France’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe, chose a Sephardi Jew as its leader Sunday for the first time in half a century.
Francis Kalifat, 63, (pictured) said his priority as president of the CRIF umbrella grouping of Jewish organizations was to “fight against anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
He succeeds 79-year-old Roger Cukierman for a three-year term, breaking the dominance of Ashkenazi Jews in the organization which groups together 70 associations. The Algerian-born Kalifat was the only candidate running this election.
Born in Oran in 1952, his family was forced to make a sudden exit from Algeria, as civil war raged. His arrival in Paris with his mother and brothers was turbulent. His father, a police functionary waiting to be transferred, joined them a few months later. He spent his teenage years in Trappes, moving to Versailles. He trained as a lawyer.
The Charlie Hebdo, Hyper Kasher and Bataclan terrorist attacks have traumatised a community already rattled by the murders of Ilan Halimi and Sebastien Selam. Antisemitism in France has resulted in 8, 000 French Jews moving to Israel. There has also been a 'mini-aliya', from the Paris suburbs to the city.