The imperiled condition of French Jewry, at this point, is pretty well-trod territory. As the Muslim population of France continues to rise, so do the attacks on Jews, with a 58 percent rise in anti-Semitic attacks just last year.
Algemeiner On January 26, possibly for the first time ever since the end of World War Two, explicit anti-semitic slogans were shouted during a large scale political demonstration in Paris. The incident was just a further indication that French Jews are not as secure today as they used to be a few years ago. Indeed, many French Jews have concluded they have no future in their country, and are leaving for Israel or North America.
In 2013, more than 20,000 people formally applied to the Jewish Agency in Paris for aliyah – emigration to Israel – and more than 3,000 completed the emigration process during the same year: twice as much as in 2012. France is now the first country of origin for aliyah, ahead of the United States.
No less relevant is the rise of people considering emigrating to Israel. In 2012, about sixty people in France used to attend weekly aliyah-focused information workshops. Throughout 2013, average attendance soared to 150 people per week. In December, it peaked out at 500 people per week.
No such data is available about French Jewish emigration to North America. There is no doubt, however, that it is on the rise. As a matter of fact, the non-Jewish French are considering emigration too. According to recent polls, up to one third of the French at large and one half of the French youth say they are ready to expatriate permanently.
One reason is economic gloom, Another reason is concern about non-European (Muslim) immigration and the gradual erosion of France’s national character and national culture. Naturally, the more the French at large think about emigrating, or engage into expatriation, the more Jews are likely to do the same.
How far will it go? Is this the beginning of a new mass migration within the Jewish world, twenty years after the mass migration of most Jews from the former Soviet Union to Israel, Western Europe, and North America? Will the French Jews transform Israel and American Jewry the way Soviet Jews did?
About half a million Jews live currently in France. Whatever the figures, the Jewish emigration potential from France is very important. The Israeli political leadership is taking steps to turn this potential into an asset. Laws and regulations are being revised or scrapped in order to help French professionals or students assimilate.
Tablet From the sounds of it, the ferment of French Jewry’s plight has been a full decade in coming and not just a few years as it’s been assumed. It’s stunning to remember the way that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon–at the height of the Second Intifada no less–infamously instructed French Jews to move to Israel for their own safety. His remarks were blasted by French leaders–both Jewish and not–including the French foreign ministry, who called on Sharon for an explanation of his “unacceptable comments.”
It’s manifested itself not just in terrorist attacks, arson, assaults, or acts like the planting of a fake bomb near the Hillel Center in Lyon earlier this week, but in language as well. For each incident of anti-Semitic graffiti, consider several thousand or more digital analogues. Writing in Tablet today, Jillian Scheinfeld outlined an actual, popular trend of anti-Semitic hate speech on Twitter.
Last October, when the hashtag #UnBonJuif reached the top three on Twitter’s trending topics list in France, a French Jewish student group, the Union of French Jewish Students, complained directly to the San Francisco-based social networking giant asking for the names of Twitter users promoting the anti-Semitic hashtag. When Twitter failed to respond, the students took their case to a French court—and won.