A bloody attack on a Kosher supermarket in Paris last month has caused many French Jews to reconsider their lives in France, The Post's Griff Witte reported this weekend. “We can’t say that these are jihadists imported from Iraq or Syria,” Marc Krief, rabbi at the Synagogue of Vincennes-Saint-Mandé, said of the attackers. “They were French citizens."
If French Jews end up leaving France, they may be forming a new part of a broader and older trend. A new report from Pew Research points out that the Jewish population in Europe has dropped "significantly" in Europe over the last few decades, while the global Jewish population has risen.
As Pew notes, estimating Jewish populations in Europe can be difficult – in part due to the small nature of these populations, their levels of assimilation, and legal problems (in France, the census is legally forbidden from asking about religion). However, the group has used data from Sergio DellaPergola of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem that paints a picture of continually falling numbers.
Breaking down the numbers by region is revealing. In Eastern Europe the decline is most stark, with Jewish populations a tiny fraction of what they once were. These countries were hit hard by the Holocaust, and in the following decades many of the remaining Jews left for Israel or the United States.
Interestingly, according to the data, France was one country that had seen its numbers of Jewish citizens increase since 1945 – it has, by some measures, the largest Jewish population in Europe. But, importantly, Pew's data only goes up to 2010. The Jewish Agency, which encourages immigration to Israel, has told The Post that the number of French Jews leaving for Israel each year had jumped dramatically in recent years: From 3,400 in 2013 to around 7,000 last year.
Given the circumstances, perhaps it's understandable. In the past few years, French Jews have complained of hostility from a variety of angles: Including the continued success of Marine le Pen's far-right National Front party, the rise of the controversial comedian Dieudonné, and anti-Israel protests that have turned violent. The Paris attacks may have been sudden and violent, but, for many French Jews, they weren't entirely unexpected.