France’s youngest ever prime minister has Jewish family

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France’s youngest ever prime minister has Jewish family

Gabriel Attal, 34, is of mixed cultural and religious heritage, with a Jewish father and a Russian Orthodox Christian mother.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Gabriel Attal
Gabriel Attal

France’s new prime minister, Gabriel Attal, is, at 34, the youngest person ever to hold that post. Said to be the country’s most popular politician, he is of mixed cultural and religious heritage, with a Jewish father and a Russian Orthodox Christian mother. He and his three siblings were brought up in their mother’s faith.

Attal, whose full name is Gabriel Attal de Couriss, is the son of Yves Attal, a Tunisian Jewish lawyer and film producer, who died in 2015. His mother’s family comes from Odesa, Ukraine.

According to a 2019 profile in the French paper, Liberation, Attal recalled: “My father said to me, ‘Perhaps you’re Orthodox [Christian], but you’ll feel Jewish all your life, mainly because you’ll suffer antisemitism because of your name’.” Part of Yves Attal’s family is said to have been deported during the Second World War.

As well as being the youngest ever French prime minister, he is also the first openly gay person in that role. He was previously in a civil partnership which is believed to have ended recently.

Attal had a privileged Paris upbringing, attending one of the capital’s top schools, the École Alsacienne, and later the prestigious Sciences Po University where he obtained a masters in public affairs.

He entered politics aged 23 as a health civil servant, and later rose to become education minister. One of his first actions was to ban abayas, the long robes worn by many Muslim women, in schools.

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