By Benjamin Kerstein
A new study indicates that among young Jewish Europeans, an overwhelming majority believe antisemitism is a problem in their countries and is getting worse, causing four in ten to consider emigration.
The study, entitled Young Jewish Europeans: Perceptions and Experiences of Antisemitism, is based on a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights survey, and was released under the aegis of the agency along with the European Commission and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.
It surveyed attitudes among European Jews between the ages of 16 and 34, particularly their perceptions of and reactions to antisemitism.
According to the survey, 81 percent believe that antisemitism is a problem in their country and 83 percent feel it has increased over the last five years. A similar 80 percent had experienced antisemitic harassment. Forty-five percent said they had been the victim of antisemitism within the past year.
Fifty-one percent of victims did not report the harassment to the authorities. This was particularly the case with incidents that did not involve physical violence. In those that involved “offensive or threatening comments, gestures, text messages, social media posts, phone calls, loitering and the like,” four out of five went unreported.
Contrary to popular perceptions that antisemitism is mainly a right-wing problem, the study showed that the largest group of perpetrators were “someone with a Muslim extremist view.” Thirty-one percent of victims said that this was the case. Another 21 percent said the perpetrators were “someone with a left-wing political view” and 14 percent cited “someone with a right-wing political view.”
The survey found that due to fear of antisemitic violence, 45 percent of young European Jews do not wear any items that indicate their Jewish identity.
As a reaction to antisemitism, 41 percent have considered emigration. A third of these Jews have made plans to do so, and two-thirds of those are planning to make aliyah to Israel. Despite this, the number who have actually emigrated remains low, except for aliyah from France and an increasing number from Belgium and Italy.
Regarding Israel in general, 90 percent of young European Jews believe the Middle East conflict influences their sense of personal security and four in five believe that they are often blamed for Israel’s actions.
On the positive side, however, the survey found that European Jews feel very close to Israel. Ninety percent have visited the country, three-quarters have family members who live there, and 20 percent have lived there themselves at some point.
The survey also showed that European Jews have a very strong sense of Jewish identity. Asked to rate the importance of their identity on a scale of one to ten, a majority said nine or ten, while four in five said seven or higher.
European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor said in reaction to the survey, “This report is of great concern because it clearly demonstrates that the position of our youth, the Jewish future of Europe, is tenuous at the moment.”
“The fact that almost half are considering emigrating and will not display signs of their Jewish background point to a breakdown in their confidence to be both openly and proudly Jewish in their local environments,” he added.
Noting the positive findings, however, Kantor said, “The fact that over four-fifths of European Jewish youths declare the strength of their Jewish identity to be high is certainly positive and means that despite the challenges, the next generation of Jewish leaders are motivated to maintain their Jewish identity, and this is certainly cause for significant optimism.”