Maritain, Jacques (1882–1973) and Raïssa° (1883–1960)

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MARITAIN, JACQUES (1882–1973) and RAÏSSA° (1883–1960)

MARITAIN, JACQUES (1882–1973) and RAÏSSA ° (1883–1960), French writers who took a positive stand on the Jewish issue during the Nazi era. Raïssa Oumansoff, a Russian Jew, was taken to Paris as a child, and there in 1904 she married Jacques Maritain, a Protestant by birth and a former disciple of Henri *Bergson, who became one of the foremost protagonists of neo-Thomism. Having lost touch with their respective religions, the Maritains became Catholics in 1905. These experiences were sensitively narrated by Raïssa Maritain in Les grandes amitiés (1941; We Have Been Friends Together, 1942). The conversion, which pained and scandalized their families, paradoxically induced the young couple to meditate on the Jewish destiny. Raïssa's poems, essays, and diary reveal a very pure, mystical approach, the source of which she described: "My maternal grandfather was a Ḥasid, and my father's father was a great ascetic sage. This is my inheritance." Through Raïssa, Jacques Maritain learned that "inspiration and spiritual sources of life come from the people chosen by God." When the times demanded that he speak up for the Jews, the philosopher became the man of action. From the moment the Nazi persecutions began, Maritain spoke out and he continued to champion the Jews while an exile in the U.S. during World War ii, as French ambassador to the Vatican after 1945, and following the establishment of the State of Israel. Jacques Maritain's many articles and statements on the subject (1926–61) were collected by the author in a single volume, Le Mystère d'Israël (1965).


J. Maritain (ed.), Journal de Raïssa (1963); D.A. and I.J. Gallagher, The Achievement of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain: a Bibliography, 190661 (1962).

[Brother Marcel-Jacques Dubois O.P.]