Ahead of the Jewish New Year and High Holidays, the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE), together with the European Jewish Association (EJA), decided to check how many Jews plan to attend Rosh Hashana prayers at synagogues across Europe next week. They also examined their affiliation with the Jewish community's institutions and their involvement in their activities.
A comparison of the findings to official data and estimates about the total number of Jews in Europe indicated that about half a million Jews will attend Rosh Hashanah prayers this year. Whilst twice as many Jews are reported to attend synagogue prayers on Yom Kippur as on Saturdays throughout the year, 70% of Europe's Jews choose not to go to the synagogue during the High Holidays.
Moreover, about 40% of Europe’s Jews choose not to express their Jewishness in their lives – neither religiously nor socially – and about 75% of Jewish children in Europe are not enrolled in Jewish schools.
Recent data of Jewish weddings in Europe also indicates that there is 80% intermarriage among Europe’s Jewish communities, when compared with the total number of Jews.
'One Jew is born, another assimilates'
The date were gathered from more than 800 rabbis based on reports from 1,353 synagogues across Europe and other Jewish community institutions, such as schools, as well as by comparing the number of Jewish weddings to the number of Jews in every city according to the acceptable estimates and Jewish Agency registrations.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the EJA and RCE was shocked by the extent of intermarriage, but added that he was not surprised.
"This is the reason why the number of Jews worldwide has not grown since the Holocaust, although 70 years have passed," he told Ynet. "For every Jew that is born there is a Jew who assimilates."
Addressing the Judaism denial phenomenon, Rabbi Margolin said: "Apart from those who don't even attend the Yom Kippur prayers and avoid being part of the community's institutions, there are those who not only do not send their children to Jewish schools, but also forbid them to befriend and play with children who do study in those schools, so as not to be identified as Jews."
According to Rabbi Margolin, the surge of far-right political groups across the continent, the dramatic expansion of Islam and Operation Protective Edge have presented bigger challenges than ever before for European Jewry: More attacks, more harassment of individuals, communities and institutions, more demonstrations and more politicians that speak impassioned speeches against Israel and the Jews.
He noted, however, that as a result of this new reality, there is also a large community of Jews in Europe that has heightened its connection to Judaism. Data collated by the RCE indicates that anti-Semitic incidents in schools have led to the transfer of hundreds of Jewish children from public schools to Jewish schools during the past year, and the number of visitors in the synagogues increased by 17% compared to the same period last year.
Despite the difficult situation, Rabbi Margolin believes that encouraging massive immigration to Israel is not a good solution. "Those who will answer that call will usually be the same 10-15% who are relatively active and revive the communities, rather than those who conceal their Jewishness," he said. "This will lead to a destruction of the European Jewry.
"We must deal with the current situation by strengthening the communities, which will provide security for all Jews and allow them to 'expose themselves' without any fear," he concluded, adding that the EJA was doing everything in its power to increase cooperation with the new leadership of the Europe Union and to increase its commitment to empower education and enforcement against anti-Semitism in the EU countries.