Half of small Jewish communities will disappear within 50 years - Eur. Jewish leader

President of the European Jewish Congress Dr. Ariel Musicant said that intermarriage is the main threat to the Jewish diaspora.

 Dr. Ariel Musicant speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Monday. (photo credit: MFA)
Dr. Ariel Musicant speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Monday.
(photo credit: MFA)

Half of Europe’s small Jewish communities will disappear due to assimilation within 30 to 50 years, a prominent European Jewish leader said.

“Current figures show that intermarriage and assimilation in the Jewish Diaspora have reached an utmost high,” Ariel Musicant, president of the European Jewish Congress, said at Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Monday. “Intermarriage is at 50% in Europe, and at 75% in the US. If this trend continues, large parts of the Jewish Diaspora will disappear within one to two generations. In other words, 50% of small Jewish communities will disappear in the next 30 to 50 years.”

Musicant made the comment at a Jewish leadership conference of European countries, organized by the ministry, which hosted about 40 heads of Jewish communities from 28 countries.

“For 125 years, the Diaspora has built and supported the State of Israel,” Musicant said. “While this has to continue, we need a major change of paradigm.”

The EJC president called for Israeli and Jewish institutions to “substantially increase their investment in Diaspora Jewry” in three ways.

 THE GROOM breaks a glass, the traditional conclusion of a Jewish wedding ceremony. We have witnessed a narrowing of ethnic gaps and greater intermingling of Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, perhaps most significantly in ethnic intermarriage, says the writer.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) THE GROOM breaks a glass, the traditional conclusion of a Jewish wedding ceremony. We have witnessed a narrowing of ethnic gaps and greater intermingling of Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, perhaps most significantly in ethnic intermarriage, says the writer. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

How can the Jewish diaspora be helped?

Regarding education, Musicant said “we need Jewish schools, Sunday schools, learning material and teachers. We must have more than 70% of children in Jewish schools [and] educate Jewish teachers from the European communities in Israel,” he said.

The second issue he raised was the fact that there is a need to “bring as many Jews to Israel as possible” and to “increase and restart programs such as Birthright Israel, Masa Israel and Limmud.”

In addition, Musicant said he feels the need for the government to “extend or create programs to bring Jewish culture, tradition and religion to all sectors of Jewish population outside Israel.”

“Assimilation is the biggest enemy of the Jewish people today,” he said. “We cannot continue to build Jewish life exclusively on antisemitism and remembering the Holocaust. If we want to foster Jewish life outside Israel, we need to increase the outreach and bring Jewish knowledge to as many Jews as possible.”

During the conference, which was organized by the Europe Division and the Division for Diaspora and Religions at the Foreign Ministry, the participants discussed issues relevant to Jewish life in the Diaspora such as antisemitism and hate speech on the Internet, legislation that limits Jewish life and the next generation. There were also discussions about the relationship between the State of Israel and the Jewish communities in Europe and also the changes taking place in the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told the participants that “the relationship with Jewish communities is one of the pillars of the work of the Foreign Ministry’s missions around the world. We are happy to host the heads of Jewish communities and organizations from European countries at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and look forward to hearing from you about the challenges facing our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.”