February 27, 2020

Would French Jews Move to Israel? (I Guess We’ll Never Know)

From AJC survey in France, January 2020



This week, Israelis are fed a large dose of remembrance, as foreign leaders, including the Vice President of the United States, the Presidents of Russia and France, Prince Charles of Britain, flock to the country to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

For Israel, the Holocaust is a living memory, a unifying symbol, a political tool, and most of all a constant reminder of Jewish fragility and Israel’s need for robustness. On Monday, when foreign leaders began their long journey to the Middle East, Israel’s Finance Minister decided to add NIS 2 Billion to the defense budget. In the minds of Israelis, these two events – budget addition and Holocaust commemoration – are clearly connected.




Also obvious is the connection between the 75th anniversary and the American Jewish Committee’s new survey of French Jews (and non-Jews). Two thirds of these Jews say that there is a high level of anti-Semitism in France (67%). The general, non-Jewish public agrees (47%). One in five citizens of France hears someone in his or her immediate circle who occasionally or often denigrates the Jewish people. Two in three Jews have suffered verbal abuse, one in four has suffered physical abuse. More than a third feel the need to avoid displaying symbols expressing their attachment to Jewish culture or the Jewish religion.




AJC asked Jews if they ever considered moving to another neighborhood, city, region. They asked if they considered moving to another country. A whoping 52% majority did.

But Israel was not presented as an option in this question. It was not presented as a destination. Why? I suspect the reason is the ideology of the professionals who authored the survey. Their ideology interfered with their good judgment. Their sensibilities as professionals who work for an American Jewish Organization interfered with their good judgment.

It is an obvious question to ask French Jews: When you consider moving to a different country, would it be another country in the west (in which the Jews are also a minority) or Israel?




I think, like most Israelis, that the Jews of France ought to consider moving to Israel. I know, like all Israelis, that there are also other options, such as the US, Canada, or Australia.

If the only way for Jews to live in France today is behind barracks and guards with guns, perhaps it makes more sense for them to move to a place where there is less need for guards, or to a place where the guards are Jewish guards.

Just ask them. Ask the Jews, who must get used to living in a world in which anti-Semitism is becoming more prevalent, if the natural conclusion would be for them to follow the Zionist remedy for such an ill, or maybe move to the country with the least incidents of Jews getting harassed or killed for who they are (and when the need arises, move again).




The Jews seem to know the people attacking them: Muslims who live in France. In America, where the circumstances are different, and the Jews are different, the Jewish finger is pointing at the far right much more so than at other segments of the population. In France, the circumstances and facts are much clearer. The politics of the Jews do not interfere with their reading of anti-Semitic realities.




The President of France is one of the distinguished guests visiting Israel this week, to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. Surely, he does not intend to condone anti-Semitism, nor to be less than adamant in fighting against violent attackers of Jews. And yet, less than half of the Jews of France trust him to “to tackle anti-Semitism in France.”

Why? Maybe his tendency to accept the narrative of Palestinians over the one of Israelis, or his less-than-robust policy on Iran, suggest to them that their president is not the right person to tackle anti-Semitism which is found mostly among Muslims and Arabs in France.



Shmuel Rosner’s book #IsraeliJudaism, Portrait of a Cultural Revolution (with Prof. Camil Fuchs) is available on Amazon.