New president for ORT France


21 November 2008 New president for ORT France Thirteen has proved to be a lucky number for ORT France, for that is the number of years the organisation has benefited from Marcel Benichous presidency. The leadership of Mr Benichou, who has stepped down to make way for Lucien Kalfon (pictured), has left ORT France in good shape to weather the storm of economic crisis that is sweeping the world. Guy Seniak, the World ORT Representative in France, worked with Mr Benichou as ORT Frances National Director. During his presidency ORT France became one of the best organised Jewish organisations in France, Mr Seniak said. He insisted on balancing budgets in every field of operations; he didnt accept funding our work through debt. He said that among Mr Benichous achievements, three in particular could be highlighted, the first being his establishment of ORT Frances financial stability at the very beginning of his term when the organisation was in the middle of a monetary and organisational crisis. His second main achievement, said Mr Seniak, was his commitment to refurbish ORT Frances schools, in particular the spectacular renovation of ORT Montreuil in Paris. And his third main achievement was the creation of a Jewish Studies curriculum focusing on Jewish history and culture. Mr Benichou, an aeronautical engineer by training, modestly credits Mr Seniak with the actual creation of the curriculum, claiming only that he discussed the idea with his national director to set the ball rolling. He also credited his predecessor, the late Gilbert Dreyfus, with creating the framework which he used to stabilise ORT France 13 years ago. When Gilbert left ORT we needed money from World ORT but thanks to the things he did within five years we were financially independent, Mr Benichou said. And with good humour, he says his greatest source of pride is that there was no catastrophic event during my presidency. Dr Kalfon boasts a clutch of decorations for his service to France and among his many accomplishments was representing France in international meetings as Director of the Commission in Charge of the Compensation of Victims of Spoliations Resulting from anti-Semitic Legislation in Force during the Occupation. He has also held senior administrative positions assisting the ministers of the environment, maritime affairs, foreign trade and foreign affairs. The high positions he has held in the State Administration will surely help ORT France face some difficult years as the economic and financial crisis takes hold, Mr Seniak said. World ORT President Dr Jean de Gunzburg paid tribute to Mr Benichou while welcoming Dr Kalfon. Marcel has been a true leader and visionary and has greatly contributed to the prosperity and great quality of ORT France, Dr de Gunzburg said. And Lucien will, I think, be great for ORT France because he has great qualities his Jewish values and his many good contacts. His experience serving on World ORTs Control Commission means that he knows ORTs worldwide activities well and he knows the Jewish world well through his work as a senior French public servant. Its great that he is becoming more involved in ORT and I wish him well. World ORT Director General Robert Singer said Dr Kalfon was an outstandingly qualified person to take over leadership of ORT France, not only because of his exceptional history of public service and achievements in public life but also because of his devotion to the ORT mission. Mr Benichou said he had no advice to offer his successor, in whom he said he had every confidence. But looking back over his long involvement in one of the ORT familys most successful operational organisation he revealed the premise on which all his work was based. The true goal of ORT is not education, he said. It is the survival of Jewry. Education is one way among many to achieve this goal because the real danger facing Jews today is assimilation.