Former French Jewish leader Jean Kahn dies at 84

19 August 2013

Jean Kahn, a former French Jewish leader and human rights activist, has died at the age of 84. Kahn served as president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), as head of the European Jewish Congress, and as a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress. He had died on Sunday in his native city of Strasbourg, following a long illness, his son Daniel Kahn said.

Born on 17 May 1929, Kahn graduated in law from the University of Strasbourg. He was admitted to the bar in 1953 before joining the family textile business.

Jean Kahn (right) with French President François MitterrandIn 1969, he became director of the Jewish Community of Strasbourg, over which he presided from 1972, as well as the regional CRIF chapter Bas-Rhin. In 1983, he was elected a vice-president of CRIF, and served as president of the French Jewish umbrella organization from 1989 to 1995. He later became president of the European Jewish Congress and a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress.

From 1995 to 2008, he also lead the Central Consistory of France. Alongside his religious commitment, Jean Kahn fought all his life for human rights, against intolerance and racism, said a biography issued by his family. He also won twice in court against the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

In 1990 and 1991 he went to Kosovo to try to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

Throughout the 1990s, he organized numerous seminars for democracy and against racism, especially in the former Soviet Union, and also trips to Auschwitz for European politicians and students.

French President François Hollande said on Sunday with Kahn "a great attorney, an indefatigable defender of human rights and a great figure of French Judaism" had disappeared.

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