The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Jews on the Run

Sometimes, alarming facts can be concealed behind seemingly innocuous jargon. That is the case with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s latest polling on the “migratory patterns” of religious groups. As it turns out, one particular group is consistently on the move:

Of the seven groups examined in this report, Jews have by far the highest overall level of international migration, in percentage terms. About one-quarter of Jews alive today have left the country in which they were born…

By contrast, only one-in-twenty Christians [the next most migratory religious group] alive today (5%) have emigrated from their country of birth.

Obviously part of the answer has to do with the number of believers the religions claim. If five percent of 2.4 billion Christians migrate, we are talking about 120 million people. If one fourth of the world’s 14 million Jews pack up and move, only 3.4 million are hitting the road.

Still, the high percentage of Jewish migrants is striking, and to understand why these numbers matter, one must turn to the Washington Post, which enlisted experts to explain the reason so many Jews have been on the hunt for greener pastures. The answer is sadly unsurprising:

“The world Jewish community is consolidating,” said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University… “Jews are abandoning Third World countries where historically they had been persecuted and moving to large and generally free First World countries.”

…A positive spin on Jewish migratory trends is that Jews, so often persecuted in their homelands, are safer in their new countries.

But “what we’re losing is one of the great themes of Jewish history,” said Sarna, referring to the collapse of Jewish communities in the Middle East, North Africa and other lands where they had lived for millennia.

In other words, anti-Semitism is alive and well across the globe, and there are millions of persecuted Jewish refugees as a result. That the majority–some three million–have found a haven in Israel is a reminder of that country’s essential importance.

Via Meadia looks forward to the day when people of all faiths are safe in their homes and when hope and not fear is the reason that most people move.

Published on March 17, 2012 9:44 am
  • Haim

    Now I know why American Jewish liberals are so copacetic with the Iranian nuclear threat against Israel! They just want to preserve “the great theme of Jewish history” – Jews being threatened minorities, that is.

  • Josh May

    surely the area of the former USSR is by far the largest abandoned “country of birth”

  • PTL

    Another Obama term and Israel will have quite
    a bit to worry about. This administration is the most anti-American and anti-Semitic in American history. American Jews remind me of the German Jews who didn’t think that Hitler meant them when talking about getting rid of the Jews. Hitler succeeded. Unless they wake up, the American Jews will live to regret their
    decisions to support Obama.

  • WigWag

    Perhaps the most constant theme in Jewish history has been redemption through migration. G-d’s injunction “Get thee out of” is a theme recapitulated in the Tanakh over and over again. Think Abram from Ur of the Chaldees, Moses from Egypt or Ruth and Naomi returning from Moab to Israel.

    In recent history it has been the enemies of the Jews as opposed to their G-d who implore them with great regularity to “Get thee out.”

    Could it be the regular renewal that is a natural consequence of their history of constant migration that has contributed to the extraordinary tenacity and genius of the Jews?

  • Jeffersonian

    I think Jews are mistaken. Israel, as lovely as the diaspora have made it, is ultimately a nuclear abbatoir. At some point, a lunatic jihadi is going to set off an A-bomb there and kill millions, with millions more slaughtered in the resulting war.

    No, America is the Jews’s Promised Land. They need to come here. They will be safe and prosperous here.

  • FrankL

    Once in these first world countries, they accuse the hospitable natives of being anti-Semetic bigots who need to open their borders to the world.

    >”Jews, so often persecuted in their homelands, are safer in their new countries”

    For a while, perhaps. But Jews seem to be intent on bringing their enemies from home to their new countries with them. See the growing Muslim population in Britain and America, for instance.

  • Gord11

    Why Jews after the Holocaust would live in any countries other than the United States and Israel and maybe Australia and Canada and possibly Great Britain is beyond me.

  • FrankL

    Jews move because they can – Jews anywhere in the world can move to Israel, or to the US. And Jews already in these countries will smooth your path once you get there.

    If you are an oppressed Sudanese Christian you stay put, because you just don’t have the options Jews have. So high levels of Jewish migration are not entirely due to negative pressures in their countries of origin, but to enticements in the countries of destination.

  • JimB

    We need to open our doors and welcome the Jews into our country without limit. They are an asset to be embraced.

    And I am a simple agnostic, ex Christian…not a Jew.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    “Jews are abandoning Third World countries where historically they had been persecuted and moving to large and generally free First World countries.”

    Does that include Latin America? Roughly a million Israel Jews live abroad, a majority in the U.S., which doesn’t fit the story line.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    My point being that a lot of this movement is for economic opportunity, not escape from persecution. The same was true of Ashkenazi immigration to the US in the 19th century. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But let’s keep our facts straight.

  • David McCune

    This is likely to further impoverish the countries from which they emigrate. Even worse for those countries is the opportunity cost. Historically, 2nd generation Jewish immigrants have been great wealth and job generators in the US. Any idea if this has held in other countries?

  • John Burke

    While I’m sure the Jewish exodus from Middle Eastern countries leads the parade, let’s not forget the millions of Soviet Jews now live in Israel, the US, the UK and elsewhere.

  • vanderleun

    “Not all who wander are lost….”

    Well, Paradise filled up with a mighty crash when we dove out the sun,
    And the first Imam said to the second Imam there, “I hope you’re having fun.”
    Jews on the run, Jews on the run.

    And Muhammad man and Palestin-i-an were searching every pun
    For the Jews on the run, Jews on the run,
    Jews on the run, Jews on the run

    Well, Nantanz’s still burning as the desert world begins to settle down.
    In Iran they’re searching for us every where, but we never will be found.
    Jews on the run, Jews on the run.

  • Brett

    This migration sounds like it might be more about economics than persecution. If you’re modestly well-off and reasonably well-educated (as many Jewish communities are in the “sender” countries), you can greatly improve your earnings and living standards by migrating to a First World country.

  • koblog

    http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/16/destroy-all-churches/

    “Via Meadia looks forward to the day when people of all faiths are safe in their homes and when hope and not fear is the reason that most people move.”

    Keep wishing, Dr. Mead, while billions of Muslims choose to follow the fatwas of Saudi Arabia.

    “On March 12, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” The ruling came in response to a query from a Kuwaiti delegation over proposed legislation to prevent construction of churches in the emirate. The mufti based his decision on a story that on his deathbed, Muhammad declared, “There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula.” This passage has long been used to justify intolerance in the kingdom. Churches have always been banned in Saudi Arabia, and until recently Jews were not even allowed in the country. Those wishing to worship in the manner of their choosing must do so hidden away in private, and even then the morality police have been known to show up unexpectedly and halt proceedings.”

  • Micha

    Israel also serves as a refuge for Jews. but it should not be viewed only as a refuge. Israel is first and foremost a home for the Jewish people, in the wider cultural and psychological sense.

    That Jews want to have a national home, a cultural home, should come as no surprise. We are no different than the Irish, Italians, Greek, Japanese, Arab, Kurd or American, even if our historical circumstances are different. That quite a few Jews prefer to live in the united states or other diaspora does not make a difference — most nationalities have an extensive diaspora. Certainly all the ones I mentioned above. Nor should the fact that Israel was founded by immigrants make any difference. In that respect we are no different than the United States, Australia and Canada (to name some), except that their success has been so complete that no one seeks to doubt their existence. The fact that Israel was founded in conflict is not that remarkable either. For all the noise it is making, our conflict was significantly less bloody or brutal than many recent others, and the circumstances easily justifiable.

    Nor should the success of American Jews invalidate Israel (any more than the success of any other group that emigrated to America). For one, Israel itself is also quite successful, in much more difficult circumstances. Secondly, while Americans Jews are quite successful, and happy in their success, they are still a minority. Israel might not be able to offer Jews the heights of American success, but it does offer Jews things America cannot. Both options are certainly legitimate, and one should not be presented as denial of the other, anymore than the success of Irish Americans invalidate Ireland.

  • TANSTAAFL

    Think of it as evolution in action.

  • Cunctator

    Without seeking to insult, it might be said that treatkment of Jews is rather like the canary in the coal mine — an indication of the stability and outlook of a society.

    But, if they are fleeing the third world, their only safe home is really North America. Western Europe is not entirely safe for Jews these days, given the vast increase in anri-semitic attacks by members of the continent’s Muslim minorities. It was only a few years ago that the EU suppressed a report on anti-Semitism in Europe because it identified Muslims as the perpetrators of the vast majority of incidents. (The report was later posted on the web by the World Jewish Congress and made for very interesting reading. Does anyone still have a link?) Those attacks will only increase as Muslims in Europe grow increasingly confident about the spinelessness of Western elites to confront them.

  • Dubi Yarden

    As so many commentators have helpfully pointed out, my mother came to the U.S. as an “economic immigrant,” as were the 100,000 other Jews who came post-War. Certainly labor, concentration, and death camps had nothing to do with it.

  • Kris

    vanderleun@14: :-) I’m almost surprised that there are no references to the Wandering Jew. I’m not sure whether to ascribe this to growing tolerance or ignorance.

    In related news, some Iraqi muckamucks are trying to drum up a scandal over the alleged transfer out of Iraq of ancient Jewish scrolls and books. I was reminded of a quote from an old Jewish book: “Hast thou killed, and also inherited?”

  • norma

    [As regular readers know we don't often publish comments that are racist, anti-Semitic or encourage hatred among religious or ethnic groups. But every now and then we make an exception to let others know that prejudice and idiocy still exist, mixed as ever with hatred and ignorance. the comment below is an example. The author probably does not consider himself/herself anti-Semitic, only someone who is "realistic" enough to "face facts" that others, blinded by "PC" or perhaps the "Jewish disinformation machine" ignore. This is what all bigots think: prejudice never recognizes itself but always calls itself "common sense" and vents fantasies and hatreds while claiming to be rational and calm. So here is the unedited comment. Observe:]

    jews are soooooooo smart but why have they not figured out why there is so much discrimination against them thruout their history.

    what do they do that brings a backlash against them? they are an extremely intelligent, hardworking people so why should they not be welcome where they are born or immigrate to?

    when they find the answer they shall begin to make this world a better place for all of us.

  • gringojay

    Europe chased away many Jews & got Muslims who will complete the Jewish emigration. That trade doesn’t look
    very good.
    American universities increasingly anti-Jew environment is
    pathetic. Their trade off won’t look very good when Islam pushes forward.
    Peculiarly the western world wants jewish Israel to do it’s dirty work taking out Iran’s nuclear weapon capability. Our politicians just want deniability from the backlash. We know Iran’s after prayer chant Friday’s for decades has been “Death to America!”

  • Robert

    Walter, when are going to migrate to Shanghai?

  • hutch1200

    Jooos are sneaking into Mexico, in the dead of the night, for all the freebies! (total sarc)

  • vanderleun

    We can Shanghi you now, Robert. Just say the word.

  • RebeccaH

    The loss of their Jews (and Christians) is a tragedy for Third World countries, because it is often those groups who account for any progress in those countries.

  • JM Hanes

    “Jews are abandoning Third World countries where historically they had been persecuted and moving to large and generally free First World countries.”

    Unless I’m misreading the “Regional Destinations, by Religion” chart, they are moving out of European (1st world countries!) too. That would certainly accord with my impression of a substantial out migration of Jews (from France, in particular, IIRC) which has now been going on for years since I first became aware of that disturbing trend.

  • Marty

    LukeLea @ 11: I suppose you never heard the word “pogrom”?

    KrankL: Jews don’t get any preference in US immigration. Beyond that, your ideas as to the reason for Islamic growth in Europe and the US are bizarre. You’re a nasty piece of antisemitic work.

  • sestamibi

    @14

    I tried to sing it but it doesn’t quite fit the meter.

    @22

    Unless this is total sarcasm, I’m not particularly offended. Our problem, as pointed out by Norman Podhoretz, is that we’ve forsaken Judaism for the religion of liberalism–the Torah for the editorial pages of the NY Times.

    As I’ve often said before, Jews today would vote for Hitler as long as he were non-white. And perhaps we did in 2008 and intend to do so again in 2012.

  • Toni

    Some comments here have focused on “economic migration,” but not on one essential fact underlying the migration of Jews. Jews CAN migrate because they’re generally highly intelligent and hard-working, which leads to their being well-educated as well.

    While their outflow is surely a loss to Third and First World countries, their arrival is something to celebrate here in the U.S. and wherever else they migrate. I’m hard pressed to think of an ethnic group that is, on average, more beneficial to the country where they settle.

    A related note: the SATs were invented by Ivy League schools striving to keep out Jews, whose hard work (according to the Ivy bigots) enabled them to overachieve, despite their having less-than-sufficient smarts. The SATs would measure inherent IQ; fewer Jews would qualify.

    Or that was the idea. Then Stanley Kaplan came along and proved that hard work could help students improve their SAT scores.

    Thus Jews in America overcame the bias they faced a century ago, and now the U.S. wins every time a Jewish family joins our ranks. What a serendipitous result.

  • FrancisChalk

    How about a little honesty in reporting? “Jews are abandoning Third World countries. . .” How about “Jews are abandoning Islamic countries.” Oh wait, I forgot, we’re talking the Washington Post. Never mind with the honesty thing.

  • Tom

    @22: Unwittingly, you have hit the nail on the head of why people often persecute the Jews–because, as general rule, they are hardworking and successful, even when they have been forced into the fringes of society, and so therefore people like you assume that there’s a conspiracy afoot when, in reality, if the rest of the society would get off their rears and get a grip on basic economic theory and apply it, they could be successful too.
    Now, to be fair, the Jewish tendency towards exclusivity can be a little off-putting, which makes them a more convenient scapegoat for demagogic politicians than other economically successful groups.
    However, that being said, if you think a tendency towards exclusivity is a good reason for persecution, I frankly see no reason to continue talking.

  • Kris

    Toni@31: “Jews, whose hard work (according to the Ivy bigots) enabled them to overachieve”

    The go-to quote is Thomas Wolfe’s: “There in the swarming tenement … the Jew boy sits and pores upon his book. … For what? Because, brother, he is burning in the night. He sees the class, the lecture room, the shining apparatus of gigantic laboratories, the open field of scholarship and pure research, certain knowledge, and the world distinction of an Einstein name.” [You Can't Go Home Again]

    (To your Blue Home? :-) )

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Marty says:
    March 17, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    LukeLea @ 11: I suppose you never heard the word “pogrom”?

    On the contrary I am a student of the subject. And of the history of Eastern European Jewry in general. There was an Ashkenazi population explosion in the Pale of Settlement (an area as large as Western Europe by the way) which led to a situation in which Jewish opportunities for employment were nowhere near being enough to employ everyone. And before you jump to the conclusion that this lack of opportunity was mainly due to discrimination keep in mind that the vast majority of Ashkenazi could not speak the local languages where they lived, and had lived for centuries. These were closed, endogenous communities mired in poverty, affecting millions. The pogroms were minor in comparison, the total number of incidents small, the number of deaths around a hundred in all. It wasn’t until we get into the 20th century that persecutions becomes a real factor for emigration.

  • http://www.theatreofthedamned.com Tom Richards

    Why Jews after the Holocaust would live in any countries other than the United States and Israel and maybe Australia and Canada and possibly Great Britain is beyond me.

    But, if they are fleeing the third world, their only safe home is really North America.

    Is there some vast and terrifying anti-semitic movement brewing in New Zealand that I haven’t heard about?

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    By the way Marty, lest you have doubts about me For your convenience below are Google searches of my name plus the words “Jews”, “Jewish”, “Judaism”,”Ashkenazi”, “Israel”, “Zionism”, and “anti-Semitism”. I defy anyone to find an anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist, or anti-Israel remark on my part. Keep in mind that I am a contrarian by nature. My remarks tend to go against the grain of whatever post I am commenting on. And I always try to make any criticisms I offer constructive. I care about the future of the Jews and of Judaism not only in this country but in Israel and around the world. In fact I became a sort of informal convert to reform Judaism some thirty-eight years ago, during the Zionism is Racism controversy at the UN. This happened under Rabbi Abraham Feinstein at the Mizpah Congregation in Chattanooga, my home town. He was my mentor, the only one in my life, and in honor of him I wrote this: https://sites.google.com/site/thetorahandthewestbank/

    Jew: http://tinyurl.com/77sjs6j

    Jewish: http://tinyurl.com/75wygf6

    Judaism: http://tinyurl.com/83yldpb

    Ashkenazi: http://tinyurl.com/7l7qa47

    Israel: http://tinyurl.com/7byxk92

    Zionism: http://tinyurl.com/76bqpy6

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Sorry, I left out anti-Semitism. Also the most important one of all:

    http://tinyurl.com/7m36e3r

    anti-Semitism: http://tinyurl.com/6ndhbwc

  • Y.

    @10,

    That statistic is factually wrong, so much so that one suspects political considerations behind it.

    See [1] for a direct rebuttal, and see [2] for some recent statistics.

    [1] http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/07/28/what_million_missing_israelis

    [2] http://www.nrg.co.il/app/index.php?do=blog&encr_id=a28b07a102084d28785d2d933122ebb1&id=3497 (Hebrew. Google translate is pretty bad when translating this, not sure how much it’s helpful here).