2. THE DEBATE IN THE FRENCH JEWISH COMMUNITY
From the very outset, French Jewry tried to stay out of the Affair. As Leon Blum wrote in his Memories,
"they did not speak of the Affair between themselves; far from bringing the topic up, they shunned it. A great misfortune had fallen on the House of Israel. They bore it without saying a word, waiting for time and silence to counter its effects."
The Jewish press observed a prudent silence, simply denouncing the climate of hatred and collective hysteria that was sweeping France:
"It is our belief that as a result of the provocation that is terrorising the overwhelming majority of honest Frenchmen, our interests are jeopardized, our rights are unrecognized, and our future is unsure." In the Univers Israelite Jewish newspaper, Chief Rabbi Lazare Wogue wrote that he was concerned by the "hostile prejudice ever lurking in people's hearts". In his review of 1894, Isidore Cahen noted in the Archives Israelites: "Even if silence is not the right reaction in the light of the proprieties and the grief of two weeping respectable families, it is necessary because of the precarious situation in which not only we, the Israelite minority, but also all minorities are placed by the dreadful anti-Semitic campaign being waged today."
Two Jewish freelance journalists critical of the official organisations' passive stance, Aron and Singer, believed in Dreyfus' guilt and were in favour of the death sentence. L'Univers Israelite advised its readers to accept the court's ruling.
The only exception was Bernard Lazare, one of the outstanding figures of French Jewry, a central figure in the rejection of assimilation during the fight for Dreyfus. After him came other Jewish figures, some of the press, Emile Zola, politicians, the new Chief Rabbi, but not without dividing the community and French public opinion. Lazare was subsequently to champion a national solution to the Jewish problem, leading him to take part in the Second Zionist Congress in 1898. He clashed however, with Herzl, and died practically in anonymity.