European Jewish leaders fearful of potential anti-Semitic attacks say they won't go to synagogue to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays this year, according to a poll released Tuesday by the European Jewish Association and the Rabbinical Center of Europe.
The online survey conducted last week asked 78 secular and religious leaders across 700 capital cities throughout Europe whether rising anti-Semitic attacks would dissuade them from going to temple to honor Rosh Hashanah on Oct. 2 and Yom Kippur on Oct. 12. About half of the respondents said Jewish communities across the continent have seen a decline in active members over the past 12 months, while 75 percent said their communities were taking increased security measures.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association and the Rabbinical Center of Europe, blamed the lack of activity on a perceived increase in anti-Semitism since last year’s High Holy Days.
"The challenge for most of the Jewish communities has doubled in recent months," he told the Jerusalem Post. "Currently the focus of the extreme right and their activity is focused on Islamophobia, but testimonies of rabbis and community leaders show a great deal of concern about growing nationalism and xenophobia, also against the Jews of Europe."
He said more awareness about anti-Semitism sentiments could help improve security for Jews across the continent.
"Counter-terrorism is of course an important measure to save lives - but not enough to solve the problem from the root," he said. "As long as there will not be an educational effort focused on the elimination of anti-Semitism, the problem will continue."
In France, which has the largest Jewish population in Europe, roughly 15 percent of citizens did not have a positive opinion of Jews in 2016. That's an improvement from 1991, when 18 percent of French citizens did not like Jews, according to the Pew Research Center. But the study also found 55 percent of citizens in Greece had negative views of Jews, up from 47 percent in 2014, while in Spain, 66 percent had positive views of Jews, down from 72 percent in 2014.
Anti-Semitic incident reports in France doubled from 2013 to 2014. Since 2015, Jews in France have been the target of knife attacks and a terror attack at a Jewish grocery in Paris that saw four hostages killed.