Which European countries are best for Jews? Answers may surprise you

June 22, 2022

First-of-its-kind index is based on a study that combines polling data and policy information to create a single quality-of-life metric for Jews in the 12 European Union countries with sizable Jewish communities

Antisemitic sentiment is especially prevalent in Italy and Hungary, according to multiple surveys. But a first-of-its-kind index combining different measures of Jewish experience found that they are also the best countries in Europe for Jews to live in.
The index, unveiled Monday, is based on a study that combines polling data and policy information to create a single quality-of-life metric for Jews in the 12 European Union countries with sizable Jewish communities, according to Daniel Staetsky, a statistician with the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research who wrote the report for the European Jewish Association in Brussels.
“The goal with this report is to take the excellent data we already have about how Jews feel, about how prevalent antisemitism is, and combine it with government policy measurables,” Staetsky said during a conference held by the European Jewish Association in Budapest.
He said the results may challenge preconceptions about which EU countries are most hospitable to Jews. For example, Germany scored high when it came to government policies relating to Jews. But Jews there report a weak sense of security, leading to an overall middling score.
The index is primarily a tool “to demand concrete action from European leaders,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association. “We welcome statements against antisemitism by European leaders. But more than statements are needed.”
The European Jewish Association will make individual recommendations to each country surveyed, Margolin added at the press event. It was part of a two-day event sponsored by multiple Jewish organizations, including the Consistoire in France, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government, about how European Jewish communities can aid the one in Ukraine.
Titled “Europe and Jews, a country index of respect and tolerance towards Jews,” the study gives Belgium, Poland and France the lowest scores with 60, 66, and 68 points out of 100, respectively. The three top countries have 79, 76 and 75 points, followed by Britain and Austria (75), the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Spain (74, 73, 72, 70.)
To come up with the ranking, Staetsky gave each surveyed country grades on multiple subjects, including the Jewish sense of security, public attitudes to Jews and the number of Jews who said they’d experienced antisemitism. The grades were based on major opinion polls in recent years, including those conducted by the Action and Protection League, a group that monitors hate crimes against Jews in several European countries, and the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency.
The study combined those scores with scores the author gave to countries’ government policies, including their funding for Jewish communities, whether they had adopted a definition of antisemitism, and the status of Holocaust education and freedom of worship.
Under that scoring system, Germany received an overall score of 72 despite having the best score (89) on government performance on issues related to Jews and a solid 92 when it came to the prevalence of antisemitism. But a relatively low score on Jewish sense of security (46) hurt its overall score, among other factors.
In the case of Hungary, “the score it received reflects the reality on the ground,” according to Shlomo Koves, the head of the Chabad-affiliated EMIH umbrella group of Jewish communities in Hungary. “Jews can walk around here, go to synagogue, without the slightest fear of harassment,” he said.
But the prevalence of antisemitic sentiments in Hungarian society — an Anti-Defamation League survey from 2015 found that about 30% of the population hold them — “shows there is work to be done here, too, in education and outreach,” Koves said.

Additional Articles

Chairman of EJA, Rabbi Margolin's Words on the Latest Poll on Antisemitism

Have you ever been stuck in a dire situation where someone wants to help you with a problem, but you know their approach isn’t going to work? And you don’t want to offend them by saying as much as their intentions are good?

In ordinary life, it’s a dilemma. But when it comes to the Millions of Jews living in Europe, the time for such niceties and politeness is now officially over.

On Tuesday, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and the European Commission published their second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU. The FRA’s director said the findings “make for a sobering read”.  That would be understatement.

With 28% of respondents indicating that they have been harassed at least once in the past year, with 79% of Jews who experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the past five years not reporting this to the police or another organisation, with 34% avoiding visiting Jewish events or sites because they do not feel safe, with 38% considering emigrating because they did not feel safe as Jews in Europe, and with 70% considering that efforts by Member States to combat Antisemitism are not effective, this is not sobering. This is an unmitigated disaster.

The report, as brutal and stark as its findings are did not shock me in the slightest. It simply confirmed all the feedback, all the phone calls and all the reports that we at the Europaen Jewish Association had been getting, and made the red lines that we ratified at our conference in November all the more pertinent and pressing.

Before we get to the red lines, let us ask the most pressing question. Why is Europe failing so badly in making Jews feel secure? It does after all say all the right words, publishes reports and invests in people to fight the scourge of this oldest hatred. How can it be that 70% of Jews don’t believe it will make a difference?

The answer is wrapped up in the same word that entangles much of the good intentions of the EU institutions, and that word is competence.

Competence is basically which areas the EU can have a say (or interfere depending on your position). So, the EU can, if you are a Member State, tell you how many fish you can catch a year but not where your army should be deployed. It happens that human rights and freedom of religion, indeed the very subject of antisemitism itself is not an EU Competence. That means in essence that all the fine words, all the reports, and all of the various agencies looking at this in Brussels cannot compel, sanction or effectively reprimand any breaches. That, therefore,  makes human rights, freedom of religion and antisemitism voluntary instead of compulsory and open to interpretation or political manipulation.

That’s problem number one. For example, during the religious slaughter debate in Denmark, it was said that animal welfare takes precedence over Freedom of Religion. When it comes to circumcision, a similar argument over the right of the child to choose is being habitually made, in many countries. We can, and often do, get into public discourse of the minutiae of such debates, on scientific, health and any number of grounds, but this misses the central point. Is Freedom of Religion (and freedom to practise) a fundamental right or not? Everyone says so, so it must be right? Then why are we, as a Jewish Association engaged every year in efforts across the continent to defend Kosher slaughter and Brit Milah? It is increasingly apparent that there is nobody to police, much less defend, this vital part of the foundation on which the EU is built.  We as Jews are left with the Animal Farm scenario, where “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The other words that get us all tangled up are political and expediency. And this is problem number two, that of Anti-Zionism/Anti-Israelism. It is clear in a number of countries, and from the EU’s own statistics from the last few years, that there are massive spikes in anti-Semitism whenever Israel is involved in defensive actions, such as operations in Gaza, or efforts to break the navy blockade. The BDS movement, and their followers in the left wing stir up hate speech, draw false parallels with South Africa under apartheid and raise modern blood libels. Anti-Zionism is, make no mistake, the modern ‘acceptable’ face of anti-Semitism. Looking at the report, over 85% of respondents in Belgium and France feel that the arab-Israeli conflict affects their feelings of safety “a great deal”. Whether you support the Israeli government or not, whether you are secular or not, that Israel affects you as a Jew is undeniable.

Which makes the EU’s position on the matter all the more ridiculous. Anti-Semitism is a no-no, but criticism of Israel is free speech. This from the mouth of the EU’s High Representative herself. Where is the red line on this free speech? Does it stop at Jewish Nazi? Zionist child killer? Israeli Organ harvester? There isn’t a clear answer, allowing the Israel haters and the modern anti-Semites in the far left and BDS movement to act and talk with impunity.

Let us recap. On two of the biggest touch-paper issues affecting anti-Semitism across the continent - whether real or perceived - the EU is either incapable in the first instance, and unwilling for the sake of political expediency to act on the second. 

As I opened with, the time for niceties is over. Nobody is questioning the intentions of the European Institutions and European countries to tackle the problem, and we genuinely thank them for this commitment, but you can’t and wont tackle the oldest hatred leaving the competence question open ,nor by maintaining a two-faced approach to anti-Semitism where Israel is concerned. It really is the political equivalent of using a bucket to take the water out of a boat, without blocking the hole in the first place!

And that right there - those two gaping holes in the hull - are why the Jews interviewed by the survey – all 70% of us – don’t have any faith that efforts will be effective.

So, what can be done? The EJA sent every European political party “Jewish Red Lines” that were ratified by democratic vote by our members across Europe.  None of them are rocket science, but they can and would plug the holes.

Our members said that Political parties and their leadership must sign up to the full IHRA definition of Anti-semitism. That Every European Country must appoint a dedicated Special Representative to combat anti-Semitism where one already doesn’t exist. That all political parties pledge to exclude from government parties or politicians that espouse anti-Semitism as defined by the IHRA definition. That all political parties must pass, in accordance with their respective rules of procedure, binding resolutions that reject BDS activities as fundamentally anti-Semitic, and lastly that all political parties support in writing and in party documents their support for freedom of religion and freedom of practice at Member State level and EU level.

These red lines are the bare minimum that is needed to make a real difference. Europe’s principal leaders and parties were sent them, will be aware of them, and should adopt them immediately if they are serious about tackling anti-Semitism and gaining the trust of Jews who feel literally cast adrift from the very people who tell them they want to help.  If you really want to help us, the message is clear. Listen to us, adopt the red lines and let’s consign reports like this to the dustbin of history. Otherwise, expect a worse report next year. And the year after that too.

COVID Diary- Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs (NL) writes a diary, on request of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, which is published on the website of the NIW, the only Jewish Dutch Magazine. Rabbi Jacobs is the head of Inter Governmental Relationships at the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. We will be regularly publishing a selection of his informative, sometimes light hearted, but always wise pieces.
For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl
Diary 20 Jan. 2021
That such a figure should commemorate my family …….
It is now 23:15 on Wednesday. I just got home. Gave a lecture in Gorinchem. Of course without a visible audience, but in a professional studio and several hundred who were watching at home and many thousands of them are expected to watch the broadcast at a later date. I am used to it by now. If I can immediately speak to visible people again, it will take some getting used to giving a lecture to real listeners.
A lecture with a 15-minute break with tea in the middle. Audience that can just see me in real life and I can look at those present. Now you should know that I used to read from the faces whether I needed to dig deeper into the matter, whether it was time for a parable or a joke to keep people on their toes.
Since I am now starting to realize that we can hardly go outside at the end of this week (good for my health? Not so much.) Today I did my fast walk of one hour instead of the usual 25 minutes.
In the meantime, the condolences keep coming in by e-mail (Chief Rabbi Jacobs recently lost his son – Editor), on facebook (so I was told, because I don't get on facebook myself) and the phone hardly stops ringing. So many warm and beautiful words.
Also an email advising me to repent. Well-intentioned, but I firmly rejected the proposal without any consideration. Should the author of that lengthy e-mail read this diary, she will hear that I was not charmed by her attempt at conversion, nor did I bother to respond to her e-mail.
Conversion is a loaded topic for us Jews that are still alive. "But", I hear you think, "you are so good with the Christians for Israel, aren't you?" Dear people, they do not seek to convert! I know their motives, I know their background, I am aware of their statutes and I am in almost daily contact with them. Together we fight for Israel and against anti-Zionism. To convert? They have many fellow believers who strongly disapprove of their pro-Israel action and point out their flaw that they do not serve as missionaries amongst Jews. But they do try and convert, but of a very different kind. They are trying to convert the churches to change their anti-Israel stance to a pro-Israel approach!
Why am I raising that now? Not because of that dorky letter from that lady, but because the Jewish Agency has stopped working with a Canadian Christian organization called Return Ministries because of a rumour that they are trying to convert people. The president of that organization is a Messianic Jew. And although every person is responsible for himself and is allowed to do what he cannot resist, this is disturbing.
A Messianic Jew who wants to bring Jews to Israel? Who himself has thrown his Judaism overboard? For me a contradiction interminis! And so, I fully understand the Jewish Agency.
And while that lady tries to swindle me away from Judaism, I read today in the authoritative British daily the Guardian that a recent survey shows that many British Jews are afraid to show signs of their religion, such as wearing a kippah or a Star of David in public. Rising anti-Semitism, which is increasingly becoming the "normal"! Let that converting lady spend her time on that and leave me alone. Linking this conversion attempt to the death of our son is unsavoury to say the least.
In the meantime, the sheer number of statements of support resulting from my diary shows that I have built up a wide readership. Apparently, I'm not the only one who knows that.
Because, and now it comes, today I have been approached from four different sides with the request to pay attention in my diary to the choice of the speaker at the annual National Remembrance Day on May 4. The Committee for 4 and 5 May actually chose a figure who has made anti-Semitic remarks on various occasions. The Jewish Telegraph Association (JTA), which is generally well-informed and meticulous, has devoted an entire article to it, and the statements the speaker is said to have made do not lie. I am sure that this week's NAV will also pay substantial attention to it.
It is incomprehensible that this Abdelkader Benali, who has nothing to do with the 1940s and 45s, will speak at the same commemoration where last year our King Willem Alexander brilliantly expressed exactly what the especially Jewish Netherlands had been waiting for, for so long. What an encouragement that was! And now this figure comes…? I don't get it, I feel like May 4 is being taken away from me, but I hope I misunderstood everything, that the JTA was misinformed and the various quotes emails that are far from Jew-friendly just on a misunderstanding and were never expressed.
But in the unlikely event that everything is right: That such a figure should commemorate my family ... this I just don't understand.

GREECE: KOSHER SLAUGHTER “UNDER DIRECT ATTACK” AS GREEK SUPREME COURT RULES THAT SLAUGHTER WITHOUT STUNNING VIOLATES EU LAW

Jewish freedom of religion is under direct attack across Europe from the very institutions that have vowed to protect our communities, says European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
Move comes as consequence of European Court of Justice Ruling last December that member countries may ban the practice of ritual slaughter in order to promote animal welfare, without infringing the rights of religious groups.
The December ruling  said that the EU’s animal slaughter regulation “does not preclude member states from imposing an obligation to stun animals prior to killing which also applies in the case of slaughter prescribed by religious rites”, but encouraged member states to find a balance. It is now clear that a number of member states are zealously applying the former whilst ignoring the latter,
In a statement this evening, the Chairman of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, which represents hundreds of communities across the continent, said:
“We warned in December about the downstream consequences that the European Court of Justice ruling carried with it, and now we see the outcome. Jewish Freedom of Religion is under direct attack. It started in Belgium, moved to Poland and Cyprus and now it is Greece’s turn.
“These direct attacks are coming from many of the same governments and institutions who have sworn to protect their Jewish Communities.
“What we are witnessing is rank hypocrisy. When it comes to antisemitism, governments and institutions rightly stand behind us. But when our faith and practice is assailed left and right by laws, they are nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be found.
“What use is it to protect Jews while legislating fundamental pillars of our religion out of existence?
We will urgently making representations to the highest levels of the Greek government to get direct answers to this simple but fundamental question: How can there be Jews in Europe if you keep bringing in laws against us? Ends

Red Lines Follow-Up: Meeting with Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion outside the EU

Earlier today, the EJA's Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Alex Benjamin, and its Political Affairs Advisor, Mr. Mihails Vorobeičiks-Mellers, have had the honour of once again meeting with Mr. Ján Figeľ, Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion outside the EU. With the function itself created only in May 2016, Mr. Figeľ, former EU Commissioner and Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia, became the first person to hold the position. The policy framework for the Special Envoy's mandate is regulated by the "EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief", which have been approved by the EU Member States back in 2013.

With the nearing European Parliament elections coming in May this year, the meeting took place at a time of notable significance, both to the EU - and wider Europe - as a whole and its Jewish community in particular. A number of topics have been touched upon, including the continuing rise in popularity of the more radical political ideologies on both ends of the political spectrum, possible - and, regrettably, nowadays observable - legal limitations to the freedom of religion, the European Commission's role in promoting and protecting the respective rights of the EU's inhabitants as well as the 5 red lines, which have been recently adopted during our conference back in November 2018.

Since Mr. Figeľ's mandate encompasses the entirety of the world outside the Union, and the EJA is active throughout Europe, this meeting has been particularly important to us. Thus, during the discussion special attention has also been given to the EU candidate countries and other European states neighbouring the Union. Along with the present and future lives of the local Jewish communities, such topical issues as the legality of ritual slaughter and circumcision have been specifically raised. 

We very much look forward to a continued dialogue and cooperation with Mr. Figeľ on issues of mutual interest and concern.

Additional Communities
United Kingdom
Ukraine
Turkey
Schweiz
Switzerland
Spain
Slovakia
Serbia
Russia
Romania
Portugal