Jason Sarfati is a longtime Northern Virginia Jew, Ashburn-raised — though he and his family traveled to Magen David Sephardic Congregation in Rockville for Shabbat — and living in Arlington since his law school days at George Mason University.
The 28-year-old data privacy and cybersecurity attorney invited WJW to his office to talk about his family’s North African-French heritage, rising anti-Semitism in France and calling in to radio talk shows.
Was your family’s migration from France recent?
Well, I was born and raised here, but I speak French fluently. But my dad was also born and raised in New York. But my mom is French, born and raised there. And of course my grandparents are all French-speakers [by way of Morocco and Algeria], so I grew up speaking French. And I visit France maybe once a year. I also have a lot of family in Israel and some here in the United States as well.
So, with your mom being French, do you have French citizenship?
No, I don’t. The Jewish community in France isn’t so culturally tied to the French republic. There’s a lot of anti-Semitism. The community is very tight-knit. Much more tight-knit than it is in the United States. I don’t know what the opposite of assimilation is, but I would say most American Jews feel very assimilated. I would say it’s different in France. Most French Jews are of North African origin because of the ties to Morocco and Algeria. And they brought their cuisine and memories of the homeland, which is North Africa.
How much do you identify with being French or Jewish and French?
Me personally? I identify as American, 100 percent. I feel zero ties to France culturally. I speak the language and I maybe appreciate the culture more than someone else might. But a lot of my family feels victimized by the anti-Semitism.
How does your family having this connection to France inform your life?
Here’s the answer: I appreciate American liberties more. I appreciate the fact I feel safe here. I appreciate that I have a future here. Listen, America ain’t perfect. But I am particularly aware of what it’s like to live in a modern country like France and not have the same benefits.
When you’re not working, what else are you doing?
I like to be outdoors as much as possible. D.C. is a good outdoor city. There’s a ton to do. And I organize once a year a wine tour to local vineyards. This year, we’re going to Barrel Oak in Middleburg, Va. So I rent out a party bus and it’s one full day right before Memorial Day with like 30 people. It’s fun.
And I like to go out, mostly in Clarendon, but we go into D.C. sometimes.
What’s your drink of choice?
Old Fashioneds. Usually every bartender knows how to make it and it’s a manly drink I can create an image with. [laughs]
Curating your manly image with an Old Fashioned?
Yeah, I’m being shameless here. No one makes fun of you for ordering an Old Fashioned.
You live in Arlington, but your office is in Maryland. What are you listening to on your commute?
I have XM radio. So, in the morning I listen to Michael Smerconish. It’s a political show. I have called in before and I have been put through.
Yeah, several times. [laughs]
What did you call in on?
The 2016 election. The Amazon relocation topic. I called in on gun control. Like Trump’s tweets or whatever. Just whatever’s going on.
I’ve always wondered who the people are who call in to those shows.
Yeah, it’ll just be like, “Roger in Las Vegas, what are your thoughts?” For 40 seconds and he talks to you.
You’re the call-in guy.
I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a crazy lunatic.
Well, it seems like those are issues that many people have opinions about.
His show revolves around whatever is trending in the news. He’s a middle-of-the-road guy. His opening line is like [sings] “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you.” That’s his song that he opens with. That’s like his shtick that he’s center of the road.
Anyway, so that’s something I do. If I’m feeling extra frisky I’ll call in. Eighty to 90 percent of the time I don’t get through.
So, you must call a lot.
Like once a month. But over the course of three years.
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