BIGART, JACQUES


BIGART, JACQUES
BIGART, JACQUES (1855–1934), Alsatian rabbi and long-time secretary general of the Alliance Israélite Universelle . Bigart began his service to the Alliance in 1882 as assistant to the secretary general Isidore Loeb, whom he succeeded in 1892. Single-minded in his devotion to every detail of the policy and administration of the Alliance, Bigart was deeply involved in refugee rescue and immigration management. In 1915, he developed an enduring partnership with lucien wolf of the British Jewish Conjoint, later Joint Foreign Committee, to resist Zionist and Jewish nationalist diplomatic initiatives and uphold acculturationist Judaism. Their joint efforts, which ended only with Wolf 's death in 1930, grew and prospered through World War I and into the Paris Peace Conference as they coordinated strategies to protect Jewish minority rights in the succession states and developed programs and relief for refugees and stateless people. As an Alsatian patriotically committed to France and as a Jew unreservedly committed to regeneration on the French model, Bigart shared the values and objectives of the professional gentlemen who sat on the Alliance's Central Committee. Under his administration, the Alliance prospered and grew, particularly in the area of education, founding schools from Morocco to Teheran, from the Balkans through the Middle East to Cairo. The numbers peaked at the outbreak of World War 1 when 48,000 students attended 188 schools. Bigart, who knew the minutest detail of every classroom and school building, micro-managed the budgeting and administration of each Alliance-supported institution. Under his leadership, elementary schools for boys and girls grew into secondary schools and vocational and agricultural schools blossomed. Alliance normal schools trained teachers for Romania and ICA schools in South America and Sephardi rabbinical training began in Constantinople. In recognition of his signal services and contributions, the French government awarded Bigart with the Legion of Honor and promoted him to officer. So many commitments, however, overextended resources just when American and German Jews grew less inclined to support a Franco-centric enterprise and Bigart preserved Gallo-centrism and Jewish heterogeneity at the cost of serious institutional losses and international support. Bigart, who had little interest in the rise of Hebrew studies, was hostile to the Jewish nationalism of Eastern Europe and uncompromisingly   rejected Zionism as an overt threat to everything emancipated Jewry had accomplished. Towards the end of his life, the surge of European antisemitism, the coming of Nazism, the threats to Soviet Jewry, and the failure of more liberal options in the succession states, together with consistently closing doors to Jewish emigration, made him slightly more receptive to a broader federation of Jewish organizations to combat these threats -BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Antébi. "L'Adventurier Immobile: Jacques Bigart (1855–1934)," in: Les Missionnaires juifs de la France, 18601939 (1999); E.C. Black, "Jacques Bigart," in: F. Buisson, ed. Dictionnaire de pédagogie (2005); idem, "Lucien Wolf et Jacques Bigart: Partenaires en la politique et la diplomatie," in: Revue des Études Juives (2005). (Eugene C. Black (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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