This piece was first published on The Arty Semite blog at the Forward.
Was the 2006 kidnapping, 24-day long torture, and murder of 23-year-old French-Jewish cell phone salesman Ilan Halimi by a suburban Paris gang fueled by anti-Semitism? In the new documentary film, “Jews & Money,” there’s no doubt about the answer.
In the film we see lawyers arguing over the validity of anti-Semitic hate crime charges, but filmmaker Lewis Cohen’s starting point is obvious. The story of Halimi’s murder and its aftermath serves as a springboard for the history and development of Western anti-Semitis, and the adoption of its elements by Islamists and others opposed to the State of Israel.
In particular, it is the gang leader’s admission that Halimi was targeted because of the belief that all Jews are rich, which sets the stage for the filmmaker’s investigation of this invidious canard.
Cohen told an audience at the first screening of the film’s final cut on April 17 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco that it was the topic of Jews and money, and not the Halimi case specifically, that first interested him. He said he hadn’t thought much about the origin of the stereotype until he took an extended trip to Europe about five years ago. He decided he wanted to focus on the subject, and when someone told him about Halimi, he realized the crime was an excellent framing device.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.