Forty years ago, “The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob” had French audiences doubled over in laughter. Gerard Oury’s frantic comedy of an anti-Semitic businessman who finds himself mistaken for a famous rabbi — don’t ask — smashed box office records. The timing was important: Oury’s anarchic comedy reflected the end of a 30-year run of dramatic economic growth, the end of Charles de Gaulle’s authoritarian rule and the end of the republican belief that in order to be French, one must not publicize one’s religion.
A remake has just been made — with the difference that it is not a film, but real life. In early April, “The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Gilles” came to a close when officials from the French Jewish community forced the nation’s chief rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, to resign from his position. Bernheim, it turned out, was not the rabbi everyone thought he was. Moreover, the context of his fall resembles the events of 1973. Once again, most people are doubled over — not in laughter, but instead in disbelief.
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