JEWS IN WESTERN EUROPE
Country or Territory — Core Jewish Population — Population per Jewish Person —Enlarged Jewish Population [Source: Wikipedia +]
France — 465,000 — 139 — 600,000
United Kingdom — 269,568 — 220 — 370,000
Germany — 99,695 — 832 — 250,000
Spain — 30,000 — 900 — 50,000
Belgium — 30,000 — 348 — 40,000
Netherlands — 29,900 — 563 — 45,000
Italy — 28,000 — 2,171 — 45,000
Switzerland — 19,000 — 424 — 25,000
Sweden — 15,000 — 648 — 20,000
Austria — 9,000 — 914 — 20,000
Denmark — 6,400 — 870 — 8,500
Greece — 4,500 — 2,398 — 6,000
Ireland — 1,600 — 3,020 — 2,400
Finland — 1,300 — 4,052 — 1,800
Norway — 1,300 — 3,960 — 2,000
Luxembourg — 600 — 867 — 900
Portugal — 600 — 18,022 — 1,000
Gibraltar — 600 — 48 — 800
Cyprus — 100 — 11,724 — 200
Slovenia — 100 — 19,882 — 200
Malta — 100 — 4,126 — 200
Iceland — 100 — 3,325 — 100
Websites and Resources: Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Virtual Jewish Library jewishvirtuallibrary.org/index ; Yivo Institute of Jewish Research yivoinstitute.org ;
Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Holocaust Museum ushmm.org/research/collections/photo ; Jewish Museum London jewishmuseum.org.uk ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; "Jew of Malta" by Christopher Marlowe on Gutenberg.org
Jews in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union
Country or Territory — Core Jewish Population — Population per Jewish Person — Enlarged Jewish Population [Source: Wikipedia +]
Russia — 186,000 — 766 — 500,000
Ukraine — 63,000 — 703 — 400,000
Hungary — 47,900 — 207 — 150,000
Belarus — 11,500 — 835 — 25,000
Romania — 9,400 — 2,312 — 20,000
Azerbaijan — 9,100 — 1,113 — 16,000
Latvia — 5,600 — 387 — 12,000
Czech Republic — 3,900 — 2,725 — 15,000
Uzbekistan — 3,800 — 7,613 — 8,000
Moldova — 3,700 — 968 — 7,500
Kazakhstan — 3,100 — 5,790 — 6,500
Lithuania — 2,900 — 1,209 — 6,500
Georgia — 2,800 — 1,763 — 6,000
Slovakia — 2,600 — 2,093 — 4,500
Bulgaria — 2,000 — 3,462 — 6,000
Estonia — 2,000 — 629 — 3,400
Croatia — 1,700 — 2,629 — 3,000
Serbia — 1,400 — 5,149 — 2,800
Bosnia and Herzegovina — 500 — 7,742 — 1,000
Kyrgyzstan — 500 — 11,208 — 1,000
Armenia — 300 - 500 — 10,200 — 300 - 500
Turkmenistan — 200 — 25,860 — 400
Macedonia — 260 — 20,910 — 360
Albania — 40 - 50 — 75,500 — 40 - 50
Poland used to have one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. Of the 3.2 million Jews (10 percent of a 38-million-person population) that lived in Poland before World War II only about 8,000 remain today. Poland lost six million people in World War II—half of them Jews. Of the 6,000 or so Jews that were in Poland at the time Communism collapsed in the early 1990s, many were old and destitute.
According to Associated Press: “Poland was a haven for Jews for nearly 1,000 years, and was home to Europe's largest community before the war. Most were killed in the ghettos and death camps that Nazi Germany set up after it invaded Poland in 1939, at the war's start. In the nearly 20 years since communism fell, the community has enjoyed new vitality, with Jews returning to their roots and shaking off old fears of anti-Semitism. [Source: Associated Press, December 22, 2008]
According to AFP: “Poland's contemporary Jewish community, however, is a drop in an overwhelmingly Catholic ocean of 38 million. In the 2002 census, 1,133 people declared themselves ethnic Jews, a self-defined category excluding those who see themselves as Poles of Jewish faith. Overall, no one knows how many Jews there are in Poland. Estimates range from 20,000 to 50,000, far outstripping those who attend synagogue or are active in the community. Many Holocaust survivors able to hide their identity during the war decided to keep it that way if they stayed in Poland, to protect the next generation, or didn't pass on what they may not have followed faithfully before.” [Source: AFP, April 27, 2011 \^/]
“Beyond the purely religious sphere, Poland's regular, vibrant festivals of Jewish music and literature draw crowds of Jews and non-Jews alike. Cemetery and synagogue restoration, school Jewish history lessons and flourishing academic research are also helping reclaim the past. 2012, saw the opening of Warsaw's purpose-built museum of 1,000 years of Polish-Jewish history, located in what during World War II was the ghetto set up by the Nazis. Polish Jewish community is grounded confidently in its faith, culture. "Over 20 years ago the situation was quite different. But now it's community building," Piotr Kadlcik, 49, head of Poland's national Jewish federation, told AFP. "We have a generation of young people for whom being Jewish is neither a reason to be proud nor ashamed, but just normal.” \^/
History of Jews in Poland
Jews have been in Poland for 800 years. The first arrived during the Crusades to escape persecution in Germany. They were welcomed in the 14th century by Poland's King Kazimierz III who hoped they would introduce urban skills to his largely peasant kingdom.
For two centuries the Jews were members of the privileged class and many Poles married off their daughter to Jewish merchants to move up in the world. This period came to an end during the Counter-Reformation in the 16th century when Jews were so badly persecuted some of them converted to Catholicism. During the pogroms of the mid 19th-century the Jewish population of some towns declined by a third. [Source: "The Villagers" by Richard Critchfield, Anchor Books]
In Poland, Jews built wooden synagogues that were outfit with towers where offenders of Jewish laws were imprisoned. Traditionally 17th century Jewish markets contained a fish shop next to a meat shop. There were also clothing shops, bookstores and a food stores.
According to AFP: “On the eve of the German invasion in 1939, Poland had Europe's largest Jewish community, ranging from the non-religious to the traditionally-garbed Hasidic. Half of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust were Polish. Most died in camps set up by the Germans in occupied Poland, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1946, a year after the war, Poland's Jews numbered just 200,000 according to state data. Most emigrated amid the creation of Israel in 1948 or anti-Semitic campaigns in the late 1950s and 1968 stoked by power struggles within the communist regime, which crumbled in 1989.” [Source: AFP, April 27, 2011 \^/]
"Before the war, Polish-Jewish relations were part of normal, everyday life. Then for 50 years, there weren't any normal Polish-Jewish relations," Michael Schudrich, 55, Poland's US-born chief rabbi, told AFP. "For 20 years, we've been getting back to what it was like for centuries," added Schudrich, whose ancestors hailed from Poland and who arrived here in the 1990s. \^/
Anti-Semitism and Violence Against Jews After World War II in Poland
Poland lost six million people in World War II—half of them Jews. About 250,000 Jews remained in Poland after World War II. Many Poles moved into former Jewish homes and occupied the land of Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. Some were upset when survivors returned to claim their property.
Outbursts of ant-Semitism in the late 1940s took the lives of hundreds of Holocaust survivors. In the southern Polish town of Kielce 42 Jews were killed on July 4, 1946 in what some historians describe as the last pogrom. The violence began when Jews were accused of kidnapping a boy that had been missing for a couple of days (he later was found). Twelve people were put on trial for the deaths and nine were sentenced to death less than a week after the massacre.
Describing the Kielce incident one Jewish man who was getting ready to leave for Palestine told AP years afterwards. "Two young Jews came in. They were scared. They said a big crowd of Poles led by militants was approaching, shouting 'Death to the Jews, they killed our children." They attacked his home. His skull was cracked. When he hit was hit by a stone after that he thought, "God! Those people have no mercy in their hearts."
By the mid-1970s only 10,000 Jews, mostly older people remained in Poland. An "anti-Zionist" drive in 1967 and 1968 forced about two thirds of the remaining 30,000 Polish Jews to flee the country, mostly to Israel. The move, in the view of some Poles, helped get rid of the "traditional enemy" and create job opening for ambitious Communist party members.
Polish Jews Raised As Non-Jews
According to AFP: Kadlcik wasn't raised Jewish. "But I've known from my early years that I am Jewish. In those days there was no such thing as a Jewish community because after 1968 everything collapsed," he said. "In the 80s I became involved in the Jewish Flying University — flying because its illegal meetings were held in various people's homes — and later I became more and more active," he said. [Source: AFP, April 27, 2011 \^/]
Others came from mixed families where identity was not hard and fast. "My father was Jewish, and my mother, Polish. But they were not religious at all," Warsaw publisher Anna Szemberg, 61, told AFP. Szemberg is not considered Jewish because the identity traditionally passes from mother to child. Her sons were not raised religious, but one has converted. "I try to understand. Above all, I'm with him. I try to learn as much as possible about the Jewish religion and tradition. But myself, I wouldn't convert. Maybe it's just too late," Szemberg said.
The community also wants other Jews - notably from the United States and Israel who visit Holocaust sites - to wake up to its revival and even very existence and stop seeing Poland simply as a place of death. That was echoed by Polish-born Irith Cherniavsky, 64, who emigrated to Israel in 1957 and was visiting Warsaw with her family.
Anti-Semitism in Poland
According to AFP: “While political anti-Semitism has been pushed to the margins, offensive graffiti, football-terrace chants and hostile stereotypes underline the need to keep battling hate, noted Kadlcik. "Ten years ago I was fighting very strongly against people saying Poland is an anti-Semitic country and so on. I still do that. But I'm really seeing that there's very good soil for this kind of anti-Semitism," Kadlcik warned. [Source: AFP, April 27, 2011]
In the 1990s, about 40 percent of Poles said in a poll that they would prefer not to have Jewish neighbors, compared to 5 percent in the U.S. Even though there are only 8,000 Jews left in Poland today, taxi drivers sometimes complain that country is being taken over by Jews and that many prominent Poles are really Jews who changed their name.
Anti-Semitism still ran high among Polish right wing groups in the 1990s. Literature that came out around the time that Communism collapsed had pictures of “Jews” shooting at the heart of a Roman Catholic priest. In speeches at gatherings, right-wing leaders droned on about the "Jewish Peril." It doesn't seem like there is whole you can blame on them on them now. [Source: Tad Szulc, National Geographic, March 1991]
During the 1990 election, campaign posters for the incumbent Prime Minister Tadeusz Tomaszewski were defaced with swastikas and slogans such as "Jews to the gas chambers." Even Nobel Peace Prize winner and Poland’s President in the early 1990s, Lech Walesa. made comments like "a group of people had seized the country...I am not saying they are all Jews." The head of the Catholic Church in Poland, Cardinal Jozef Glmep, was a supporter of the largest anti-Semitic, pre-war party, the National Democrats. In the 1990s many Catholic priests held firm in the belief that "the Jews killed Jesus."
Jews in Poland have been critical of nationalistic history textbooks that focus on the history of the Polish people and disregard the contribution made by Jews living on Polish soil. About 20,000 copies of Hitler’s "Mein Kampf" sold out in days after its publisher was acquitted on charges of "eulogizing fascism."
Seized Jewish Property in Poland
In 1949, the Polish Communist government deposited about $100 million in assets of Polish Holocaust victim in Swiss bank accounts.
After the collapse of Communism, former property owners who had their property seized by the Nazis and Communists filed lawsuits to try and get their property back. Some of the property belonged to Jews who had their property taken outright or were forced to sell it for ridiculously low prices. But most of it was expropriated by the Communists in the efforts to set up a state where personal property didn't exist.
Large amounts of Jewish property were seized in Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Ukraine. Poland is considering laws to restore religious property, which would include some of the 200 synagogues that one existed, but there are no laws in the making that would try to return Jewish property seized by the Nazis. The property problem gets messy in that some of the property has since been subdivided and sold to ordinary people, with some maybe not knowing the property formally belonged to Jews, whose property was often they only thing they owned.
Polish President Makes Historic Visit to a Synagogue
In 2008, Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski's made a historic visit to synagogue in Poland, marking the first time the head of state of Poland attended religious service at synagogue there. Piotr Kadlcik, the head of the country's Jewish community, told Associated Press that a pre-World War II president, Ignacy Moscicki, visited a synagogue in the 1920s — but that was not for a religious ceremony and he did not spend time with the congregation. [Source: Associated Press, December 22, 2008]
Associated Press reported: “Poland's president celebrated the start of Hanukkah by visiting Warsaw's main synagogue Sunday, a gesture the city's Jewish community greeted as a historic step in its revival. Lech Kaczynski's visit marked the first time the head of state has attended a religious service at a synagogue in Poland, whose Jewish population was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust and later suffered from communist-era repression. The visit "means we're in a normal country ... a country that treasures that it has citizens of different religions and of different backgrounds," said Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich.
As Kaczynski entered Warsaw's century-old Nozyk synagogue just after sundown, the congregation rose and a group of Jewish children sang "Shalom Aleichem" — "peace be upon you." Wearing a yarmulke, Kaczynski strode to the front of the synagogue, where he sat as a choir sang the Polish national anthem and a song in Yiddish — the language spoken by many of the nearly 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland before World War II.
A prayer for the Polish nation, written for the occasion of the president's visit, was also read. Kaczynski then lit a cream-colored candle that was placed on a silver menorah. Kaczynski, himself a devout Roman Catholic, has long been a friend to the Jewish community. He visited the synagogue in his former role as mayor of Warsaw; he promoted a planned museum on Jewish history by donating city land to the project; and for the past two years he has marked Hanukkah with candle-lighting celebrations at the presidential palace.
But his appearance in the house of worship — amid those who had survived the Holocaust and children with no memory of it — was greeted as even more meaningful. "This time the president came to visit us," said Rabbi Mati Pawlak, the first native Pole to serve as a rabbi in Poland since the fall of communism. "It shows that relations are getting closer." Moshe Hayman, 47, an Israeli who moved to Poland 15 years ago, said he saw the visit as a historic moment. "For Jews, it symbolizes victory," he said. "I see his presence here as a miracle."
Kaczynski mingled with members of the community, drinking red wine and eating latkes, potato pancakes that are a tradition during the eight-day festival of lights. "I would dare to say that he really enjoyed it," said Kadlcik. "He was talking to people, he was really very open, very friendly."
Pawlak, who is the principal of Warsaw's only Jewish school, credits Kaczynski's support for the Jewish community with creating a spirit of tolerance that has spread to other authorities nationwide. That has brought more support for projects such as the restoration of old Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, and educational programs, he said. "This is a very important visit for the Jewish community of Poland," Pawlak said. Elsewhere, Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz joined a candle-lighting Hanukkah ceremony in front of the Palace of Culture, the city's landmark skyscraper.
There are about 100,000 Jews in Germany today. Germany counted more than 530,000 Jews in 1933, when Hitler came to power. About 365,000 Jews lived in Germany during the early Nazi years only 200,000 remained in 1939 at the start of World War II, as many had emigrated to escape Nazi violence, and only 12,000 Jews remained at the end of World War II. By 1990, the figure had risen to about 27,000 Jews in West Germany and 400 in East Germany. After a decision was made in the 1990s to make it easier for an unlimited number of Jews from the former Soviet Union to move to Germany and obtain automatic citizenship the number of Jews in Germany rose to 100,000.
Of the 3,500 Jews in the eastern German town of Chemnitz in 1933, only 59 were there in 1945 and 17 in 1990. After the war the majority of Jews who survived emigrated to Israel or the United States. There were only about 30,000 Jews in Germany before the ones from the former Soviet Union arrived most of them lived in Berlin.
Today, Germany is one of the friendliest countries in Europe toward Israel. There are numerous memorials, museums and exhibitions regarding the Holocaust in Germany. One of the first times that Germans really faced the horrors of their Nazi past was after the broadcast of "Holocaust," a miniseries by Marvin Chomsky broadcast in 1979.
Colin Nickerson wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “Shelly Kupferberg, 31, is the granddaughter of Jews who fled the Nazi terror in the 1930s for the land that would become Israel. Her parents returned to Berlin in the early 1970s, weary of Israel's wars and yearning for their German heritage. She was raised both as a Jew and a German, and takes pride in both identities. "It's great to be a Jew in Germany," said Kupferberg, a journalist and adviser to Berlin's Jewish Festival. "There's this feeling of a unique culture being reborn - with more people in the synagogues, more Jewish artists, a sense, at last, that it's completely normal for Jewish people to be living and working here. That's something you couldn't say until recently." [Source: Colin Nickerson, International Herald Tribune, December 2005]
History of Jews in Germany
There were around 533,000 in Germany in 1933. About half of all German Jews emigrated when the Nazis came to power. Most of those that remained died in death camps. Only a few Jews who left returned to Germany after the war. Altogether, six million Jews from all over Europe were exterminated in World War II.
Colin Nickerson wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “In 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power, Germany's Jewish population stood at 530,000. Berlin, famed for tolerance, was home to some of the world's foremost Jewish writers, philosophers and scientists. By 1943, however, the Nazis had declared Germany "Judenrein," or cleansed of Jews. In fact, several thousand remained hidden in Germany or returned from concentration camps after the Holocaust, which killed six million European Jews. [Source: Colin Nickerson, International Herald Tribune, December 2005]
“Before the 1989 collapse of the Berlin Wall, Germany's Jewish population stood at barely 25,000, mostly survivors of World War II and their offspring. Since then, encouraged by liberal immigration laws, the number has swelled to more than 200,000, according to estimates by the government and Jewish groups. Last year, twice as many Jews, 20,000, settled in Germany as in Israel, according to Jewish groups.”
Jewish Renaissance in Germany
In 2010, AFP reported, “more than 300 German and foreign Jewish leaders attended” a ceremony in Leipzig “in a brightly colored 19th century synagogue that somehow managed to survive the 1938 "Kristallnacht" Nazi pogrom. "Judaism is alive and well in Germany," said World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder, whose foundation supports Jewish communities, rabbinic schools and the Berlin Orthodox seminary from which two new rabbis graduated.” [Source: Frederic Bichon, AFP Monday, September 6, 2010]
Colin Nickerson wrote in the International Herald Tribune: In a turnaround few would have imagined, Germany today boasts the fastest-growing Jewish population in the world. The signs of a Jewish renaissance can be caught in small glints across Germany. In Leipzig, Rabbi Joshua Spinner, a Canadian-American who has brought a missionary zeal to keeping Orthodox customs alive in Germany, recently presided at the first Jewish wedding recorded in the city since 1938, according to the Jüdische Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. [Source: Colin Nickerson, International Herald Tribune, December 2005]
“In Potsdam, Ukrainian immigrants, after years of holding worship services in a cramped, fluorescent-lit meeting room of a civic building, have won a patch of land from the government and are raising money to build a synagogue. In Cologne, Frankfurt, and Hamburg, small but well-attended Jewish schools and kindergartens have opened over the past several years, intended to expose children to the Hebrew language, Torah studies and the spiritual ideas behind ritual practices. For many Jewish youngsters from Eastern Europe, this is their first formal religious instruction. A Jewish academy in Frankfurt trains girls and young women in ancient texts”
“But it is in Berlin, above all, where a new German-Jewish identity is being forged. "Berlin is coming back as a center for rich Jewish life," said Irene Runge, a New Yorker who heads Berlin's Jewish Cultural Association. "It's an exciting place to be right now." For the Orthodox, there is a new yeshiva, or religious school, sponsored by the U.S.-based Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. On more secular fronts, there are Yiddish theater groups, Jewish bookshops, exhibits of Jewish art and readings of Jewish poetry. Berlin's new Jewish Museum, finished in 2001, focuses on the prominence of Berlin's Jewish community from the 18th century to the early 1930s, when the city ranked as one of the most important Jewish centers in the world.
“The refurbished golden dome and Moorish exterior of Berlin's old "New Synagogue" is once again a proud city landmark. Pilgrims leave small pebbles as tokens at the grave of Moses Mendelssohn, philosopher of the German Enlightenment.There is a sprinkling of kosher shops that do brisk business in matzohs, gefilte fish and sweet Israeli wine. There are two rival Jewish newspapers, both published in German. And most tourist stands display colorful guides and maps to "Jewish Berlin" -a term that no longer connotes horror.”
Jews in Berlin
Of the 160,000 Jews that lived in Berlin in 1933 about 82,000 emigrated. Fewer than 6,000 survived the war. The remainder died in the holocaust. In the 1990s there were about 10,000 Jews in Berlin, including Daniel Barenboim the celebrated musical director of the German State Opera. Many of the Berlin Jews are recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Tom Heneghan of Reuters wrote: “Berlin’s Jewish community, decimated by the Holocaust, has been steadily growing since Germany reunited in 1990. Thousands of Jews have moved in, synagogues, schools and shops have opened and some young rabbis have been trained and ordained. Of the 160,000 Jews living in Berlin before the Second World War, 90,000 fled abroad, 55,000 died in concentration camps and 7,000 committed suicide to escape Nazi terror, according to the Jewish Community of Berlin. Only 8,000 were left in 1945. [Source: Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, Reuters, October 28, 2011]
“Starting in 1989, Jews from the former Soviet Union began flocking to Berlin. Young Israelis started settling here in the mid-1990s. Now there are an estimated 30,000 Jews in the city, but nobody knows for sure because not all of them are registered with the established communities. “Many Russian Jews are not registered because, if you do, you have to pay the religious tax,” Teichtal said, referring to the tax that members of recognized religions in Germany must pay.
Russian Jews in Germany
Colin Nickerson wrote in the International Herald Tribune: Most newcomers are from Russia - Jews seeking a better life in a more prosperous place, but also escaping the anti-Semitism that seethes in many parts of the former Soviet Union. The "Russian Jews" - the term embraces the thousands arriving from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states - are joined by a small but significant number of young Jews from Israel, the United States, Canada and Australia. [Source: Colin Nickerson, International Herald Tribune, December 2005]
“Partly to atone for the Holocaust, Germany offers resettlement programs for Jews from Eastern Europe. It is much easier for Jews to win legal entry to Germany than to other parts of Western Europe or the United States. Israel also keeps its open doors, but many Jews from the former Soviet Union see Israel as either too dangerous because of the struggle with Palestinians, or as too alien because of its Middle Eastern culture and desert climate. "Germany is Europe, and I am European as much as I am a Jew," said Frida Scheinberg, a veterinarian who recently arrived in Germany from Ukraine. "Germany was a good place for Jews before Hitler. It feels safe and prosperous. Its cities, its climate, its customs all seem familiar. Israel seems strange to me, with the hot sun and the hot tempers."” "In the old Russia, nothing changes - when things go wrong, blame the Jew. Germans understand such things must never happen here again," Tkach added.
Some Jewish immigrants admit to ambivalence about their choice of a new country, even as they defend it. "There is a twinge of guilt, some secret shame, I think, in the heart of every Jew who calls Germany home," said Josef Eljaschewitsch, a physician from Latvia. "And yet, for Jews not to come here - to surrender our stolen heritage in this country - would be to give the Nazis a sort of final victory: a Jew-free Germany." "Most of us come for bread-and-butter reasons, to make money, to ensure our children's futures are secure," he said. Mykhaylo Tkach, an engineer from Ukraine, "But our dream is also to make Germany a place where Jews and Jewishness can once again flourish. Against all odds, I believe that's starting to happen."
Tensions Caused by Influx of Russian Jews to Germany
Colin Nickerson wrote in the International Herald Tribune: “While Germany's Jewish community is full of hope for the future, its rapid expansion has brought new tensions- with animosity festering between longtime German-speaking Jews and recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, many of whom had lost their Jewish traditions, if not their identity, under decades of Communist rule. "This is a time of difficult transition for a community that was once tiny and insular, but has suddenly grown large," said Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the nation's umbrella organization for Jewish groups. "There is friction, there is anger, there is distrust, there is fear. We have started to lay the foundation for a dynamic Jewish culture in Germany. But we are far from completing the house." [Source: Colin Nickerson, International Herald Tribune, December 2005]
“Some question whether all the newcomers can legitimately call themselves Jews; until this year, when Germany tightened the rules to weed out impostors, almost any former Soviet citizen with a Jewish ancestor could qualify. Traditional law defines a Jew as an individual with a Jewish mother or someone who has undergone conversion to Judaism; Germany now requires that prospective Jewish immigrants have at least one Jewish parent, as well as some command of German and marketable skills.
“Integration has been complicated by Germany's recent unemployment woes, with many Russian Jews drawing welfare, and resentment. But many Jews are confident that once the economy rebounds, differences among Jews will inevitably heal. "Many problems, yes, but most former Soviet Jews in Germany feel ourselves to be in a much safer situation," said Mykhaylo Tkach. "The anti-Semitism here is minor compared to what we experienced in the places from which we came."
Russian Jews Revitalize Jewish Communities in Germany
Frederic Bichon, of AFP wrote: “Judaism is making a comeback in Germany 65 years after the Holocaust, thanks largely to immigration from the ex-Soviet Union, as shown by the ordination in Leipzig this week of two rabbis. The ordination as Orthodox rabbis of the men originally from Uzbekistan and Lithuania was Germany's second since 1945, underscoring the growth of the eastern city's Jewish community that 20 years ago numbered only 30. [Source: Frederic Bichon, AFP Monday, September 6, 2010 ***]
“The two new Orthodox rabbis are among the arrivals: Shlomo Afanasev was born 29 years ago in Tashkent and Moshe Baumel, 22, is orginally from Vilnius. Addressing the young rabbis in the Eastern-style synagogue, Lauder spoke of their tangled journeys to Germany, pointing out that their wives had also come from far and wide: Afanasev's wife is from Ukraine and Baumel's from Siberia. "My message to you is — you never know where you'll end up," Lauder said. ***
“In the aftermath of World War II and the ravages of the Nazi regime, few would have believed there would be a Jewish renaissance, said Charlotte Knobloch, who heads the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Leipzig had 12,000 worshippers in the 1920s, she said. After the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, there were only 30 left. Now there are nearly 1,300, most immigrants from the former USSR, she said. "In all the Jewish communities I have visited over the past few years I've been made aware ... of the hope there is of being able to continue to live in a country which has caused so much suffering to our families ... and trust in this country, its democracy, and its inhabitants," she said. "No one could have imagined that after the war," she told reporters. "What once was utopia is now reality." ***
“Knobloch presides over a community in which nine out of 10 people originate in former Soviet states. She was born to a conservative family, but many former Soviet Jews are Orthodox. "But for a religion, such differences in origin are unimportant," she told AFP. "What's important isn't where they come from (the rabbis), but where they studied, and whether they were trained as conservatives, liberals or Orthodox," she added. In an environment in which many worshippers are immigrants, having two new rabbis from the same background is helpful, said Hermann Simon, who heads the foundation in charge of Berlin's main synagogue. "It's really a good thing that a rabbi can talk (to his flock) in their mother tongue, because sometimes he had to deal with difficult problems," he said. ***
“One of the new rabbis, Moshe Baumel opened the ordination ceremony in German, the language he grew up with, having arrived in Germany at the age of three, saying "this isn't just an ordination festival, but an integration festival". Some Germans are still responsible for acts of violence against foreigners or Jews, said Stanislaw Tillich, who heads the regional government of Saxony where neo-Nazis are active. But, "The duty of democrats is to defend ... Judaism in Germany," he said.” ***
French Jews Emigrate to Israel
There are about 465,000 Jews in France, the largest population of them in Europe. Jews have lived in France since the time of the Romans, but in recent years, after a series of terrorist attacks there, some have started to leave. Immigrants from France make up a sizable portion of all Europeans migrating to Israel. In 2013, about 12,000 Europeans migrated to Israel, at least 3,000 of them French. In 2014, 7,000 French people migrated to Israel. In 2015, Israeli authorities forecast that 15,000 Jews from France would arrive in Israel, and many more would seek visas to Canada and the United States. Total immigration from all countries to Israel has averaged about 20,000 Jews per year over the past decade. The French government has not been happy about the trend. "France, without the Jews of France, is no longer France," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. [Source: Associated Press, February 15, 2015 /=]
Associated Press reported: “French Jews have been increasingly migrating to Israel, a pattern that dismayed the French government well before the attacks at the kosher supermarket and since has left top officials pleading for them to stay. The exodus from France accelerated after the March 2012 attacks by Mohammed Merah, who stormed a Jewish school in Toulouse, killing three children and a rabbi. The government has beefed up protection at synagogues, Jewish schools and other sensitive sites.” /=\
William Booth and Ruth Eglash wrote in the Washington Post, “Soon after four Jewish men were killed in a hostage-taking siege at a kosher market in Paris” in January 2015, week, the Israeli leadership leapt to offer refuge. “To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray; the state of Israel is your home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address. [Source: William Booth and Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, January 15, 2015 /*/]
“The rising numbers of Jews leaving France for Israel are not fleeing war or annihilation, like the founding generation that came before and immediately after World War II. Nor are French Jews like earlier waves of Russian-speakers and Ethiopian Jews who fled the collapse of the Soviet Union and the poverty of Africa in the 1980s and 1990s — a phenomenon characterized as “crisis aliyah.” /*/
“The coming of the French Jews, said Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, is “a unique historical phenomenon” that poses new challenges and opportunities for Israel. “We are moving from an aliyah of rescue to an aliyah of free choice,” Sharansky said. For the first time in Israeli history, Sharansky said, more than half of the Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel last year came from Western-style democracies, with migration from France at the top. /*/
Jean-Charles Bensoussan, 62, a French physician from Lyon who arrived in 2014 and now works as a dentist in Israel, “said he was beaten up on the street twice by Arab immigrants, whom he described as having grown more religious and more hostile to Jews. “If you wear a skullcap on the streets of France? I tell you, it’s suicide,” he said. Emmanuelle Ohnouna, 36, lived in Paris, where she worked as a pharmacist. She is now studying Hebrew alongside Bensoussan and a dozen other new friends at a school in Jerusalem’s city center. /*/
“The Israeli government provides immigrants with a little help — some job counseling, a break on import duties for the purchase of one automobile, low-interest mortgages and six months of Hebrew lessons. “We didn’t move to Israel because we were afraid,” Ohnouna said. “We wanted the best for our children. “If you wanted to be in a country that is safe, we would have gone to America or Canada. We know the problems here, and we are ready to live with them.”“ /*/
Israel Debates Whether or Not to Welcome French Jews
The new wave of French Jews moving to Israel, William Booth and Ruth Eglash wrote in the Washington Post, is “already rekindling debate among Jews, who ask: Is it better for French Jews to come to Israel or stay home and insist that French society, including the country’s swelling Muslim population, accommodate them? [Source: William Booth and Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, January 15, 2015]
“The debate comes with a contemporary twist: If Jews abandon France in large numbers, are they not doing just what Islamist extremists want — ridding France of its Jews? “I think what we are seeing now is the old Zionism, the idea that the only place to be is Israel,” said Smadar Bar-Akiva, executive director of JCC Global, an umbrella group of more than 1,000 Jewish community centers worldwide. “Aliyah is wonderful. We would love to have more Jews in Israel,” Bar-Akiva said, using the Hebrew term for immigration, or “ascending,” to Israel. “But I’d also like to have strong Jews all around the world. I think that it is self-defeating for us to tell them to pack their bags and leave France.”
Some commentators in Israel complained that the leadership was tone-deaf to the realities of Jews living in Europe, who feel deep allegiance for the countries of their birth. “I don’t think the European situation is such that it requires a massive exodus to Israel,” said Elie Barnavi, a history professor at Tel Aviv University and a former Israeli ambassador to France. Barnavi said French Jews who make aliyah should be propelled by a love for Israel, not by panic. “Not only is the government not anti-Semitic, the French public and the press are not anti-Semitic either. It is not comparable to the 1930s,” he said. “We are talking about people who now come here by choice. Most of the people will choose to stay in France because life is comfortable,” Barnavi said. “It is not easy to leave behind your culture, your language, your friends.”
Others defended Netanyahu for his offer. “I am sorry to tell you the truth: The terrible crime Netanyahu committed is called Zionism,” Boaz Bismuth, a former correspondent in Paris, wrote in the newspaper Israel Today. Yair Lapid, head of a centrist political party and no friend of Netanyahu, said: “European Jewry must understand that there is just one place for Jews, and that is the state of Israel.”
French Jews in Israel
The new wave of French Jews moving to Israel, William Booth and Ruth Eglash wrote in the Washington Post, is “already rekindling debate among Jews, who ask: Is it better for French Jews to come to Israel or stay home and insist that French society, including the country’s swelling Muslim population, accommodate them? [Source: William Booth and Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, January 15, 2015 /*/]
“What the newcomers will find when they arrive in Israel and how they will change Israeli society are big, open questions.” France is “Europe’s founding democracy, a liberal, multicultural, modern nation that provides ample government services — education, health care, pensions — to its citizens, including Jews, w The most common reasons cited for leaving: the weak European economy and rising anti-Semitism. /*/
“Dov Maimon, a French-born Israeli at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem, said he thinks that half of France’s 500,000 Jews will leave the country over the next 15 years. “This is a historical opportunity for Israel,” Maimon said. But it requires a new approach, he said: These French Jews must be wooed. Zionism — the international movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland — might not be enough. “In the old model, people came in distress, from Ethiopia and Morocco, and were put in Dimona,” a drab town in the middle of the Negev desert. “Now if Israel did that, the French would just leave,” he said. “If we do not plan properly, the wealthy Jews will move to somewhere else," he said. "The most integrated Jews will assimilate and remain where they are. And only the traditional, ideological and underprivileged Jews will come to Israel.” /*/
“In recent years, Israelis have stereotyped the French arrivals as cliquish snobs who buy big condos on the beach and don’t bother to learn decent Hebrew. But the reality is that many French newcomers are middle-class wage-earners who struggle like most Israelis with the high cost of living here. “You have to lower your standards,” said Bensoussan. Here in Israel, he said, a French accountant gets a job as a bookkeeper. An international textile merchant runs a call center. The salaries are low. Professional accreditations from France — diplomas and licenses to practice law, medicine, architecture — are not accepted. The rents are sky-high, the housing stock is poor. The prices are as steep as in Paris, Bensoussan said. The language is hard, especially for those who are middle-aged. “You feel like a dummy,” he said.” /*/
There are about 63,000 Jews in the Ukraine, the 12th largest population of Jews in the world. In 1900 there were about 3 million Jews in the Ukraine. The Holocaust wiped out about 900,000 of them. About 1 million Jews — forced to suppress their religious identities under Soviet rule — left the former Soviet Union for Israel.
In 1987, there was only one working synagogue with no rabbi in Kiev although there were 260,000 Jews there. Since independence in 1991, there has been a revival of Jewish culture and religion. Synagogues opened. Schools were founded and people began openly eating kosher food and participating in Jewish holidays.
Many of the contaminated areas of the Chernobyl disaster were in the Pale of Settlement of Ukraine. Several hundred thousand Jews still lived there at the time of the disaster. Many have had to move. Some children were taken in by Hasidic Jews in Israel as part of the "Children of Chernobyl" program.
Book: “Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova” (published by Routes to Roots Foundation and Yivo Institute of Jewish Research in 1998) is an encyclopedic guide book with maps, photographs and detailed descriptions of Jewish culture. Website: www.rtrfoundation.org.
History of Ukrainian Jews
After the destruction of the Khazar empire there were relatively few Jews in Russia and Ukraine. About a half million arrived after the partition of Poland in 1772-95. About four fifths of all Jews at that time lived in the former Polish-Lithuanian state.
In the tsarist era, most Jews in the Russian empire were restricted by law and had to live in the Pale of Settlement, a one-million square kilometer area in present-day Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and eastern Poland. At its height about 5 million Jews lived in the area. As a result of Pale of Settlement policies, towns became controlled by Russians and Jews, while largely illiterate Ukrainian peasants dominated the countryside.
About half the 8,000 residents of the small Ukrainian town of Ster Yelesavetsky were Jews before the Bolshevik Revolution. Most fled during the pogroms of 1918-21 and only about 99 remained when the Nazi captured the town in July, 1941. All of them are believed to have been killed. After the war 80 returned. Between the pogroms and World War II many Jews in Russia and Ukraine said life was fairly normal and they got along with the other ethnic groups that lived around them.
There were about a half million Jews in Ukraine at the time of independence in 1991 but their numbers got smaller every year after that as tens of thousands emigrated, mostly to Israel and the United States. Many of those who have left have been are young, educated, and looking for opportunities. Most of those that have remained behind have been over 40.
Ukrainian Jews Emigrate to Israel to Escape Civil War
The number of Ukrainians arriving in Israel in 2014 was more than double that of the previous year. Many were escaping the civil war in eastern Ukraine that erupted after Russia seized the Crimea. Ruth Eglash wrote in the Washington Post, “The Ukrainian government, which is facing an economic crisis, has little means to help those internally displaced by the war, now about 500,000, according to the United Nations. But groups such as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), which has spent more than $2 million on resettlement flights in the past year, and the Jewish Agency for Israel, a nonprofit organization that supports Jewish communities around the world, have stepped in to aid those of Jewish heritage. The Israeli government also offered the option to resettle in Israel. [Source:Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, December 25, 2014 ^^]
“Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine who moved to Israel in the 1980s and is chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency, recalled a recent conversation with non-Jews who also fled eastern Ukraine. “They told me it was not fair that Jews had such special privileges,” said Sharansky, who has visited Ukraine several times in recent months. “They said, ‘We, too, lost our properties and are refugees, but they have help and can go to Israel.’ It was weird for me to hear, because when I grew up in Donetsk, being Jewish was like having a mortal disease.” ^^
“Israel, which sees itself as a haven for Jews under threat, has deemed the situation in Ukraine a crisis. In recent months, the immigration process has been eased for Ukrainian Jews. “We recognize that the situation is very hard, people have lost their homes, their property, everything that they built in their lives,” said Israel’s minister for immigrant absorption, Sofa Landver, who accompanied the migrants from Kiev to Tel Aviv on Monday. With an additional $8 million to $10 million in donations, the IFCJ in coordination with the Israeli government plans to sponsor additional flights of Ukrainian Jews to Israel, at least one a month for the next year. “Christians supporting immigration of Jews to Israel is nothing new,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the IFCJ, whose donors are mainly U.S.-based Christians. “Now there are humanitarian reasons to support these people, too.” ^^
“But not all Jews are choosing to leave. The Jewish Agency estimates that at least 200,000 Ukrainians are eligible to migrate to Israel under its “Law of Return,” which allows people with at least one Jewish grandparent to receive citizenship. For Yana Erovteva, 48, who fled Luhansk in August, the decision to leave Ukraine is painful and is one she is not quite ready to make. Her visa for Israel is ready. But her son, Roman, 30, went missing in Luhansk after a fierce battle there one day in the summer. “We’ve looked for him everywhere, on lists of dead people, but his name was not there. We think one of the militia groups took him,” said Erovteva, who now lives in Kiev. “If that is true, perhaps they will let him go.” For now, she said, she can’t give up hope until she knows what happened to him. This leaves her departure for Israel in doubt. In the meantime, several Jewish organizations are helping, providing money to replace winter clothing left behind when she fled to Kiev and paying the rent for her apartment.” ^^
Ukrainian Jews Airlifted to Israel
In December 2014, 226 Ukrainians of Jewish heritage arrived in Israel on a charter flight funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a multimillion-dollar Christian charity that supports Israel and Jewish projects around the world. Reporting from Kiev, Ruth Eglash wrote in the Washington Post, “Yulia, Kostiantyn and their daughter, Valerie, don’t look like a typical refugee family. All well dressed — even the Chihuahua, Micky, wearing a chic dog jacket — they might not seem out of place mingling with Kiev’s oligarchs. But the truth is that the family, Ukrainians of Jewish heritage on one side, has lost almost everything since clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian nationalists caused it to flee to Kiev five months ago from the eastern city of Luhansk. [Source: Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, December 25, 2014 ^^]
“Parents, daughter and dog — with 226 other Ukrainian Jews — left Kiev for Israel on a charter flight funded by a Christian-Jewish charity. In Israel, a government agency waited to help them start a new life. The new arrivals joined more than 5,000 Ukrainian Jews who have moved to Israel in the past year, about 1,300 of them from eastern areas claimed by separatists. “Since I was small, my grandmother always told me to hide the fact I was Jewish,” said Kostiantyn, 33, who asked that his family name be withheld out of concern for relatives left behind in the conflict zone. “Now I don’t care what people say about me being Jewish. The only people who have helped here have been the Jews.” ^^
“The family had just reached its goals, Yulia said. Her husband had recently invested $14,000 in a new private dental practice, they finally owned a home, and their daughter had received the puppy — when the conflict erupted last spring. Weeks of rocket fire and no electricity, water or communication soon combined with a growing sense of insecurity as armed militiamen roamed the streets. The family had to leave, Yulia said. “We had just started fulfilling our life’s dreams,” said Yulia, 32, whose lineage is not Jewish. She, her husband, their child and the dog left for Kiev on Aug. 2, hoping that the unrest would soon pass and that they could return home. But as the fighting continued, they realized that going back to Luhansk was impossible. By October, they had used up much of their savings escaping the war zone and then paying rent in Kiev. So when they discovered that Kostiantyn’s Jewish heritage made the family eligible for Israeli citizenship, they opted for stability in Israel over uncertainty in Ukraine. Valerie, 10, held Micky the Chihuahua tightly as she disembarked from the plane a little more than three hours later. She said that moving to a new place for the second time in four months is scary. “I only know a little bit about Israel,” she said. “But I know that I can get a good education here.” ^^ “For those who have chosen to start over in Israel, the move comes with a mixture of emotions. “Of course we are sad to leave Ukraine. We have all our family and friends there,” said Anna Gayduk, 29, who worked as a financial adviser in Luhansk, as she waited for the plane to take off from Kiev for Tel Aviv. “But we are also excited to start a new life in Israel.” Alexander Gayduk, a doctor who also fled Luhansk, arrived with his wife, Anna, and their 11-month-old son, Kirill, in Israel. “I feel lucky that I have the option to leave and start again,” said Gayduk, 32. “I have many friends who are not Jewish and do not have this opportunity to leave like we do.”“ ^^
There are about 1 million Jews in Russia. Their numbers have been shrinking in recent decades. More than 1 million Jews emigrated from the former Soviet Union to Israel since the late 1980s. Jewish leaders say many more Jews renounced or hid their identity to avoid persecution in the Soviet era and before then. Some are beginning to reclaim their identity.
Most Russian Jews live in urban areas. They are largely assimilated and do not seriously practice Judaism. Moscow has a Jewish population of 200,00 to 250,000 people, of which 15 percent are Sephardic. In the early 2000s, there were three synagogues in Moscow and 40 percent of the children in Jewish schools were Sephardic (Middle Eastern Jews, or descendants of Jews that settled in Spain in the Middle Ages) . Some are Lubavitchers, Jews that believe that Menachem Mendel Scheerson, who died in Brooklyn in 1994, is the messiah.
The Soviet and Russian governments have always regarded the Jews not only as a distinct religious group but also as a nationality. This attitude persists in the post-Soviet era despite a provision in Article 26 of the 1993 constitution prohibiting the state from arbitrarily determining a person's nationality or forcing a person to declare a nationality. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
Between World War II and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's Jewish population declined steadily, thanks to emigration, a low birth rate, intermarriage, and concealment of identity. In 1989 the official total was 537,000. Of the number remaining at that point, only about 9,000 were living in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, and, by 1995, only an estimated 1,500 Jews remained in the oblast. The Jews of Russia always have been concentrated overwhelmingly in the larger cities, especially Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Odessa — partly because of the traditional ban, continued from tsarist times, on Jews owning land. Although 83 percent of Jews claimed Russian as their native language in the 1979 census, the Soviet government recognized Yiddish as the national language of the Jewish population in Russia and the other republics. [Source: Library of Congress, July 1996 *]
Netanyahu Calls for ‘Massive Immigration’ of Europe’s Jews
In 2015, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a "massive immigration" of European Jews to Israel following a deadly shooting near Copenhagen's main synagogue, Associated Press reported: “Netanyahu said that at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel is the only place where Jews can truly feel safe. His comments triggered an angry response from Copenhagen's chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, who said he was "disappointed" by the remarks. "People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of terrorism," Melchior told The Associated Press. "If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island." [Source: Associated Press, February 15, 2015 ^/^]
“Netanyahu issued his call during the weekly meeting of his Cabinet, which approved a previously scheduled $46 million plan to encourage Jewish immigration from France, Belgium and Ukraine — countries where large numbers of Jews have expressed interest in moving to Israel. France and Belgium have experienced deadly attacks on their Jewish communities in in recent years, most recently an attack in Paris last month that killed four Jews at a kosher market. Ukraine, meanwhile, is in the midst of a conflict between government troops and Russian-backed separatists. "This wave of attacks is expected to continue," Netanyahu told his Cabinet. "Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home." ^/^
“Netanyahu's comments came amid a tight re-election campaign ahead of March 17 elections. Seeking a third consecutive term, Netanyahu has focused his campaign on Israel's security needs, repeatedly warning voters about the many threats from Islamic radicals throughout the region. There was no immediate reaction from his chief opponents. Netanyahu spoke at a time of rising tensions with European countries over Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured territories claimed by the Palestinians. Some Israelis believe such criticism has helped fuel anti-Semitism. ^/^
“European leaders, however, have insisted that their criticism has no bearing on the treatment of their own Jewish communities. When Netanyahu rushed to France following the deadly supermarket standoff and urged the country's Jews to move to Israel, French leaders signalled their unhappiness. ^/^
Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons
Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018