Thousands of French Jews Flee to Britain Seeking Safe Haven

REUTERS/Umit Bektas/Files
REUTERS/Umit Bektas/Files

Thousands of French Jews are fleeing to Britain in search of a more welcoming climate, according to Jewish community leaders, despite a report published just days ago revealing that British Jews are questioning their own future in Europe. As many as a quarter of the UK’s estimated 20,000 French Jews are thought to have arrived in the country in the last two years.

The attack on a kosher supermarket last week, which left four Jews, dead has sent shock waves through a Jewish community already struggling in the face of anti-Semitism. Yet it was by no means an isolated event.

Only last month three armed men broke into an apartment in Créteil, south-east of Paris, belonging to a young Jewish couple. The pair were tied up, the woman raped, and were robbed. The attackers told them “You Jews, you have money.” President François Hollande called the attack “intolerable”, and the interior minister Bernard Cazaneuve led a march of around 1,000 to protest against anti-Semitism, but across the country the news was widely met with indifference.

Two years previously, seven people, including three children and a rabbi, were shot dead at a Jewish school in Toulouse. That event precipitated headlines and questions, but low-level anti-Semitism does not. In the first seven months of 2014, before the dispute between Israel and Hamas flared up again, the rate of anti-Semitic attacks doubled in France compared to 2013. Jews make up just 1 percent of the French population, yet half of all racist attacks in France are directed towards Jews.

Ephraim Mirvis, the British chief rabbi, visited Paris after last week’s attack. He told the Telegraph “I encountered a French Jewish community within which the trauma of the previous few days was still deeply evident. While some French Jews are contemplating their future in France, many others are showing a quiet determination to remain and to contribute to a strong Jewish future.”

Simon Tobelem, a French Jewish businessman who spends much of his time in London, estimates that there are as many as 20,000 French Jews in Britain, of which 4,000 to 5,000 have arrived within the past two years. He said: “I think that the trend is definitely growing. We have new faces arriving every week, but what we see is certainly only the tip of the iceberg.”

Britain’s relatively strong economy is part of the pull, but so is Britain’s reputation as a tolerant, welcoming society, willing to act as a safe haven for people of faith. “On a day-to-day basis in northwest London, there’s a feeling of non-aggression,” said Marc Meyer, the French-born chairman of Hendon United Synagogue.

Yet even as they welcome the French newcomers, British Jews are becomingly increasing concerned for their own safety. A Survation poll for the Jewish Chronicle released today shows that three quarters of the Jews polled feel more concerned for their safety following the Paris attack. 32 percent said they were “much more concerned”.

11 percent have considered leaving the country because of the Paris attacks, rising to 17 percent amongst 18-34 year olds. When asked whether life was getting better or worse for Jewish people in Britain, 43 percent said that it was getting worse, whilst only 10 percent though it was improving. 45 percent thought it had stayed much the same.

The findings come hot on the heels of a report published by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which found that a quarter of British Jews had considered leaving the country over the last two years, and that nearly 6 in 10 believed Jews had no long term future in Europe. 69 percent of those surveyed believe that the Jewish community must protect itself as the state does not take the threat seriously. A YouGov poll taken for the report also found that 45 percent of Britons agreed at least one of a range of anti-Semitic statements put to them, such as “Jews chase money more than other British people”.

Over recent years Britain’s reputation for tolerance has also been turned against the Jewish population. As left wing ideologies which seek to compartmentalize society and promote certain groups take hold, Jews are starting to lose out. Last August, Brietbart London recounted how some London supermarkets, fearful of violent retribution by Islamist thugs, had removed the kosher produce from their stores. Meanwhile the same supermarkets encourage secular customers to buy halal by offering a wider selection of cuts in halal than in general.

Despite this provocation and apparent abandonment by the states in which they live, Jews are keen to be at the forefront in peaceful resistance of terror. A number of senior orthodox rabbis from across Europe, including Rabbi Mirvis, have called on religious establishments including mosques, churches and synagogues to accept curtailments in their freedom in order to tackle religious extremism.

The Conference of European Rabbis has laid out a “radical” manifesto calling for all donations over €5,000 to be declared on a public register, and for congregations to file regular reports regarding possible extremists within their midst.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the conference, said: “The time for platitudes is now over — we have a responsibility to start taking action. We hope others will follow us.”