Amanda Sthers, the award-winning French author, playwright, and filmmaker whose critically acclaimed work has earned her the title Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the Government of France, appeared on the most recent episode of Podcast Against Antisemitism where she has revealed that she left her home country due to antisemitism.
Ms Sthers, herself a Jewish person in the public eye, is no stranger to experiences of antisemitism.
“I always feel that every time there is a very strong increase [in] antisemitic incidents, democracy’s in danger,” she said.
According to France’s Jewish Community Security Service, antisemitic incidents in France skyrocketed by 75% in 2021.
Additionally, last year saw three reported murders of French Jews. Eyal Haddad, 34, from the town of Longperrier, north-east of Paris, was said to have been brutally murdered with an axe before the alleged perpetrator reportedly attempted to burn his face and bury the body, while Rene Hadjaj, 90, was allegedly defenestrated from an apartment block in Lyon.
Jeremy Cohen, 31, was fatally wounded after being hit by a tram. At first, Mr Cohen’s death was treated as a traffic accident, until video footage released by the family appeared to show a group of men attacking Mr Cohen, who is believed to have been wearing his kippah, or skullcap, prompting him to flee for safety without noticing the tram. He was then taken to the hospital but did not survive his injuries.
Our host asked Ms Sthers: “How concerned are you about antisemitism in France right now? Is it something you think about?”
“Yeah. I think about it so much that I left,” the filmmaker responded. “I left seven years ago. I live in LA now, and I have a hard time feeling at home in France anymore. And it’s very heartbreaking…it’s really hard for me because I can feel in the air that there’s something really hateful.”
While Ms Sthers acknowledges the ongoing threat of far-right groups, she believes that the recent spike in antisemitism is partly due to emerging conspiracy theories about Jews and Islamist ideology.
She continued: “France is not a safe place for Jewish people anymore, and I don’t understand how the government doesn’t want to say more about it…they are putting the entire nation in danger by not trying to keep Jews safe in their country. And I’m saying in ‘their country’, I still have a passport but I just don’t feel that it’s my country anymore.”
Commenting on how life is different for her in the United States, she noted how she felt as though her Judaism was not “a question that you had to avoid.”
“I remember the first time they [said] ‘Oh, you’re Jewish!’, it was not the same tone that was used in France.”
However, Ms Sthers was mindful to point out that, for Jewish people, “it’s not heaven in the States, either.”
“Lately, it’s changing. I think the pandemic increased [the amount of] antisemitic incidents, increased a lot of paranoia. Every time there’s a crisis, antisemitism is increasing,” she said.
Ms Sthers also pointed to the antisemitic statements made by rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West.
Despite the increase in antisemitic incidents in the United States, Ms Sthers’ experiences in France have led her to feel safer in her new home.
“I remember in Paris, I was always telling my sons, ‘Don’t mention your bar mitzvah when we’re in the taxi, just be careful, just stay low-profile,’ because I was afraid for them,” she disclosed.
Throughout the interview, Ms Sthers also discussed a variety of other topics, including her award-winning film Holy Lands, how to tackle antisemitism through art, and her experience of working with the late Jewish film icon, James Caan.
Podcast Against Antisemitism, produced by Campaign Against Antisemitism, talks to a different guest about antisemitism each week. It streams every Thursday and is available through all major podcast apps and YouTube. You can also subscribe to have new episodes sent straight to your inbox.