Is French Jewish emigration driven by anti-Semitism?

A year after a Muslim radical murdered four Jews in Toulouse, the Jewish blogosphere is buzzing with reports that French Jews are fleeing rising anti-Semitism that the killing has both demonstrated and unleashed.

Tablet Magazine last week bundled several recent articles about the growth in the number of French Jews in London and New York, linking them to a 58-percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2012.

As Tablet’s Adam Chandler writes, that figure is indeed shocking, especially when one considers that 90 out of the 614 attacks occurred within 10 days of the shooting at Otzar Hatora school in Toulouse. Still, they do not support the premise that anti-Semitism has become a major push factor in French emigration.

In fact, there are figures to suggest the opposite. Compared to 2011, last year brought no substantial increase in French immigration to Israel. The 1,923 Frenchmen who moved to Israel and made aliyah in 2012 constituted a 10-percent drop from the annual average of 2,150 new arrivals to Israel from France since 2006. There are no reliable figures on the immigration of Jews from France to countries other than Israel, but if there were a mass exodus one would expect at least some of the increased traffic to flow to Israel.

Of course, French Jews could be leaving France for countries other than Israel for reasons unrelated to anti-Semitism. Unemployment in France, which recently hit a 14-year high of 10.6 percent, is almost three percentage points higher than in the United Kingdom. And unemployment in the region of Marseille – home to France’s second largest Jewish community of about 100,000 — is about 30 percent higher than in the rest of France.

Avi Zana, the director of the Israel-based Ami Israel association, which encourages French immigration to Israel, says more educated French Jews than ever before are leaving to study and advance their careers. Those leaving, Zana says, are the elite of French Jewry.

Anti-semitism or not, poor French Jews are unlikely to give up their housing, free health care and welfare payments any time soon.

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