Home / Celebrity Style / Rabbi who came to defence of John Galliano speaks out

Rabbi who came to defence of John Galliano speaks out

A London-based rabbi credited with helping John Galliano make amends with the Jewish community has spoken out in defence of the designer.

Rabbi Barry Marcus, an active promoter of Holocaust remembrance and education, was enlisted by the AntiDefamation League in New York to try to help the disgraced designer build bridges with the Jewish community after a failed attempt to make peace with the Jewish community in Paris.

After his unfortunate outburst in a restaurant some years ago, he’d reached out to the Jewish community in Paris, but they took the moral high ground and shunned him. So after an approach was made to the ADL in New York, its director, Abe Foxman, introduced me to the proprietor of Condé Nast, Jonathan Newhouse, who brought John [Galliano] here,” Marcus said, in an interview published in the 10th anniversary spring and summer edition of fashion magazine Fantastic Man.

The pair subsequently struck up a friendship which saw Marcus attend the designer’s first collection for Maison Margiela in January. “I deliberated when John Galliano invited me,” the rabbi tells journalist Penny Martin. “But with this being his first show, his re-entry into his passion, I thought, if he wants me there, then who am I not to help maybe one of the greatest design talents to flourish again?”

The rabbi was spotted on the front row of the show, much to the chagrin of the audience who thought it was a stunt: “I know cynics say his motivation for seeing me was to restore his reputation.”

But according to the interview, Rabbi Marcus remains fairly optimistic about Galliano’s rehabilitation: “I’ve got Holocaust survivors in the synagogue, so taking John there was a risk. But over time, we built up a relationship and I’m absolutely satisfied that to brand him as an antisemite would be an injustice. As a human being, as a Jew, as a rabbi, as a humanist, I’m almost duty-bound to open the door to somebody that wants to make amends.”

Marcus goes onto explain how he created a bespoke course for the designer, which involved spending time with a Holocaust survivor and attending service in a synagogue. He added: “His knowledge of Jews and Judaism was actually very limited.”

Marcus, Rabbi of the Central Synagogue in Great Portland Street, is well-known for his diplomacy skills, having worked in Israel and South Africa where he opened a controversial multi-ethnic crisis centre in the 1980s.

Despite being prepared for the controversy surrounding his involvement in Galliano’s rehabilitation, he explains how he received a lot of “flak”. But it was grandfather’s own experience in the fashion industry – a tailor, he was able to use his profession to escape from Poland to Africa in the 1930s – which inspired the Rabbi to take on Galliano’s case.

About Fashion Brief