This paper describes and analyzes the multiple ethnic identities and identifications among first-generation Jewish Israeli immigrants in Europe, and specifically in London and Paris, by means of closed-end questionnaires (N=114) and in-depth semi-structured interviews (N=23).
Israelis who live in Europe are strongly attached to Israel and are proud to present themselves as Israelis. Despite their place of residence, these Israelis, particularly those residing in London and over the age of 35, manage to find ways to preserve their Israeli identity. They also perceive the need to expose their children to other Israelis as another means of preventing assimilation. On the other hand, those who are under the age of 35, and in particular those residing in Paris, have less opportunity or less need to maintain their Israeli identity in Europe. The older Israelis in London are also somewhat more integrated with the proximal host and have a stronger Jewish identity than do younger Israelis, particularly those residing in Paris. Living in Europe allows Israelis to flourish economically without having to identify with or belong to a cultural and social ethnic niche. The ethnic identity of first-generation Israeli immigrants in Europe is multifaceted. While it is primarily transnational, it is also dynamic and constantly changing though various interactions and is, of course, susceptible to current local and global political and economic events. For younger Israeli immigrants, assimilation into the non-Jewish population appears to be a possible form of identity and identification. This assimilation may be moderated among young adults who build bridges with local Jewish communities in tandem with their transnational formal connections with Israel, a process that can benefit both sides. Such a process – the reconstruction of ethnic Israeli-Jewish identity and collaborative dentification with local Jews - has the potential to strengthen and enhance the survivability of European Jewry at large.