewish Cardinal)
Opening Night Gala
Directed by Ilan Duran Cohen
Starring Laurent Lucas, Aurélien Recoing and Audrey Dana

The Jewish Cardinal is a historical drama which depicts the true story of the Jewish born head of the French Church, Jean-Marie Lustiger.  It tells the trials and tribulations of his personal and professional life as he struggles to balance his identity of both Jewish and Christian.  Born as Aaron to Jewish parents, Jean-Marie was drawn to Christianity and converted at age 14.  As his father noted, while most Jewish boys his age were celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs, he was getting baptized.  During World War II, his mother was shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp and murdered by the Nazis.  His father resented his Christian faith and tried to get his baptism annulled.  In spite of all of this upset, Jean-Marie persevered with his Christian faith and became the head of the French Church and a close confidant to Pope John Paul II, all the while trying to maintain his Jewish identity.

This is a remarkable and important story.  It’s no wonder the UK Jewish Film Festival chose it as its Opening Night Gala – it tells the story of a pivotal point between Judaism and Christianity.  It discusses important issues including balancing faith and identity and both the dichotomy and connection of the two.  Most everyone can relate to this struggle, no matter the faith, or lack of.  I, for example, was born Jewish and consider myself to be culturally Jewish, even though I do not practice the religion spiritually.  Some people question how I can consider myself Jewish if I am not religious, perplexed at how one can relate to a religion as a culture or ethnicity.  I can’t speak for those of different faiths or mindsets, but as a Jew, I feel part of a people, whether or not G-D is in the equation.  Perhaps it is because we as a people have been through so much in ancient and notably in recent history.  Perhaps persecution unites us beyond the power of G-D.  Perhaps it’s an identity sought after for wanting of belonging.  Whatever it is, this film explores this idea and Jean-Marie’s path to helping him reconcile his dichotomy of being The Jewish Cardinal.

“I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many.  For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.”
– Jean-Marie Lustiger on becoming Archbishop of Paris

The UK Jewish Film Festival runs from October 30th – November 17th, 2013.

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