The Missing 28,500 Jews

I am waiting for the outcry, the worry, the concern for our missing people but somehow very little is being said.

In May 2002 I was living just outside London and was incredibly proud to take part in the Pro-Israel rally for peace that took place during the second intifada. Passionately, I took my place amongst the 30,000 UK Jews that turned up at Trafalgar Square to support Israel that day.  It was a good turnout helped by the community organized transport enabling people to attend. The previous year, the 2001 government census reports 259,927 people answered Jewish on their forms and true enough, many of us were there that day, standing proud, proud Jews, proud Zionists.

Once again, in 2011, the government sent out a census with the voluntary question on religion.  This time 263,346 people  answered Jewish, a rise of just over 3,400 Jews in the UK. The Jewish population in the United Kingdom is still growing, albeit slowly. In fact for the coming 2014/2015 academic year the UK offers 63 Jewish Nursery Schools, 45 Jewish Primary Schools and 20 Jewish Secondary Schools. These figures portray an extremely large number of families who have requested and prioritized Jewish education for their children.

According to the available figures 11.5% of British Jewry supported Israel with the pro-Israel rally in 2002.  Last Sunday, July 2014,  0.2% of British Jewry were there.

So where are the missing 28,500 Jews?

We know that many of them are in our Jewish schools. In addition, over 15,000 Jewish teens from around the world visit Israel on different tours every year. Over 400,000 Jewish young adults have participated in Birthright trips to Israel.

Nonetheless, regardless of the positives, the figures on the ground show that support in the Diaspora for Israel is failing. The figures coming out of New York are no better. Out of 1.54 million Jews in the Greater Manhattan area, only 4000 attended a pro-Israel rally this month. July 20th 2014 saw only 0.2% of New York Jews actually out and about showing their support for Israel.

I have personally worked in Jewish Schools and communities in both the UK and the US. The people I have worked with are incredible, giving, talented and honorable. They are gifted, passionate teachers, proud of their Jewish heritage and the job they are doing with our next generations. The pro-Israel programs I have seen and taught in our schools and synagogues are powerful. So what is going wrong?

Again I wonder if the passage of time elapsing since the Holocaust is our biggest foe. Are we so quick to forget? Echoes of Europe in the 20‘s and 30‘s are insidiously creeping into our lives. Without the events of WW2, the decimation of our people, Israel would not be here today.  Do we need another Holocaust to wake us up to the dangers surrounding us? 

Muslim riots in Paris last week targeting Jewish business places has been compared to another kristallnacht.  There is a facebook page inciting hatred, giving names and pictures of Jews in the Paris area that urgently needs to be taken down. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan compares Israelis to Adolf Hitler, including a July 19th statement in which he said that Israelis “have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” On July 11th in Morocco a Rabbi was beaten to unconsciousness on his way to services. In Germany a police officer allowed his megaphone to be used to shout anti-Jewish slogans.

In London in 2002 there were just 400 predominantly muslim anti-Israel protestors at the pro-Israel rally. Last week they had their own anti-Israel rally with a turnout of 15,000. In the UK the second largest religion is Islam, there are 2,786,635muslims as per the 2011 census. Just as Israel is surrounded physically by its enemies, so too the Jews of the Diaspora are surrounded by anti- semitism and danger. 

So how do we react? What can the Jews of the Diaspora do? 

A few short weeks ago the murders of Gil-ad, Eyal and Naftali started a chain of events that has led to uncovering the tunnels of death earmarked for use this coming Rosh Hashanah. Europe, are you watching the canary in our coal mine? As we learn from the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, so too, the world is telling us to Wake Up.

About the Author
Abi Taylor-Abt is an outstanding Jewish Educator and Curriculum Developer who has worked in the field of Jewish Primary and Secondary Educational Curriculum Development for over twenty years. She is the author of Lessons in Jewish Learning - a grab and go curriculum for communities and Jewish schools. Originally from London, Abi spent time living in Israel, South Africa, England and the United States. After working in Boise, Idaho, Abi spent 5 years in Israel for the second time whilst her children served in the army. She is currently Director of Education for Yachad a combined educational endeavour between the conservative congregation of Beth Shalom and the reform community of Temple Emanu-El in Michigan, USA. A 2018 recipient of the Klein/Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Abi is also awaiting the video version of her recent ELI Talk Detroit Speaker Fellowship.