The International Monetary Fund describes itself as an organization of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
Given such lofty objectives, it’s no wonder that Rabbi Arthur Schneier chose to honor the fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, at his Appeal of Conscience Foundation annual awards dinner on Sept. 26 at the Grand Hyatt in New York. Schneier founded the organization in 1965 to promote religious freedom and human rights on a global scale.
She was applauded by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The Paris-born Lagarde, now in her seventh year as the first woman to hold the top post at the IMF, revealed her inner Jewishness.
“I am an accident of faith and love,” declared Lagarde, 62.
And she explained: Her father was born to a Jewish mother and a non-religious father. Her father converted to Catholicism when he was a young student at the Ecole Normale Superieure.
“He was actually converted by a Chinese priest who was a refugee and the vicar of the school. He was so well converted by this Chinese refugee priest that he wanted to become a priest himself. And then he met my mother!”
Lagarde served France as its first woman finance minister and before that as a member of the French national synchronized swimming team. When she settled in the Washington area in 1973, she was able to work out at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville, Maryland. She found that it was the only club that had synchronized swimming.
Synchronized swimming, she said, builds “muscle memory. You do the routine over and over and over again. You join hands, you listen to every note of music, you know exactly how and where you need to do this and that. It becomes routine, second nature. I personally believe that peace, tolerance and respect have to become second nature—and they are profoundly needed right now.”
Lagarde left the stage on an exultant note: earlier in the day she received the first sonogram pictures of her soon-to-be grandson.