Is there really a Jewish exodus from western Europe?

According to the Jewish Agency, 8,636 Jews left west European countries to make “Aliyah” - what the Israeli government term Jewish immigration - during 2014. This was a rise of 88% on 2013, and far higher than any year for the previous two decades.

This undoubtedly fuels speculation that Jews are reacting to rising levels of antisemitism in the west - whether anti “Jewification” rallies in north London, far-right marches in Germanic countries or fatal attacks on the community in France. But there may be other motives for Jewish emigration, such as economic factors.

In 2014, more than twice as many Jews left France as left the US, despite the former having a population 11 times smaller (478,000) than the latter (5.4m) according to the Berman Jewish DataBank.

In fact, the vast majority of western European migration to Israel is coming from French Jews. Out of the 8,636 that left this part of the continent, 7,086 - or 82% - were coming from France.

France saw a 115% rise in the number of its Jews leaving between 2013 and 2014. Figures such as these prompted Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard to say that within a few years the number of Jews in the country could drop to as low as 400,000.

But France is one of the few western European countries that has seen a sizeable escalation in the number of Jews the Agency recorded as making Aliyah, and has largely driven the overall trend for western Europe.

Although the 617 that left Great Britain was a rise of nearly 20% on 2013, it was fewer than the 700 that left in 2012 and far fewer than the 853 in 2009.

In other countries with a sizeable Jewish population such as Belgium and the Netherlands, the number of Jews leaving actually dropped between 2013 and 2014 - although there are so few each year that the variation is not particularly significant.

The only place which shares a similar rise in Jewish emigration to France is Italy. There were 339 that left in 2014, which, though a small fraction of the French number, is a huge rise in proportional terms: 124% on 2013.

The indication that this is currently a trend limited to France and Italy as far as western Europe goes is given further backing if you cross-reference the numbers with the estimated core Jewish population in each country from the Berman data.

For every 10,000 Jews in France, 148 were emigrating to Israel while the same is true of 121 in Italy (it is worth point out here that these numbers are all estimates). The comparable ratio is 81 in Belgium and around 20 in the UK and the Netherlands. Of those living in the US, just 5 per 10,000 made Aliyah according to the Agency.

Other evidence suggests that beyond France, Jewish emigration is much more pronounced in eastern Europe. The migration rate in Ukraine and Russia, for example, is notably high. According to analysis by Channel 4 of Israeli migration figures, nearly one in 10 Ukrainian Jews left the country last year.

There are a few limitations with this analysis though. We do not, for example, know how many Jews have decided to leave European countries for places other than Israel - the UK and America for example. A robust source simply does not exist.

Neither is there the evidence to suggest a single cause behind these trends. Although there have been repeated high profile antisemitic attacks in France and evidence points to a rise in hate crimes, there may be other reasons to move. Israel’s GDP grew by 3.3% in 2013, compared to France’s relatively meagre 0.2%.

All this aside, the trend is clear - in Italy and France the number of Jews emigrating has grown at some pace over the last couple of years.