Expat and excluded, Israelis in the UK

More than half the Israelis in Britain and France are not active in the Jewish communities in the cities in which they live, according to a survey.

And only two per cent of the expat Israelis surveyed see themselves and local Jews as belonging to a single community.

One 56-year-old Israeli living in London was quoted as saying that when the question came up whether to invite local Jews to an event, “There was 100 per cent objection. We don’t like them and they don’t like us”.

The study was carried out by Lilach Lev-Ari and published by the Rappaport Centre for Assimilation Research and Strengthening Jewish Vitality at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.

Whereas 57 per cent of Israeli émigrés are not active in their Jewish community, 40 per cent are to some extent and just three per cent “very active”.

Only a third see the presence of Israelis as contributing to Jewish continuity in the diaspora.

A third have business or economic links with other Jews, while more than half — 57 per cent — see Israelis and Jews having common educational institutions, for example Jewish schools.

Respondents also note key differences between themselves and the local Jewish population.

“Israelis aren’t embarrassed by their Israeliness,” the 56-year-old man said. “The English Jewish community wants to be British.”

A 47-year-old Israeli woman in London believed that her compatriots are much less inhibited about voicing criticism about Israel. “Israelis will express criticism which could make [local] Jews want to kill them. The local Jews are not as blunt.”

Another Israeli woman of 39, also living in London, reported: “We don’t feel good in shul. I’m not religious, neither is my husband. I don’t feel comfortable in a religious synagogue and I am not in a group.”

But Dr Lev-Ari found that Israelis in France were more “detached and Israeli” than their counterparts in Britain: they also tended to be younger.

Her findings were based on 126 questionnaires, just under half of which were answered by Israelis in London. The rest were predominantly from France with a few elsewhere in Europe. In addition, she conducted face-to-face interviews with 23 people, around half of them based in Britain.

But there is also evidence of a greater Jewish awareness among Israelis abroad.

Thirty-three per cent say they attach more importance to Judaism abroad than in Israel, compared with 11 per cent who attach less.

Forty-three per cent are more inclined to keep Jewish customs in the diaspora, compared with 9 per cent who keep less.

Forty-seven per cent think it more important to give their children Jewish education abroad than in Israel, compared with nine per cent who feel it less important.

    Last updated: 11:18am, April 3 2008