Violence, anti-Semitism unsettles European Jews

Jews in both England and France are wondering if a future exists for them in Europe in the wake of violence and rising anti-Semitism.

There are approximately 280,000 Jews in Britain and roughly 500,000 in France.

French Jews, already feeling under siege, say the trauma of the terrorist attacks, including at a kosher supermarket where four Jews were killed, has left them scared, angry and increasingly willing to consider conflict-torn Israel as a safer refuge.

“It is a war here,” said Jacqueline Cohen, owner of an art store on Rue des Rosiers in a Jewish neighborhood lined with falafel and Judaica shops. “After what happened, we feel safer in the center of Tel Aviv than we do here in the heart of Paris.

“In Israel, there is an Iron Dome to protect us,” she added, referring to Israel’s antimissile defense system. “Here we feel vulnerable and exposed.”

France announced that 10,000 troops would guard “sensitive sites,” including synagogues, railway stations, airports and tourist attractions. Nearly half the soldiers — about 4,700 — were assigned to protect France’s 717 Jewish schools.

So acute is the sense of insecurity among Jews that Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, said the four supermarket victims were buried in Jerusalem partly because of fears that their graves would be desecrated in France.

A spate of anti-Semitic attacks, including the tossing of firebombs and attacks on synagogues and shops in Jewish neighborhoods, coincided with Israel’s incursion in Gaza last summer. A French-born man was accused of gunning down four people in May at the Jewish museum in Brussels.

France was the largest source of Jews moving to Israel last year. The Jewish Agency for Israel predicted that as many as 15,000 French Jews would emigrate this year.

Over half of British Jews (58 percent) said they fear they may have no long-term future not only in Britain but also in Europe. The survey by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism included 2,200 British Jews from different parts of the country.

“Britain is at a tipping point,” said Gideon Falter, chairman of CAA. “Unless anti-Semitism is met with zero tolerance, it will grow and British Jews will increasingly question their place in this country.”

Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi in the Movement for Reform Judaism, disagreed with the survey’s conclusions: “It doesn’t match day-to-day realities,” she said.

“Britain is a fantastic place,” she added. “It offers all religions and minorities freedom. Britain is one of the best countries in the world for Jews.”

Britain has been relatively free of anti-Semitism since World War II. Dave Rich, a spokesman for Community Security Trust, which looks after the security of British Jews, said that extra police and volunteer patrols are protecting synagogues.

The New York Times and the Religion News Service contributed to this report.