Jewish emigration from western Europe is at historically unprecedented levels in the wake of growing disquiet about antisemitism but there is no evidence an exodusis taking place, according to an in-depth study of aliyah trends.
Despite the recent increase in movement of Jews to Israel from France, Belgium and Italy, it has came nowhere near the levels of mass migration before the Second World War and from the former Soviet Union a quarter of a century ago.
In contrast to the French experience, aliyah from the UK since the early 2000s has “generally remained unremarkable”, the report said.
The survey by the UK-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) focused on six countries, which also include Germany and Sweden, containing around 70 per cent of the European Jewish population.
Jonathan Boyd, JPR executive director, said there was “no evidence of an exodus of Jews from Europe, even though the numbers of Jews emigrating to Israel from some countries in recent years — most notably France — are unprecedented”.
He stressed it was “clear that Jews in parts of Europe are genuinely concerned about their future, most likely because of antisemitism, but the levels of anxiety and apprehension are nowhere near those experienced during previous periods of intense stress, like the 1930s and 1940s. Drawing those types of parallels has no basis in empirical reality.”
While recent French aliyah had surpassed previous records of 1948 after the establishment of the state and of the late 1960s after the Six Day War, the recent rate was “not suggestive of an exodus occurring now”, stated L Daniel Staetsky, the author of the study, Are Jews leaving Europe?
In France, Belgium and Italy, four per cent of Jews left for Israel in the period 2010-15, compared with 0.6 per cent from Germany, 1.2 per cent from the UK and 1.7 per cent from Sweden.
This contrasts with a third of German Jewry fleeing the country from 1933 to 1938 — most not to Palestine — and around half of Soviet Jews emigrating from 1989 to 1994.
However, Dr Staestsky points out, there remains “an absence of information” on the numbers of Jews heading from France to countries other than Israel such as the UK or Canada.
Whereas France and Belgium were the two countries with the highest anxiety about antisemitism, the UK was the lowest.
The research was completed before new figures showed that French aliyah had dropped by a third from 2015 to around 5,000 last year – almost half of what had been anticipated by the Jewish Agency.
But Dr Staetsky noted that British aliyah over the past decade had been higher than predicted. In previous times high unemployment had prompted aliyah from the UK. Given the current healthier economic picture, the recent rate of migration from Britain was “unusual”, he found, and could be due to concerns about antisemitism.
Dr Staetsky also reported the research “perhaps somewhat surprisingly” did not reveal any link between the level of European aliyah and the security situation in Israel.