Early signs of a mass Jewish exodus from Ukraine and Russia says new report

A study of european Jewry did not find evidence of a mass exodus outside those two countries


Two orthodox jews are seen arriving are seen arriving at the Medyka pedestrian border crossing in eastern Poland on February 25, 2022, fleeing the conflict in their country, one day after Russia launched a military attack on its neighbour Ukraine. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

There are early signs of an exodus of Jews from Russia and Ukraine amid the conflict between the two countries, according to a new report.

But although migration had long been suspected to be “draining Europe of its Jews,” it did not find evidence of mass departures elsewhere in the continent.

Last year proved to be “a watershed year” for Russian and Ukrainian Jewry, observed Daniel Staestsky, author of Jewish Migration Today; What it may mean for Europe, which was published this week by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

In those two countries, “the number of migrants to Israel that year was five times higher than in 2021,” he said. “Similarly high levels of migration persisted in early 2023. If migration from these countries continues for seven years at the level seen in 2022 and early 2023, then the critical value indicating an ongoing exodus will be reached and, arguably, surpassed.

“At that point, 80%-90% of the Jewish population of Ukraine will have emigrated, and 50%-60% of the Jewish population of Russia.

“By contrast, if the emigration of French Jews continued at its current rates for the next seven years, France would lose only 2%-5% of its Jewish population – very far from a critical value. The other countries of Western Europe, as well as Hungary, would be even further from any critical migration loss.”

While there had been a “surge” in migration to Israel from France - and also from Belgium, Spain and Italy - that had begun in 2011, in other countries the levels remained “relatively stable”.

“In the UK, for example, the former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was widely seen as openly hostile to Jewish concerns, yet no surge in migration from the UK to Israel was observed,” Dr Staesky noted. “The same is true of Brexit – undoubtedly a political crisis, but it did not lead to a surge in Jewish migration.”

The case of France, where there had been a number of terrorist attacks, was “unique”.

European Jewry declined from 3.8 million in 1945 to 1.3 million in 2021 with over two million leaving for Israel.

The last mass exodus took place with the collapse of the Soviet Union when more than half of the Jews living within its borders emigrated in the period from 1989 to 1995 - more than two-thirds of the migrants heading to Israel.

In his conclusion, Dr Staetsky said that “in 2022, hostilities between Russia and Ukraine progressed to full-scale war, and in that year, the signs of such an exodus were all there. Writing in mid-2023, and judging by the scale of Jewish migration from Russia and Ukraine so far, we can say that there are ominous signs of a major – possibly catastrophic – political crisis in Europe.”

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