The European Jewish Association (EJA) on Tuesday issued a comprehensive report by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research’s statistician Daniel Staetsky, titled, “Europe and Jews, a country index of respect and tolerance towards Jews.” The study found that the least friendly countries to Jewish life in Europe are Belgium and Poland, while the friendliest countries to Jews are Italy and Hungary.
The study was released at the annual conference of leaders of Jewish communities in Europe which is held this week in Budapest by EJA. The study was conducted over the past two years and it examines the performance of European governments, weighing practical activities such as the fight against antisemitism, caring for the security of the Jewish community, freedom of religion, cultivating Jewish culture, and even how each European state votes on Israel-related issues at the UN.
EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said “the aim of the study is not to clash with this or that government and certainly not to embarrass or campaign against this or that government but to create a comparative scientific infrastructure on the quality of Jewish life in various European countries and allow community leaders and government heads to know what practical steps are needed to overcome the challenges together.”
The study also weighs government performance data based on previous surveys that analyzed the sense of security of European Jews, as well as the percentage of Jews who have experienced antisemitic incidents in person and the percentage of the gentile population that hold negative views about Jews and Israel.
Of the 12 countries where the majority of European Jews live, France is perceived as the least safe. France is also one of the countries that have taken the most urgent steps to ensure the continued security of its Jewish community. Belgium has done the least to offer its vast Jewish community a sense of safety and has attacked features of Jewish life such as kosher slaughtering.
European Jews feel most secure are Italy, Hungary, and Denmark. After weighting surveys from recent years regarding the performance of European governments regarding their Jewish citizens, this is a ranking of the quality of Jewish life in European countries:
4. The United Kingdom
6. The Netherlands
The following is a ranking of the performance of European governments for the benefit of the Jewish communities in the various countries:
4. The Netherlands
8. The United Kingdom
Rabbi Margolin stressed that “over the years we have seen important and diverse, and often divergent studies on the life of Jewish communities. It was difficult to translate the findings of these studies and surveys into a comparative scientific database and even more challenging to ascertain from the data of the various studies a uniform objective measure to really improve the life of the community and the Jewish individual in his or her country. “
He noted that “the fact that there are residents who smile at us on the street and there is a general feeling that the government listens to the needs of the community, or that there is no existential anxiety on a daily basis, does not mean that the state does its best to ensure the development of the Jewish community. For example, Belgium is a country where the inhabitants are generally satisfied, but when you go into details, you see that the country does the least for the continuation of Jewish life in Europe compared to all other European countries.”
The Belgian government, which rates last in the study, significantly reduced security around the Jewish communities without even consulting them, banned kosher slaughter, threatened the legality of male circumcision, and failed to appoint a coordinator for the fight against antisemitism.
Source: European Jewish Association (EJA)
Gratefully, all 12 countries surveyed score above 60 on the index, suggesting not a single country is in the “red zone” that would indicate tangible danger to the life of the Jewish community in the near future.
The annual EJA conference is held this year in Hungary’s capital Budapest. Commenting on the study, Rabbi Shomo Koves, Chief Rabbi of Associations of Hungarian Jewish Communities (EMIH), said: “This study uniquely combines various data that represent not just the level of antisemitic views among the population, but also the amount of violence against Jews. Over the past few years, Hungarian Jews have felt the situation improve, and we are glad to see that the EJA study supports our feelings. Rigorous cooperation between the Jewish community and the Hungarian government in recent times has yielded immediate and direct improvements in security, including constitutional and legislative changes and police focus on handling antisemitic incidents, among other measures.”
“At the same time, the Jewish community and the government are working hand in hand to improve the negative attitudes and opinions in the Hungarian society at large toward Jews,” Chief Rabbi Koves said. “This effort includes a continual review of educational content, done in collaboration between the Ministry of Education, Hungary’s Jewish communities, and the Action and Protection League (APL)––the leading NGO responsible for fighting antisemitism. The fact that responsibility for constructing the permanent exhibit of the new Holocaust Museum was fully handed over to the Jewish community also proves a commitment to act and bring change for the long term through government and community partnerships.”
Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén Congratulated the Jewish leaders and senior European politicians who attended the conference and said: “Hungary has zero-tolerance toward antisemitism. The lessons of the Holocaust are part of the curriculum in our schools and Holocaust denial in the country is unacceptable.”
Regarding Israel, Semjén said: “We don’t like double standards and quite often some EU members adopt a double standards policy when it comes to Israel, for ex the funding of NGOs that are very anti-Israel.”
Addressing the recent bans on kosher slaughtering in Belgium, the Deputy PM said: “We condemned Belgium for banning ritual slaughter. Animal rights should not be put above the right of religious minorities to freely practice their religion.”