Exclusive interview with Tovah Feldshuh
The four-time Tony nominated actress, famous for playing Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, in Golda’s Balcony on Broadway, talks about her travel in France, the Jewish French heritage sites she visited with her father, and her bond with France.
Q: I hear that your father had a special bond with France.
Tovah Feldshuh: Like many, many Jews, my father served with the Allied Forces during World War II for the United States Army. He was fluent in German and spoke very good French. In boot camp, he was trained in infantry. But when he arrived in England, he was able to take an exam and switched to G2 intelligence branch. He lived underneath London, worked with General Dwight David Eisenhower and was one of the many men to help plan D-Day. Next to marrying my mother and the birth of his children, the war, as difficult as it was, became one of the most significant times of my father’s life.
My father worked with the French Underground and assisted Jews who had made it through the war to unite with their families. He helped a wonderful man named Monsieur Mayer to connect with his German Jewish family. And in fact, in the early 1970s, when I was a student and came to Paris to attend university, Monsieur Mayer took me under his wing. He helped me get established so I could obtain an apartment and continue my studies.
Q: What is one of the most memorable trips that you took with your father to France?
Tovah Feldshuh: Shortly before he died, my father and I visited the place where he entered Normandy at D-Day Plus Five on a secret mission. What was most profound was when we went to the American Cemetery to find Jewish graves. I can picture the sea of crosses amid the occasional Jewish star. As we looked for the six pointed stars, I remember reading inscriptions with my father and looking at the ages of these men and how young they were. When my father fought in the war, he was already 32, had long gradated from Harvard ten years before and practicing law. It made me think of how the Jews and Christians from the free world all converged to fight against the Nazis. And I felt our presence and such a kinship between France and the United States.
Q: Do you like to visit the Jewish quarter in Le Marais?
Tovah Feldshuh: When I was living in Paris, I used to love to go to the famous Goldenberg's delicatessen on the Rue des Rosiers for great deli food. Sadly the restaurant is gone, but my heart is still warmed when I visit that area and experience the Jewish quarter. France has been kind to its population - enough for the Jewish community to persevere and to thrive in many ways. And I when I am in the neighborhood, I also love visiting the The Musée Bricard, or Musée de la Serrure, which has a unique collection of locks, doorknockers and keys dating from Roman times, which is so interesting.
Q: Golda’s Balcony was the longest running one-woman show in Broadway history. Would you ever think of reviving the show?
Tovah Feldshuh: Actually, the ultimate way for me to connect to my Jewish identity in France would be to perform Golda’s Balcony in Paris in French. And I would love to do it with Golda’s Milwaukee twang. It’s the only way to excuse my French accent. And we would have a disclaimer so no one could fault me. That way, I think I have a shot.
Q: What else do you like to do in France?
Tovah Feldshuh: I have collected Chanel for twenty-five years. Coco Chanel was a brilliant designer and gave us the little black dress. She got women out of corsets and gave us a hemline that began to approach the knee. She helped liberate women to begin the long haul towards equal suffrage and women’s rights.