Op-ed: The ongoing process of Jews leaving European continent is tragic but unavoidable
The Jews of Europe are once again in grave danger, while anti-Semitism has become the common currency of politics in many European countries.
Seventy years after the Holocaust, a pogrom took place in Toulouse, one of the most pleasant French cities. An Israeli rabbi and three Jewish children were executed during a killing spree. Four Jews “returned” to Israelin a coffin.
The question we face at this time is as follows: will the Jews have a place in the New Europe? Or will the remnant of European Jewry flee once again?
Nearly 80% of European Jews today can be found in France and in the United Kingdom. In both countries, the number of Jews is dramatically falling. When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, reacting to anti-Semitic attacks in France, said in 2004 that French aliyah is “a must and they have to move immediately,” people were embarrassed. But these sentiments have changed.
A new exodus from the Diaspora could now take place. In the past few years, the number of French Jews immigrating to Israel has doubled. Hundreds of French Jews have bought apartments in Israel. It’s their “pied-a-terre” in case the situation gets darker in Europe.
According to the statistics available, due to aliyah and assimilation, French Jewry is projected to experience a dramatic decline from 520,000 in 2000, to 480,000 in 2020, to 380,000 in 2050, and to 300,000 by 2080. The Jewish population in the United Kingdom will also decline to 240,000 in 2020, 180,000 in 2050, and 140,000 in 2080.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the world’s leading Talmudic scholar, recently delivered an apocalyptic vision: “The Jewish community in Europe is dying.” Enclaves of ultra-Orthodox Jews are likely to prevail in the main European cities, but Judaism will survive as mere folklore.
The Auschwitz burden
Prominent Dutch politician Frits Bolkestein recently sparked an uproar in the Netherlands by saying that Jews “should emigrate to the US or Israel.” Bolkestein’s remarks echoed those of Benjamin Jacobs, Holland’s chief rabbi, who in 2010 said that “the future for Dutch Jewry is moving to Israel.”
Last autumn, the ancient synagogue of Weesp became the first synagogue in Europe since the Second World War to cancel Shabbat services due to threats to the safety of the faithful.
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By Giulio Meotti
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism.