Israelis in Europe steer clear of Jewish community activities, study suggests
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Israelis in Europe steer clear of Jewish community activities, study suggests

Only 38% of Israeli respondents to survey describe themselves as Jewish, with many saying they want events for secular Jews

Illustrative: People wave Israeli flags as they take part in a demonstration supporting Israel in Marseille, southeastern France, on July 27, 2014. (AFP/Boris Horvat)
Illustrative: People wave Israeli flags as they take part in a demonstration supporting Israel in Marseille, southeastern France, on July 27, 2014. (AFP/Boris Horvat)

In a survey among hundreds of Israelis living in Europe, nearly half said they do not participate to any degree in Jewish community life or events.

Asked about their identity, 73 percent of Israelis in Europe described themselves as secular and only 38 percent described themselves also as Jewish in the survey, which was published Friday.

Many of the respondents said they refrained from taking part in Jewish community events because the events are faith-centered.

The survey was conducted online last year by the International Center for Community Development of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Almost two-thirds of the respondents (64 percent) said they were aware of an organized and active Israeli community in their area, but only 17 percent said they participated in activities and events to a large or very large degree.

JDC conducted the survey in partnership with the Machon Kehilot organization for Israelis living abroad.

Illustrative: The inauguration of a new Torah scroll at a synagogue in Marburg, Germany, on November 29, 2015. (Rainer Waldinger/Jüdische Gemeinde Marburg)

The JDC-Kehilot survey was among the largest and most in-depth studies of Israelis in Europe. Community activists for years have struggled to increase participation by Israelis in activities of Jewish communities, often with otherwise dwindling memberships.

Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands alone are believed to be home to well over 100,000 Israelis.

A 2016 Pew study conducted in Israel found that 40 percent of Israelis identify as secular. Most secular Jews in the Pew study said they see themselves as Israeli first and Jewish second.

Asked to indicate what could draw them to attend community activities, 68 percent of the Israelis who do not participate in Jewish community life chose as their response: “Activities for secular Jews.” Other answers included cultural events (58 percent) and activities in Hebrew (56 percent).

Despite this relative reticence to partake in Jewish community events, more than half of respondents expressed interest in attending events for Hebrew speakers.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents were married or in a domestic partnership. More than half were women. The average age among respondents was 40 years old.

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