On This Day
1791 – The National Assembly votes to award full citizenship to Jews in France.
The Revolution and Napoleon
Jews in Bordeaux and Bayonne participated in 1789 to the election of the Estates-General but those in Alsace, Lorraine and in Paris were denied this right. Herz Cerfbeer, a French-Jewish financier, then asked to Jacques Necker and obtained the right for Jews from eastern France to elect their own delegates. Among them were the son of Cerf Beer, Theodore, and Joseph David Sinzheim. The Cahier written by the Jewish community from eastern France asked for the end of the discriminatory status and taxes targeting Jews.
The fall of the Bastille was the signal for disorders everywhere in France. In certain districts of Alsace the peasants attacked the dwellings of the Jews, who took refuge in Basel. A gloomy picture of the outrages upon them was sketched before the National Assembly (3 August) by the abbé Henri Grégoire, who demanded their complete emancipation. The National Assembly shared the indignation of the prelate, but left the question of emancipation undecided; it was intimidated by the deputies of Alsace, especially by Jean-François Rewbell.
On 22 December 1789, the Jewish question came again before the Assembly in debating the issue of admitting to public service all citizens without distinction of creed. Mirabeau, the abbé Grégoire, Robespierre, Duport, Barnave and the comte de Clermont-Tonnerre exerted all the power of their eloquence to bring about the desired emancipation; but the repeated disturbances in Alsace and the strong opposition of the deputies of that province and of the clericals, like La Fare, Bishop of Nancy, the abbé Maury, and others, caused the decision to be again postponed. Only the Portuguese and the Avignonese Jews, who had hitherto enjoyed all civil rights as naturalized Frenchmen, were declared full citizens by a majority of 150 on 28 January 1790. This partial victory infused new hope into the Jews of the German districts, who made still greater efforts in the struggle for freedom. They won over the eloquent advocate Godard, whose influence in revolutionary circles was considerable. Through his exertions the National Guards and the diverse sections pronounced themselves in favor of the Jews, and the abbé Malot was sent by the General Assembly of the Commune to plead their cause before the National Assembly. Unfortunately the grave affairs which absorbed the Assembly, the prolonged agitations in Alsace, and the passions of the clerical party kept in check the active propaganda of the Jews and their friends. A few days before the dissolution of the National Assembly (27 September 1791) a member of the Jacobin Club, formerly a parliamentary councilor, Duport, unexpectedly ascended the tribune and said,
I believe that freedom of worship does not permit any distinction in the political rights of citizens on account of their creed. The question of the political existence of the Jews has been postponed. Still the Muslems and the men of all sects are admitted to enjoy political rights in France. I demand that the motion for postponement be withdrawn, and a decree passed that the Jews in France enjoy the privileges of full citizens.
This proposition was accepted amid loud applause. Rewbell endeavored, indeed, to oppose the motion, but he was interrupted by Regnault de Saint-Jean, president of the Assembly, who suggested “that every one who spoke against this motion should be called to order, because he would be opposing the constitution itself”.
Born On This Day
1911 – Marcey Jacobson, American-Mexican photographer (d. 2009)
Marcella “Marcey” Jacobson (September 27, 1911 – July 26, 2009) was an American photographer who moved to Chiapas, Mexico in the 1950s, and was best known for her photographs of the indigenous peoples of Southern Mexico.
Jacobson was born on September 27, 1911, in the Bronx. She had been on her first trip to Mexico and was in Taxco when she first heard of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and she promptly returned to New York by bus. She saw a sign on a streetcar advertising government-funded courses and decided to take up drafting. She first worked as a draftsman for Emerson Radio on a top-secret radar development project and worked on the designs of various industrial equipment in the ensuing years.
Jacobson was a socialist who became involved in political causes, protesting at the White House against the planned execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Her friend, painter Janet Marren, had “fallen in love” with San Cristóbal upon her arrival there and invited Jacobson to visit. Jacobson had been working as a mechanical drafter in New York City and had visited Mexico several times before, but a planned 10-day trip to Mexico in September 1956, to follow up on Marren’s invitation — taken in the wake of the difficulties she experienced as a Communist supporter and lesbian at the height of McCarthyism — ended up with her settling in Chiapas with Marren, her companion and partner. Though she occasionally returned to New York to do some spot work and earn some money, she made Chiapas her home for the remainder of her life.
Photography in Mexico
In Mexico Jacobson borrowed a Rolleiflex camera and taught herself how to take and develop photographs, using how-to books as a source of instruction. The bulk of her 14,000 negatives represented photos of everyday life, providing details of the business and religious practices of local people, taken in the marketplace and along its narrow streets, and also individuals and landscapes. She would ask Americans coming to the area to bring the photographic chemicals and paper she needed to print her photos.
A bilingual, retrospective survey of 75 of her photographs was published by Stanford University Press in 2001 as The Burden of Time / El Cargo del Tiempo. The 168-page book, edited by Carol Karasik, includes pictures taken in the 1960s and 1970s of the day-to-day life of the native Maya and Ladino peoples. Jacobson’s archive of negatives was described in 2009 as destined for Casa Na Bolom, a museum in San Cristóbal.
She died of heart failure at age 97 on July 26, 2009, in San Cristóbal in Chiapas, Mexico. She left no immediate survivors. Janet Marren, her partner, had died in 1998.
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