Thursday, September 20, 2018

tsarfatit - The first Francophile Jewish Network

by mikewinsc (writer), Los Angeles, February 14, 2007


It started with just one email. The date was April, 15th 2005.

Yoel Ohayon is a young professional Jew of Moroccan descent. Like a number of other Jews born in Morocco or France, he came to the US to better his education. Although most of them are undeniably enjoying their new lives in the US, they sometimes feel a void created by the fact that the French-speaking Jewish community is increasingly scattered all around the world. A few days before Passover in the spring of 2005, Yoel felt it was time to do something about it. He crafted an email that he blasted to his Jewish friends all over the world. The original idea was to create an organization to facilitate the collaboration among Moroccan Jews, and create a real sense of community despite the geographical barriers.

A community in the making
We all heard of the six degrees of separation. In a nutshell, this unproven theory corroborates the fact that anyone on the planet is linked to anyone else through a maximum of six connections, aka six degrees of separation. But if this theory is true for the 7 Billion people on the planet, we can be certain that no more than 3 people are needed to connect any one of the 15 Million Jews to any other.

It only took one friend in common from Miami to connect Yoel from New York, to Mike in Chicago. Mike Benayoun had been living in Chicago for 2 years at the time, and 5 years in Los Angeles prior to that. He was very enthusiastic when reading Yoel’s email, as he had a similar idea in his mind for a while. That same day, he replied to Yoel suggesting that the idea be expanded. The mission of the organization would not only be to gather the Jews from a French-speaking country background, but open up the community to non French-speaking Jews as well. In fact, after living in the US for a few years, both Yoel and Mike realized that nobody was taking the initiative to build a bridge between the French-speaking Jewish Diaspora and the rest of the Jewish world. The new mission was therefore to not only provide a platform of exchange and collaboration among Francophone Jews (French-speaking) but to allow Francophile Jews (French friendly) to learn about and connect with the former.
Soon after their first phone conversation, Yoel and Mike were joined by two of Mike’s friends: David Hini-Szlos, who became friend with Mike when they both lived in Los Angeles, and David Pelerin who lived in Chicago.

Do you speak tsarfatit?
A few weeks later, they agreed on a name for the organization: tsarfatit. Tsarfatit means French in Hebrew. The name actually captures the essence of the organization. The word is neither French nor English, and therefore is a great metaphor for the bridge that the organization is building to bring the communities together using the language that unifies us.

As the team was formed and the organization had a name, it was a matter of making it happen! It took a few weeks, or rather months to launch this not-for-profit organization, as all of them were busy with their job, school and family, but it eventually happened! So, about a year later, they finally launched their website at

The first Francophile Jewish network
With very limited budget, resources and time, they are really making a difference. Sure, the website introduced a number of social networking features, such as profiles, private messages, chats or forums, but the idea is to go further than that. Like Broowaha, tsarfatit encourages its members to contribute to the content and the development of the site. Any registered member on tsarfatit can post articles on topics such as politics, culture, society or religion for to name a few.
But you can also post events, photos, react to articles, post a classified ad or even submit your own business listing for free in the tsarfatit Business Directory. Also, tsarfatit is the only website that features an exhaustive list of all the kosher restaurants in the world, and allows members to post reviews and ratings.

With the help of sponsors, tsarfatit is also rewarding the best contributors with prizes that are offered every month. Give aways so far included an iPod, concert and show tickets, restaurant certificates, CDs, and even a personalized painting specially crafted by a talented French Jewish artist for their latest Hanukkah Photo Contest.

On their own free time and with very limited resources, the tsarfatit team is really making a difference in the Jewish community. So, if you are Jewish and are interested in joining this growing community, you are only one click away:

About the Writer

mikewinsc is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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