Why should British Jews leave?

Even taking the CAA’s questionnaire results at face value, British Jews would be far less likely to consider leaving than the average non-Jewish Brit.

January 15, 2015 22:16
3 minute read.
British parliament

A woman holds a Union flag umbrella in front of the Big Ben clock tower (R) and the Houses of Parliament in London. (photo credit: REUTERS)

According to a report in Thursday’s Jerusalem Post, “Nearly half of British Jews say they have no future in Europe.”

The story is accurate; that is indeed what the study says. The problem is that the so-called study is utter nonsense.

According to the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) – a worthwhile organization formed by good people who have done some very useful work – 45 percent of British Jews are “concerned that Jews may not have a long-term future in Britain.” That figure rises to 58% when they are asked if there is a future for Jews in Europe.

But the figures are drawn from an online questionnaire which synagogues and advocacy bodies such as the Zionist Federation sent out to members, urging participation. You don’t have to be a statistician to be wary of the results of such a survey, which gives an incentive to those with strong views to participate and which is not able to be even remotely representative of the broad mass of UK Jews, because the participants are self-selecting.

That 45% statistic is not just wrong, but dangerously wrong, because it gives an entirely false reading of the temperature of British Jews at what is clearly, in the wake of the Paris murders, an extremely fraught and worrying time.

As it happens, we do have some reliable figures about the number of British Jews who have considered leaving. The figure is 11%.

Eighty-nine percent of British Jews have never – even after Paris – considered leaving.

I can tell you that because this week the Jewish Chronicle launched the first-ever polling database of British Jews. Because we are so small as a community – fewer than 250,000 – it has always been far too labor intensive, and thus costly, for a recognized polling company to carry out surveys of the Jewish community.

Thanks to sophisticated new techniques, however, Survation have been able to do just that. It has a database of thousands of British Jews and is able to poll a representative sample.

We asked Survation to carry out the first-ever reliable poll of Britain’s Jews on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

The results, from a randomly selected and representative sample of nearly 600, show a community that is worried but firm in its resolve.

Not surprisingly, nearly a third reported feeling “much more concerned” about their safety after last week’s events.

When asked about their personal safety, three-quarters said, however, that they still feel secure – more than three times more than those who do not. Only 3% said they felt “very unsafe.”

As for the CAA’s portrait of a Britain in which many Jews think the only option is fleeing: in our reliable survey, nearly half – 45% – say that life remains “about the same” for British Jews (although 34% say it has got “slightly worse.”

Only 9% of British Jews think that life in Britain is “much worse” for Jews. That is 9% too high, but it’s not the horror story being portrayed.

But for the sake of argument, let us imagine that the CAA’s online questionnaire was correct and the representative sample of Jews was wrong.

Here’s the thing. According to a poll conducted in 2010, three in four of all Britons – not just Jews, but all Britons – considered moving abroad that year.

In other words, even taking the CAA’s questionnaire results at face value, British Jews would be far less likely to consider leaving than the average non-Jewish Brit.

Which only goes to show how irrelevant the survey is.

The truth is that most British Jews – almost all, according to our poll – have never for a second considered leaving. Yes, anti-Semitism is a problem – a growing problem – that has to be dealt with more seriously. But we are British. Why should we leave?

The writer is editor of the Jewish Chronicle.

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