June 2, 2019 — Washington, D.C.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) released today its first-ever concurrent surveys of the attitudes of Jews in France, Israel, and the United States, the three largest Jewish communities in the world.
“Some commonalities among American, French, and Israeli Jewry, comprising the great majority of world Jewry, are strikingly encouraging,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “At the same time, there are clear differences among and within these three Jewish communities about key current issues of Jewish concern and about the challenges they are likely to face in coming years.”
AJC, the leading global Jewish advocacy organization, has polled U.S. Jews annually for decades, and last year, for the first time, also polled Israeli Jews. The addition of French Jews to the mix this year provides a uniquely trifocal view of what Jews think.
Among U.S., French, and Israeli Jews there is large-scale agreement that being Jewish is mostly a matter of ethnicity and culture, with 59% of the American sample, 43% of the French and 51% of the Israelis agreeing. Roughly a quarter of respondents in each country—24% of the Americans, 25% of the French, and 24% of the Israeli—consider Jewish identity a matter of religion. And, 16% of American, 27% of French, and 23% Israeli Jews consider both identity factors equally.
Most Jews in the U.S. and France say that caring about Israel is a very important part of their being Jewish, with 62% of Americans and 59% of French agreeing, and 35% of Americans and 37% of French disagreeing.
Almost all Israeli Jews, 91%, as compared to 72% of Americans and 53% of French, think that a thriving State of Israel is vital for the long-term future of the Jewish people.
Those who agree that a thriving Diaspora is vital for the long-term future of the Jewish people represent 74% of the Israeli sample and 65% of the American. About half of French Jews, 51%, said that a thriving Diaspora is vital for the future of the French Jewish community.
The first-ever AJC survey of Jews in France showed a community highly concerned about rising antisemitism. Half say the situation of Jews in France in terms of security is worse than a year ago, with 20% saying that it is better and 25% responding that it is neither better nor worse. A majority, 58%, have personally experienced antisemitism in France, and 56% do not think that France is effectively combating that scourge.
Moreover, 55% of French Jews have considered emigrating over the past year—21% for economic reasons, 17% fearing for the community’s future, 12% worried about France’s future, and 5% for religious or cultural attractions elsewhere. Forty-one percent have not considered leaving France.
Considering the future status of Jews in Europe, American Jews are more optimistic than are Israelis. Some 75% of Americans and 44% of Israelis say Jews have a future as Jews in Europe, while 17% of Americans and 46% of Israelis say they should leave now.
Yet, the past year also has seen an uptick in American Jewish concerns about their own security, with 65% of them stating they feel less secure than a year ago—a ten-point rise since 2018—while 15% say they are more secure and 17% about the same.
In addition, 57% of U.S. Jews say the climate on college campuses has become more hostile toward pro-Israel students—a rise of four points over 2018—with 9% saying it’s less hostile and 17% about the same.
French Jews appear more connected to Israel than American Jews.. Asked to use the metaphor of a family to describe how they view Israelis, 57% of the French sample viewed them as either siblings or first cousins, while less than half of that figure—28%--of the U.S. sample gave one of those responses. And conversely, 28% of the Americans and just 16% of the French answered, “not part of my family.”
Another indication of the closer Israel connection of French Jews is that 65% of them say they have visited Israel (21% more than once and 19% at least five times), as compared to 41% of the Americans (15% more than once and 10% at least five times.) Similarly, 48% of the French Jews and just 28% of the Americans report having family in Israel to whom they feel close.
U.S. and French Jews are more pessimistic than Israeli Jews about Israel-Diaspora relations. Those Jews who foresee a weakening of transnational ties over the next five years outnumber those anticipating stronger ties by 24% to 18% in the U.S., and by 32% to 24% in France. Among Israelis, though, 30% expect stronger ties and 23% think they will weaken.
Gaps in U.S., Israeli Views
The surveys of Israeli and U.S. Jews show, for the second consecutive year, a glaring gap over U.S. President Donald Trump’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, with 79% of Israelis approving (48% “strongly”) and just 10% disapproving (4% “strongly”). Only 37% of the Americans approve (22% “strongly”) and 59% disapprove (45% “strongly”). In addition, while 50% of American Jews support the Trump administration’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, 88% of Israeli Jews do.
Overall, the U.S. survey showed a slippage in warmth toward Israel. In May 2018, 70% of American Jews agreed that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” That dropped to 62% this year, with the percentage strongly disagreeing rising from 9% to 15%.
Also, the percentage of U.S. Jews considering a thriving State of Israel vital for the long-term future of the Jewish people dropped since last year from 79% to 72%, and the proportion expecting ties between U.S. and Israeli Jews to weaken in the next five years rose from 15% to 24%.
Israeli and American Jews differ on the chances of peace with the Palestinians. Among the Israelis surveyed, 43% expect the chances for peaceful coexistence with a Palestinian state to decline over the next five years, 37% say they will remain the same, and just 14% think they will improve. Most American Jews—51%--believe they will stay the same and 19% that they will improve, while just 27% expect a decline.
AJC’s 2019 Survey of American Jewish Opinion, conducted by SSRS, is based on telephone interviews carried out April 10-May 7 with a national sample of 1,006 Jews over age 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1%.
AJC’s 2019 Survey of French Jews, conducted by Ifop, is based on telephone and face-to-face interviews carried out March 11 – May 2, with a national sample of 771 Jews over age 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.1%.
AJC’s Survey of Israeli Jews, conducted by Geocartography, is based on telephone interviews carried out April 10 to 17, with a national sample of 1,000 Jews over age 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1%.