EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Shifts in perceptions among European Jews on where they feel safest is not due entirely to demographic change. It also has to do with Eastern European leaders like the Czech Republic’s Miloš Zeman, who, in the tradition of the country’s founder, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, has become not just a strong voice for his people but a true friend of the Jews.
Czech President Miloš Zeman’s historic speech to the Israeli Knesset on November 26, 2018, in which he stressed that his country is not only Israel’s best friend in Europe but one of its best friends in the world, came on the heels of an important report released by the American Jewish Distribution Committee (JDC) on November 20.
The JDC report concluded that there is an ongoing historical shift in the perceptions of Jewish elites in Europe. Whereas a century ago they viewed Western Europe as a sanctuary for European Jewry, they now feel far safer in Eastern Europe. Analysts attributed this phenomenon to demographic changes in Western Europe; the influx of Muslim refugees in the wake of the wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and the rise of radical Islam.