Friday, 12 Aug 2022 - 15 of Av, 5782

Yonathan Arfi succeeds Francis Kalifat as President of Crif, the umbrella group of French Jewish institutions

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42-year-ol Arfi was elected in the first round by 149 votes against 74 for Ariel Amar, a member of the Crif’s executive board and President of the France-Israel Association.

He said he wishes ‘’to lead a Crif that is united, combative, and committed to society.’’

“There is emotion, but there is also awareness of the responsibilities that weigh on the president of the Crif in a particularly turbulent period politically,” he said, citing the rise of extremes ”that represent a level of threat unseen for the Jews of France for several decades.”

Yonathan Arfi was elected Sunday new president of Crif, the umbrella representative group of Jewish institutions in France by its General Assembly.

He will head the institution for a 3-year term and succeeds Francis Kalifat who held two president mandates.

42-year-ol Arfi was elected in the first round by 149 votes against 74 for Ariel Amar, a member of the Crif’s executive board and President of the France-Israel Association. He is the youngest president of Crif, an organisation which brings together some 70 associations. Crif’s mission is to “fight against anti-Semitism”, “preserve and transmit the memory of the Shoah” and “affirm the solidarity” of the Jewish community “with Israel”.

Arfi describes himself as a ”Jewish activist and citizen.” The father of three children, he is a graduate of HEC, a high school in economics in Paris and is the director of a group of companies active in  consulting  for companies and real estate.

Raised in a traditional Sephardic family from Algeria and Morocco, Yonathan Arfi has always combined Jewish values with French universalist values.

Born in Toulouse, he spent his childhood and adolescence in the Yvelines region, attending public school in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and then in Versailles, and joined the scouts through the Eclaireurs Israélites de France.

The spirit of resistance of his great-uncle Alfred Nakache, an Olympic swimmer and survivor of the Shoah, nicknamed the “swimmer of Auschwitz”, a tutelary family figure, had a lasting influence on his personal development.

Like many Jews of his generation, at the turn of the year 2000, his appeased identity was confronted with the anti-Semitic wave that occurred during the Second Intifada. Faced with the hatred of Jews and Israel, he became a militant Jew against anti-Semitism and a committed citizen. He was one of the first public figures to denounce Dieudonné’s anti-Semitism and created the CoExist program to fight against racist and anti-Semitic prejudices in schools.

A member of the Crif’s General Assembly since 2001, he joined the Executive Board in 2007 and then became President of the International Relations Commission.

As Vice-president of Crif since 2014, he was in charge of the Crif Convention, an annual meeting and debate forum at the crossroads of the Jewish community and French society as a whole.

He said he wishes ‘’to lead a Crif that is united, combative, and committed to society.’’

“There is emotion, but there is also awareness of the responsibilities that weigh on the president of the Crif in a particularly turbulent period politically,” he told the French news agency AFP after his election.

“We have a rise of extremes that represent a level of threat unseen for the Jews of France for several decades, so we obviously have a Crif that reflects these concerns but also this mobilization, “he added.

The Jewish community of France, with some 450,000 people, is the largest in Europe.

Among his priorities, Arfi said he wants to “lead the fight against anti-Semitism obviously, trying to make French society hear that basically, what threatens the Jews of France threatens the whole of society.”

He had campaigned by promising more openness of Crif to socciety issues.

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