Jews Leaving France
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Jews Leaving France

Jews Leaving France

French anti-Semitism and French aliyah skyrocket on parallel tracks.

by and

Against the backdrop of studies revealing rising anti-Semitism both in France and across all of Europe, as well as one particularly brutal attack in Paris last month, French Jews are flocking to Israel.

On March 30, the Jewish Agency for Israel released figures showing that aliyah from France increased dramatically over the first two months of 2014. In January and February alone, 854 French olim (immigrants) arrived in Israel, compared to 274 over the same period last year, representing a 312-percent increase.

Pictured is David (identified only by his first name), a 59-year-old Jewish teacher who was severely beaten in Paris last month. The attackers drew a swastika on David's chest. Credit: David via The Algemeiner.Pictured is David (identified only by his first name), a 59-year-old Jewish teacher who was severely beaten in Paris last month. The attackers drew a swastika on David's chest. Credit: David via The Algemeiner.

Shay Felber – the Jewish Agency’s deputy director-general for community services and resident expert on France, who made aliyah from France with his parents in the 1970s – cites three main reasons for the current trend. Two are anti-Semitism and the difficult economic situation in France. But from a more positive perspective, the high level of Jewish education and Zionistic identity prevalent in the French Jewish community is also leading to an upswing in immigration to Israel, Felber tells JNS.org.

In Paris during March, a 59-year-old Jewish teacher was subjected to anti-Semitic slurs and then severely beaten by a group of young men identified as being “Maghreb.” The men proceeded to draw a swastika on the chest of their victim with a marker, and vowed they would return to finish the job. No arrests have been made yet for that attack.

40 percent of all racist violence perpetrated in France targeted Jews who represent less than one percent of the population.

Felber believes that the current rise in anti-Semitic incidents and attacks in France is a direct result of the situation on “the street,” with many of the episodes being perpetrated by local Arabs and Muslims. Yet Felber stresses that the anti-Jewish sentiment is not French government policy, but that the government “is trying very hard to combat” anti-Semitism.

One recent study that reveals the worrisome realities for French Jewry is the 2013 report on anti-Semitism in France compiled by SPCJ, the security unit of France’s Jewish communities. According to the report, 423 anti-Semitic acts were recorded in the country in 2013 alone. The research also indicates that last year, 40 percent of all racist violence perpetrated in France targeted Jews. The report amplifies the ramifications of that statistic by explaining the trend from a proportionality perspective.

“Since Jews represent less than one percent of the French population, what this shows is that less than one percent of French citizens were the target of 40 percent of racist attacks perpetrated in the country,” says the report.

The document also states, “Since the year 2000 – and for 14 consecutive years – the number of anti-Semitic acts in France has been very high, about seven times higher than numbers recorded in the 1990s. During this period, six people were murdered because they were Jewish, including three young children.”

The report concludes that anti-Semitism in France “cannot be considered anymore as a temporary situation associated with the situation in the Middle-East; it is a structural problem that has not been fought as such and has not been halted yet.”

Gideon Behar, director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department for Combating Anti-Semitism, tells JNS.org that while he is “concerned about the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and it is something we are following very closely,” his office has not issued any travel advisories or warnings for France or any other European Union countries leading up to the current robust Passover holiday travel season.

Regarding aliyah – not only from France, but from Europe in general – being a result of rising anti-Semitism, Behar cites the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) November 2013 study. That study was based on a survey given to 5,847 Jews from EU member states, asking them about their own experiences and perceptions of discrimination, hate crime, and anti-Semitism.

Two-thirds of FRA respondents (66 percent) consider anti-Semitism to be a problem across the EU member states surveyed, while three-quarters of the respondents (76 percent) indicate that anti-Semitism has worsened over the past five years in the country where they live. Almost half (46 percent) of the respondents worry about becoming the victim of an anti-Semitic verbal insult or harassment in the next 12 months, while one-third (33 percent) fear a physical attack in the same period.

In the 12 months before the survey, 26 percent of all respondents reported experiencing an incident or multiple incidents involving verbal insult or harassment because they were Jewish, and 4 percent experienced physical violence or threats of violence. Seventy-five percent of respondents consider online anti-Semitism to be a problem in their country of residence, and almost three-quarters (73 percent) said that online anti-Semitism has increased over the last five years.

The Jewish Agency, meanwhile, recently unveiled a new government plan to encourage aliyah from France. Along with the Israeli Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the initiative is boosting the number of Jewish Agency shlichim (emissaries) in France, increasing marketing efforts, developing new immigrant absorption programs, and establishing a special committee headed by the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office to remove obstacles to French aliyah.

The proposal also sets clear benchmarks for increasing the number of immigrants, seeking to double their numbers in the coming years. The plan was developed in consultation and cooperation with French Jewish organizations, both in France and in Israel. Other partners include the World Zionist Organization, the Israeli Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, who are all are working together for the first time in order to strengthen French aliyah.

The Jewish Agency’s Felber says he is confident that based on the large aliyah figures for French Jews – he estimates that there have been 100,000-120,000 total olim from France to date – these new immigrants will also succeed in building their new lives in the Jewish state.

Published: April 12, 2014


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Visitor Comments: 33

(21) Ray Beaulieu, April 20, 2014 2:30 AM

Frightening Times

There simply isn't any safe place for Jews. America is not able to protect anyone from discrimination and hate crimes. It is also becoming a serious police state with our own citizens feeling the brunt of these forces. I would do anything I had to do to protect Jews but I am only one person. I do know that most Americans would do the same, but we still can't stop a small group wishing to do harm. This is the problem.

(20) Aliyah2009, April 18, 2014 7:35 AM

Elliott, it happens everywhere, not just France

While it may be a bit more prevalent in France, such acts can and will happen anywhere (i.e. Overland Pk, Kansas last week and Bulgaria last summer).

(19) Anonymous, April 18, 2014 3:06 AM

It's worse for Muslims in France

By most accounts, including this recent New Yorker article (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/11/the-justice-minister-and-the-banana-how-racist-is-france.html), and this from the LA Times (http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/21/world/la-fg-france-muslims-20100722), Jews take a back seat to Muslims and dark-skinned people when it comes to racism in France. Jews willing to leave the country, however, do have one big advantage -- better alternatives, including Israel.

(18) Beverly Kurtin, April 17, 2014 7:23 PM

I want to move to Israel but

It seems that Israel wants only the people who are wealthy to make Aliah. Part of me understands that, who needs more poor Jews? All I have is my Social Security, about $21,000 a year. I can't afford to fly to Israel, so that leaves me as an American Jew who is seeing the writing on the wall.
My grandparents left Russia and Poland before the communist revolution.
What scares the pants off of me is the Ukraine that is demanding that Jews do exactly what they did when the Nazis moved in: Register and list all property and pay $50 for the privilege of doing so.
The United States is no longer a democratic Republic: The "Supreme Court" made that killing when they turned the country over to the Oligarchs. The Oligarchs are far right wingers; all it takes is a right-wing bunch to turn a country fascist.
I want to get out of the United States BEFORE anything happens just as my grandparents left their countries before you know what hit the fan.
Nefish 'b Nefish takes only people who have previously visited Israel, since I can't visit, I can't move. Catch 22 all over again.

Anonymous, April 18, 2014 5:32 PM

Bigotry is the same on either side

Bigotry is bigotry - whether spewed against Jews or by them. As a Jew, I am embarrassed to read your bigoted remarks about about the "Supreme Court made that killing" and "Oligarchs are far right wingers". Do you think President Obama is a "far right wing oligarch"? You sound like the idiots that say the banks and media are controlled by a "cabal of Jews". They claim that "the Jew in the next room" orders Mr. Obama what to do.
Jews are historic victims of bigotry. We have a special responsibility to speak out against bigotry - particularly when it comes from one of our own.

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