Nearly half of Jewish youth in the EU are afraid to publicly display their faith

Nearly half of Jewish youth in the EU are afraid to publicly display their faith
The first EU survey of the bloc's Jewish youth found that a large number of respondents have considered emigrating out of safety concerns. Credit: (CC) LWYang/Flickr

Four in five of European Jewish youth say that antisemitism is a problem in their countries and that it has increased in recent years according to a report published by the EU Agency for Fundamental rights (FRA) on Thursday. Nearly half of those who say they avoid displaying their faith in public declare doing so over safety concerns.

The report surveyed 2,700 Jewish respondents aged 16 to 34 living in 12 EU Member States - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. More than 90% of the 1.1 million Jews in the EU are living in those countries.

The aim of the survey was comparing the experiences of young Jews with those of older generations and boosting appropriate policy-making. 77 % of those surveyed were born in the country where they currently live and are well integrated. A previous study from December last year on perceptions and experiences of antisemitism did not include an analysis by age.

“Young Jewish Europeans are very attached to their Jewish identity. I am saddened that they fear for their security in Europe, do not dare to wear a kippah and some even consider emigrating,” said EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourova.

“We need to act fast to combat antisemitism in Europe and join our efforts to keep our youth safe. We want young Jewish people to grow up in Europe feeling they fully belong here. Antisemitism is a threat to our European values.”

Overall the report found that 81% of those surveyed believed that antisemitism was a problem in their countries and it it had increased over the past five years.

More than 80 % of the respondents said they strongly identified with their Jewish identity by remembering the Holocaust, feeling part of the Jewish people and celebrating Jewish holidays without necessarily being religious.

Paradoxically, the survey also showed that many avoided wearing, carrying or displaying items or clothing that could identify them as Jewish and close to half of them (45%) cited concerns that “doing so may adversely affect their safety.”

The most striking finding in the survey was that the same proportion (45 %) has also been a victim of at least some form of antisemitic incident in the last year, mostly in the form of harassment.

The survey warned that feelings of insecurity could lead to an acceleration in Jewish population declines, as a large number of respondents said they have considered emigrating from the EU out of safety concerns. The figures might be inflated according to those responsible for the report but indicate feelings of concern and anxiety.

While 13% of respondents said that they had moved or had considered moving out of their neighbourhoods because “they did not feel safe living there as a Jew,” an even higher number (41%) said they had considered moving out of their countries for the same reason. Of these, 33% report making active plans to do so, mostly to Israel.

Growing intolerance

Young Jews are more likely than their older peers to identify racism or intolerance towards other sectors of the populations, according to the report. A majority of them believe that racism is a problem in their countries and 74% perceive an increase specifically of anti-Muslim hatred.

An overwhelming majority of respondents (close to 90%) identified the internet and social media networks as contexts where antisemitism thrived and was the most problematic, a finding that is consistent throughout age groups. Instances of antisemitism are also reported to happen in the streets, in media and in political life.

In the choice between legislation or voluntary measures on countering on-line hate speech, a Commission spokesperson said at the press briefing on Friday that the preferred way by EU is a code of conduct signed with the major IT-companies. According to the Commission’s monitoring, up to 80 % of illegal hate speech on-line is removed within 24 hours after being reported.

The report found that conflicts at the international level took a toll in the everyday life of the EU’s Jews, and that younger populations were more likely to experience this than their older cohorts.

Nine out of ten respondents said that the Arab-Israel conflict affects their feelings of security “to at least some degree,” while a quarter of respondents said instances of them being blamed for “anything done by the Israeli government” happened “all the time.”

While a majority of them does not believe that criticism of Israel is antisemitic, most of them find denial of Israel’s right to exist, comparing it with Nazi-Germany or supporting a boycott of Israel as definitely or probably antisemitic.

Almost half (48%) of respondents in the survey said they considered their governments to be responding adequately to the “security needs of Jewish communities,” but only 17% declared feeling that authorities were effectively fighting antisemitism. There is limited EU funding for protecting Jewish institutions and the responsibility for doing it falls on national governments according to a Commission source.

The Brussels Times

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