Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Is There a Future for Jewish Communities in Europe?

by Elliott Abrams
August 8, 2013


Is there a future for the Jewish communities of Europe?

Two-thirds of a century after the Second World War, this question remains a troubling one–above all to many Jews who live there. It is examined in depth in a brilliant new article entitled “You Only Live Twice” by Michel Gurfinkiel in Mosaic, the invaluable web site dealing with Jewish life, thought, and religion. Gurfinkiel is a French journalist and writer who for some years edited the conservative journal Valeurs Actuelles, is the founder and president of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, and serves on the board of governors of the Consistoire, the organization representing France’s Jewish communities.

“Despite all their success and achievement, the majority of European Jews, seconded by many Jewish and non-Jewish experts, insist that catastrophe may lie ahead,” Gurfinkiel writes. Polls show remarkable levels of anti-Semitism and widespread acts of violence against Jews. As Gurfinkiel notes,

Like Israelis, but unlike most American Jews, today’s European Jews are survivors, or children of survivors, either of the Holocaust or of the near-complete expulsion of Jews from Islamic countries that took place in the second half of the 20th century. They know, from personal experience or from the testimony of direct and irrefutable witnesses, how things unfolded in the not too distant past, and how a seemingly normal Jewish life could be destroyed overnight. When anti-Semitic incidents or other problems accumulate, they can’t help asking whether history is repeating itself.

To contemporary European Jews…. today’s anxieties thus also recall the crucial choice they or their parents made some 30 or 50 or 70 years ago when, having survived the Holocaust, they resolved to stay in Europe—more accurately, in Western Europe, under the American umbrella—or, having been forced out of Islamic countries, to flee to Europe. Was this the right choice, after all?


The article is too rich to summarize here in its discussion not only of the Jewish communities, but of what their fate tells us about Europe itself and its own future. Gurfinkiel argues that there was a golden age for European Jews after the Second World War when Europe lived under the American umbrella, but now a different Europe is developing. And he quotes a leading scholar:

even so sober an analyst as Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, author of definitive works on the history and dynamics of anti-Semitism, has concluded that although the final endpoint of European Jewry may be decades in coming, “any clear-sighted and sensible Jew who has a sense of history would understand that this is the time to get out.”

This article will provoke controversy and its conclusions will be resisted. But its explanation and evocation of Jewish history in Europe and of the conditions of the present day make it an article that must be read–and then re-read.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by EthanP

    I have an idea. The Jews of Israel have survived, indeed prospered, by learning how to fight. And fight hard and fight wel. How about instead of doing what most Jews have done since 135CE, hide and cower, going meekly to their deaths, Jews fought back. Most of our enemies are cowards who will not give a fair fight. Gee! What an idea. Jews fighting back!

  • Posted by "I am all the days... that you choose to ignore"

    Perhaps comparable to the ever-present threat of violence in Europe is the daily onslaught against Jewish culture, where the prevailing wisdom seems to be that, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, all can agree on the apparently self-evident notion that G-d cannot possibly exist.

  • Posted by diana

    History is witness that every time Jews are expelled from a country, the country goes to hell……… And that maybe the fate of Europe as a majority of Muslims gain power and Jews are expelled…………….Jews have always a been productive group. There is a vast number of Muslims that live of welfare………………

  • Posted by yossil

    To all Jews! Come to israel. The best country on Earth.
    You have nothing to do in Europe. It was, is and will be antisemitic.

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