Which European countries are keeping Jews the safest?

Jews are feeling disconnected from their Jewish identity and experiencing moments of lack of safety. Why? 

L: Chief Rabbi Shlomo Köves, Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities; Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary Zsolt Semjén; Greek Deputy Minister of Interior Stavros Kalafatis; Chairman of the European Jewish Association Rabbi Menachem Margolin; Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Yacov Hadas-Handelsman. (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER)
L: Chief Rabbi Shlomo Köves, Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities; Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary Zsolt Semjén; Greek Deputy Minister of Interior Stavros Kalafatis; Chairman of the European Jewish Association Rabbi Menachem Margolin; Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Yacov Hadas-Handelsman.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER)

BUDAPEST – Among European countries, Italy and Hungary have the highest quality of life for Jews, while Poland and Belgium have the worst, according to a new survey by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, a London-based think tank that specializes in contemporary Jewish affairs.

The institute’s Dr. Daniel Statsky prepared the index report, which examined how European governments work to increase the quality of life for Jews.

European governments have made increasing efforts to fight antisemitism in recent years. Nevertheless, the researchers set out to examine why many Jews still experience insecurity regarding their safety.

That day-to-day experiences are safe and governments are listening and helping “doesn’t mean that a government is actually doing everything it can to ensure the development of that community,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association, said Monday during a presentation of the data to journalists at the association’s annual conference in Budapest.

  Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of European Jewish Association (EJA). (credit: YOSSI ZELIGER) Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of European Jewish Association (EJA). (credit: YOSSI ZELIGER)

The eight factors that form the basis for the report are: 

  1. Does the government have funding for protection?
  2. Are there funds to protect and expand Jewish culture?
  3. Has the state adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism?
  4. Is there a policy for Holocaust memorialization?
  5. Is there a clear Holocaust remembrance educational plan?
  6. Does the state monitor antisemitism?
  7. What is the status of religious freedoms in the state?
  8. How many times has the country voted in the United Nations General Assembly in favor of Israel?

“The saying goes, ‘Europe without Jews is not Europe,’” Margolin said. “The countries that are saying this need to put their money where their mouth is.”

What do the numbers say? 

The countries were ranked in the following order, from best to worst: Italy, Hungary, Denmark, the UK, Austria, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Spain, France, Poland and Belgium. The rankings took into account all the categories that were measured.

"Over the past few years Hungarian Jews have felt the situation improve," said Chief Rabbi of the Associations of Hungarian Jewish Communities Shlomo Köves.

"Rigorous cooperation between the Jewish community and the Hungarian government in recent times has yielded immediate and direct improvements in security, including constitutional and legislative changes and a police focus on handling antisemitic incidents, among other measures.

"At the same time the Jewish community and the government are working hand in hand to improve the negative attitudes and opinions in the Hungarian society at large towards Jews," he added, explaining that the educational content undergoes constant review. 

"the Jewish community and the [Hungarian] government are working hand in hand to improve the negative attitudes and opinions in the Hungarian society at large towards Jews"

Shlomo Köves, chief rabbi of the Associations of Hungarian Jewish Communities

In terms of government performance, meaning how much the government has done to protect and develop the Jewish communities, Germany and Austria were ranked the best, followed by France, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, the UK, Poland, Denmark, Spain and Belgium.

Where do Jews say they feel the most secure? 

Denmark was ranked the most secure, followed by Hungary, Italy, Austria, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France.

Regarding public attitudes toward Israel, the Netherlands ranked the highest, followed by the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary and Austria.

“Negative sentiment against Jews is unequivocally tied to Israel,” Margolin said. “When Israel is attacked, the Jews are attacked. Israel knows how much it needs other countries, particularly through the strong Jewish communities in those countries. Most European Jews don’t even identify as Jewish – 85%. But whilst they are here, we need to keep them safe.”

Poland ranked No. 9 in government performance, No. 9 in Jews’ sense of security and No. 10 in the realm of public attitudes.

Low rankings were due to a miscommunication and misunderstanding between what the Jewish communities need and what the governments are giving them, Margolin told The Jerusalem Post.

“We think European governments want Jewish communities to thrive,” he said. “The numbers show what is missing. The point of the survey is not to attack one government or another, and definitely not to call out one state’s antisemitism campaign, but to create a quantitative basis that compares the quality of life.”

The findings will be presented to the respective governments, he said.

“This was to give the community and government heads the opportunity to understand what needs to come next, what steps need to be taken, to deal with today’s challenges,” Margolin said.