LONDON – Nearly half of British Jews questioned in the weeks before the Paris terrorist attacks believe the country’s Jewish community has no future, according to the recently established grassroots organization Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA).
Some 45 percent of the 2,230 people surveyed by the organization said they are “concerned that Jews may not have a long-term future in Britain.” The figure rises to 58% when asked if there is a future for Jews in Europe.
Some 37%, however, disagreed, expressing the view that British Jewry is here to stay.
CAA chairman Gideon Falter described the findings as “a shocking wake-up call,” adding that Britain is “rapidly approaching a tipping point.”
He predicted that unless anti-Semitism is met with zero intolerance, it would grow and British Jews would increasingly question their place in the country.
The CAA survey also asked respondents whether they had contemplated leaving the UK over the last two years because of anti-Semitism. A quarter responded that they had, while 63% indicated they were staying put.
A separate poll of 550 people released late Wednesday taken for the Jewish Chronicle, however, indicated that 88% have not considered leaving the since last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, while 11% have contemplated packing their bags. Among those 18-34, however, the percentage of those who said they might leave rose to just over 17%.
Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard, in a comment on the two surveys, suggested that the CAA’s methodology was questionable, a view endorsed by other leading statisticians in the Jewish community, thus casting some doubt on the CAA’s results.
Pollard wrote that other opinion polls were unrepresentative, “not least because respondents are self-selecting and do not meet the statistical standards demanded by the polling industry body, the British Polling Council.”
According to the CAA, 56% of those who replied to its online survey suggested that the current situation showed some echoes of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s, but 27% said they could find no parallels. Some 45% said their families feel threatened by Islamist extremism and 63% believe the authorities let too much anti-Semitism go unpunished.
Of those polled, 42% said they had no problem wearing a kippa or showing a Magen David in public, while 37% indicated that they tried to avoid displaying any symbols of their Judaism.
Asked whether they had any qualms about mentioning their religion when they met new people, 57% said they had no problem, but 27% said they avoided the issue altogether.
“Given the events of last summer and, indeed, the past week, it is understandable that some within our community are anxious,” Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis told The Jerusalem Post
“The Jewish Community in the UK is not only part of the very fabric of this country, it is also deeply cherished and supported by our friends across the United Kingdom,” he continued.
“We live in a tolerant society and we share our lives and our community with others. I am certain that the Jewish community here will continue to flourish in the years to come.”
Jewish communal leaders also reacted to the survey, saying it reflects deep anxiety among British Jews.
“Even when allowing for the methodological flaws of the research, the anxiety articulated is real and we should not be complacent about the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in the past year, as highlighted by many Community Security Trust (CST) reports. However, it is important to remember that the current level and nature of anti-Semitism in Britain is not as bad as we have seen in France and other European countries and incidents of a violent nature are much lower than they have been in previous years,” the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies said in a joint statement.
CST’s director of communications Mark Gardner told the Post the CAA survey reflected the high levels of anxiety and concern in the Jewish community, following the increase in anti-Semitic incidents during July and August and last week’s terrorist attack on a kosher shop in Paris. He said CST is working closely with the police and government to ensure that British Jews can continue to go about their lives with pride and confidence.
Meanwhile, a separate survey commissioned by the CAA, also released Wednesday, assessed anti-Semitic attitudes in the UK. The You Gov polling company carried out the survey of just under 3,500 UK citizens over the three-week period ending just days before the Paris attacks.
Almost 50% of those polled said they agreed that one or more of a series of four anti-Semitic statements were either definitely or probably true, while one in eight believed Jews use the Holocaust as a way of gaining sympathy.
Some 17% of those surveyed believe Jews think they are better than other people and have too much power in the media, while one in 10 claimed Jews are not as honest in business as others. A quarter of those questioned said they believe Jews chase money more than others.
Meanwhile, 20% think Jews’ loyalty to Israel leaves them less loyal to the UK, and one in 10 claimed they would be unhappy if one of their relatives married a Jew.
“This is a part of a trend that we are hearing about across Europe, which is understood due to the anti-Semitic attacks and threats of the last few years,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress.
“However, it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure the safety of Jews and Jewish institutions to return some normalcy to the lives of Jews in the UK and around Europe,” he continued.
“We need to see a far more robust reaction to rising levels of anti-Semitism across the continent at a pan-European level or some of these statistics might become reality.”
British Premier David Cameron gave some reassurance to Jewish leaders at their annual discussion in Downing Street Tuesday. Britain, he said, would try and do everything it could to ensure Jewish organizations are properly engaged with police and security services, adding that the government is looking at anything further that could be done to ensure security.
Backing that view, Home Secretary Theresa May told the Post Wednesday night that “everyone in this country, including members of Britain’s Jewish community, should be able to live their lives free from racial and religious hatred and harassment. No one should live in fear because of their beliefs or who they are.”
May added that she had held several meetings with the Jewish community recently and that the government takes “the safety of the Jewish community extremely seriously. We are committed to working with Jewish community leaders on this issue.”
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, meanwhile, told the Post
Jews are “an important part of the British community, and we would be diminished without them.”
He went on to say: “Anyone who peddles anti-Semitic views is attacking Britain and British values,” promising that those who commit hate crimes would be punished with the full force of the law.
“This government has done much to enhance Britain’s status as a safe, tolerant place for Jewish people but we are not complacent. We remain committed to tackling it wherever and whenever it occurs and continue to take a zero-tolerance approach.”
Opposition leader Ed Miliband, in a statement to the Post
, declared that Britain had to take these concerns seriously, echoing Pickles’ call for zero tolerance.
“There is absolutely no excuse for anti-Semitism of any sort and we should have a zero tolerance approach towards it,” he said. “We must also ensure that we do all we can to build confidence within British Jewish communities through visible policing and strong community relations, as well as tackling anti-Semitism online” Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg told the Post, “I wholeheartedly condemn all forms of anti-Semitism and prejudice against all religious communities, which this shocking report shows is sadly on the rise.
“It is truly a dismal sight to see extensive high-security measures in place to protect both the Jewish and Muslim communities across our continent. Religious-inspired hatred causes a particular type of fear and uncertainty that can tear communities apart. The only antidote is tolerance, compassion, and mutual understanding.”
Sam Sokol contributed to this report.