PARIS — A third of French Jews are more religious today than 14 years ago. At the same time, nearly 40% of younger Jews marry outside the faith.
The profile of Western Europe's largest but dwindling Jewish population is captured in a new study by the Paris-based Unified Jewish Social Fund. The survey of more than 1,000 Jews is considered the most comprehensive look in years at the Jewish community in France.
"There is a double movement," said David Saada, general director of the Social Fund, assessing the survey's often contradictory findings. "On the one hand, there's a greater affirmation of Jewish identity, but also an increase in marriages outside the community -- which doesn't necessarily mean abandoning the Jewish faith.
"The conclusion is that the Jewish community in France is very diverse, with contradictory tendencies," Saada said in an interview.
About 500,000 French citizens declare themselves Jews, the study found, but their numbers rise to 575,000 when the children of mixed couples are taken into account. That figure is roughly comparable to the number of Jewish residents of Southern California.
Overall, Jews who consider themselves to be observant tend to be less educated and less well off than those who don't, according to the report. Nearly half of French Jews were born in France -- a slight increase from 1988 -- but nearly 70% have roots in France's former North African colonies.