As France begins to gradually ease coronavirus restrictions, Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) Executive Director Robert Ejnes reflected in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post on the WJC-affiliated community’s response to the pandemic, as well as other challenges posed by the continuing increase of antisemitism in the country.
In his interview with the Jerusalem Post, Ejnes related that CRIF had activated a crisis management unit, comprising representatives of several Jewish institutions such as the Unified Jewish Social Fund (FSJU), the Children Aid Society (OSE), the Casip-Cojasor Foundation for social action and the Israelite Central Consistory of France, to contend with the ongoing uncertainty during quarantine. Ejnes told the Post that the unit “[responded] to the needs of the community, including offering psychological support and assisting the sick and the bereaved families.”
The task force is currently developing procedures in compliance with government guidance for synagogues and schools to eventually reopen.
Other than the obvious health concerns the coronavirus has caused, CRIF has been responding to several other socio-economic problems exacerbated by the outbreak. “What we are very worried about is the economic crisis that is going to follow the health crisis. We expect that a lot more people are going to need the help of Jewish institutions,” Ejnes added. “For this reason, Jewish organizations are working on increasing their fundraising.”
Ejnes also confirmed that CRIF has been monitoring the recent increase in antisemitic rhetoric online since the outbreak started, noting that they have observed “a lot of conspiracy theories against Jews, especially on social media.” In April, CRIF President and WJC Vice President Francis Kalifat sent a letter to the Director of Zoom France, Loïc Rousseau, expressing his concerns about the growth of interruptions of online events, a disruptive act known as "zoombombing.” In his letter, Kalifat recommended Zoom set up a mechanism for victims to report zoombombing interruptions.
In January, the French Interior Ministry published a report finding that despite Jews comprising less than 1% of the nation’s population, they accounted for 60.2% (687 out of 1,142) of the hate crimes recorded in France last year. The number of antisemitic incidents in France rose nearly 27% from 2018.
In mid-April, Ejnes participated in the newly launched WJC Webtalks series, focusing on the Jewish community’s response to the coronavirus, and the community’s observance of Passover during an unprecedented time.
The WJC WebTalks series invites a range of guests to talk about a wide variety of issues including the United Nations’ fight against antisemitism, the latest from the field of Holocaust education, Israel’s battle to end the bias at the Human Rights Council, the effects of COVID-19 on Jewish communities around the world, and more.