Survey highlights differences among Jewish European leaders


BARCELONA (JTA) —  Israel and securing funds are more important to Western European Jewish leaders than to their Eastern European counterparts, a survey found.

The survey, compiled by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s International Centre for Community Development, shows that in Eastern Europe, only 3 percent of respondents said Israel was their top priority, compared to 9 percent in Western Europe. Six percent marked Israel as the second-most important issue in Eastern Europe, compared to 16 percent in Western Europe.

Titled the "Second Survey of European Jewish Leaders and Opinion Formers," the study is based on responses from 328 community leaders from 32 countries in 2011.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents cited alienation of Jews from Jewish community life and 59 percent demographic decline as major communal threats.

Forty-seven percent of Western European Jewish leaders strongly agreed with the assertion that events in Israel lead to anti-Semitism in their countries. Among Eastern European leaders, 22 percent indicated “strong agreement” with the statement.

In Western Europe, 12 percent of respondents named funding as their top priority, compared to less than 5 percent in Eastern Europe. Another 14 percent of the Western Europeans said funding was second most important to them, compared to 9 percent in the eastern countries.

Marcelo Dimenstein, operations director for Europe for the JDC International Centre for Community Development, told JTA that Eastern European Jewish leaders may feel more secure of funding because they receive financial assistance from Western Jewish communities.

Eighteen percent of all respondents marked status issues and intermarriage as their priorities from a list of 12 possible issues. Fifteen percent said leadership issues were their top concern, and 11 percent chose accountability. Anti-Semitism, funding and community Issues ranked fourth with 10 percent each. Israel came in at No. 7 with 7 percent of respondents naming it as their top priority.

The survey also compared how European leaders perceived their community’s financial situation in 2008 to how they perceive it today. Forty-one percent said their communities were suffering from great financial strain; 28 percent had made the claim in 2008.

Six percent of respondents defined their communities’ situation as "critical" in 2008, compared to 17 percent last year. Some 15 percent said their communities were in "healthy or stable" condition in 2011, compared to 23 percent in the earlier survey.

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