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The Jewish community of Switzerland represents 0.25% of the current population - this percentage has remained stable over the last thirty years – whereas in 1920 it was at 0.54%. This fall is mainly due to the “excellent integration” of Jewish followers, a direct result of the increase in mixed marriages – 31.7% in 1940 / 51.6% in 1990 – and the disaffiliation of children born of these marriages.

Historically, the Jewish presence in Switzerland dates back to the Roman era. In the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of different wrongdoings and were persecuted. It wasn’t until 1866 that they were granted equal rights and that they once again came to live in the big cities of Switzerland. At the end of the 19th century, large numbers of Jewish refugees (4, 000 to 5, 000 people) arrived in Switzerland from Russia and Poland. The immigration of Jews from Northern Africa occurred during the 50s and 60s.

It should be underlined that, with respect to the social and economic status of its members, the Jewish community is very well integrated into Swiss society. In 2000, 78.8% of Jews living in Switzerland had Swiss citizenship. They belong, for the most part, to the middle and upper class and have, on average, more education than Swiss citizens who are not Jewish. Most synagogues are located in Switzerland’s four largest cities: Zurich, Geneva, Basle, Berne and their conurbations.

Although anti-Semitism is punishable under Swiss law, people’s reactions towards Jews are not always positive. In fact it seems that religious anti-Semitism is on the verge of disappearing, replaced by a new anti-Zionism, due especially to the policy adopted by Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians. Another reason lies clearly in the pressure that Jewish groups exerted on Swiss banks in the 1990s because of their role in the Second World War and afterwards.

For more information: Daniel Gerson, Sabina Bossert, Les mutations du judaïsme en Suisse, Université de Bâle, 2010. final Report.

D 8 October 2012    AJoëlle Sanchez AJörg Stolz

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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