More than 40 percent of French Jews are interested in making aliya to Israel, according to a new poll released this week.
Pollsters at the Institut français d’opinion publique spoke with more than 700 self-declared Jews, asking them about their preferences regarding a range of issues.
Among the findings: 43% are thinking, or have thought about, immigration to the Jewish state.
Given France’s approximately 700,000 Jews, that means that around 200,000 people are mulling aliya.
The same percentage of respondents also reported having thought about moving to Great Britain, Canada and the United States, although it is quite possible that there is significant overlap between the two groups.
Additionally, 59% of those queried indicated that they know somebody who has emigrated from France.
Anti-Semitism and a worsening economy have driven many French Jews to seek their fortunes abroad, with significant communities forming in Montreal, London and other cities.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post last year, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky stated that around 50,000 French Jews asked for information about immigrating in 2014.
More than 7,900 French Jews made aliya in 2015, up 10% from the previous year, when the western European nation became the leading source of immigrants here with 7,000 olim, more than twice the number from 2013.
However, while French aliya has surged dramatically in recent years, barriers to integration for Francophone immigrants have remained an issue for many, with such topics as the non-compatibility of French and Israeli degrees considered a deal breaker for many.
Lawmakers gathered in the Knesset to discuss this issue earlier this month, with Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee chair MK Dr. Avraham Neguise calling for the removal of such obstacles.
According to the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency, “49% of French Jews investigated emigration in 2012,” Dr.
Dov Maimon, a Francophone researcher at the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Institute told the Post on Tuesday.
“The situation hasn’t improved since, as you know,” he added, calling the IFOP survey unsurprising.
“The difference between religious and non-religious is very strong on the subject of emigration,” he continued. “69% of religiously observant Jews want to come to Israel. Only 29% of non-observant Jews” have expressed such an intent.
“The motivations for aliya are now mainly economic or family,” with “Zionism or religious reasons” being expressed as a factor impelling emigration by only around 30% of those looking to move, he said.
While the results do tend to fit in with previous research on the topic, Maimon expressed some reservations about the survey, stating that Jewish women and the ultra-Orthodox were underrepresented, skewing the findings.
Despite this, he said that the findings do “indicate and confirm the high potential opportunity for Israel to get for the first time in Zionism history an aliya wave from a developed country. To channel this emigration wave to Israel, a strategy has to be implemented providing no-cost legal modifications to allow French olim to work in their profession in Israel with an attractive package of benefits.”