South Africa’s Jews ‘here to stay’

16 October 2006

South Africa’s Jewish community is increasingly confident about its future in the country, a recent survey has found, with 79% of those polled saying they were “very likely” to stay in SA – compared to 42% of those surveyed in 1998.

The survey, by the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town, was conducted in 2005 among 1 000 adults.

According to the survey, 79% of South African Jews are “very likely” to continue living in South Africa – up from 44% of respondents in a similar survey conducted by the Kaplan Centre in 1998.

Combined with those who said they were “fairly likely to stay,” 92% of SA’s Jewish community sees its future in the country – up from 71% in 1998.

Among the reasons for staying cited by survey respondents was emotional attachment to South Africa, strong attachments to family, the performance of SA’s economy, and religious freedom in the country.

According to lead researcher Shirley Bruk, the general feeling among interviewees was that the overall situation in South Africa had improved “substantially” since the 1998 survey. Almost three-quarters (73%) agreed with the statement that “the South African economy is improving”.

“It is a stunning change from 1998,” center director Milton Shain said in a statement, adding that confidence was “especially noticeable among the younger generation.”

According to the survey, most respondents said South Africa had a climate of religious tolerance and diversity, with anti-Semitism seen as a minor problem in the country. Eighty-eight percent believed the South African government allows religious freedom for Jews.

However, 85% perceived anti-Zionism as more of an issue in South Africa, and 60% agreed with the statement that Israel should “give up some territory in exchange for credible guarantees of peace” – up from 49% in 1998.

While the Jewish community voiced “strong concern in areas of wider relevance, including crime, corruption, health care and education,” the percentage of those who viewed SA’s political stability in a negative light fell from 72% in 1998 to 31% in the latest survey.

“South African Jews, while maintaining a distinctive identity, are very much part of South African society and proud of it,” Shain said.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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