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September 9, 2014 11:18 pm

Lawyer: Major Increase in Wealthy French Jews Seeking to Move Assets to U.S., Flee Anti-Semitism in France (INTERVIEW)

avatar by Dave Bender

Rioters outside a Paris synagogue. Photo: Facebook.

An attorney at a top New York law firm representing high-net-worth clients told The Algemeiner on Sunday that he has seen a dramatic increase in inquiries from wealthy French Jews who are looking to relocate to New York and invest locally due to violent antisemitism on the continent.

“Until recently there wasn’t a huge interest in French Jewish families emigrating or making a big move of their assets somewhere,” noted Marlen Kruzhkov, of Gusrae Kaplan.

Latest statistics report that the 500,000 – strong French Jewish community has passed the former Soviet Union states as the largest source of Jewish emigrants to Israel. 

Since the beginning of 2014 and especially since Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge against Hamas rocket fire out of Gaza, “from two to three people a year, I’ve gotten calls from two to three dozen people in the last three months,” Kruzhkov said.

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Kruzhkov’s clients average net worth is in the $50 to $70 million range, according to a report in the New York Observer. While he’s worked with French-speaking Jews for close to a decade, he pointed out that even some of his non-Jewish clients are aghast at what they see happening in France.

“One of my clients has a gallery in France. They’re not Jewish but they have a gallery which happens to be across the street from the Israeli embassy,” he explained.

“And again, I emphasize: they are not Jews, nor are they French people; they are from Latvia.” But, “they were shocked at the level of vitriol, the demonstrations that were happening. Their gallery was being shut down on an almost daily basis, because they were shutting down the entire street while these horrible, horrible violent protests were being held near the Israeli embassy.”

“The first thing we ask a client is, ‘why are you here,’ ‘why now,’ ‘why all of a sudden,’ ‘what is your goal?'” he told The Algemeiner. “And almost all of them answer, ‘they don’t feel safe anymore.’ And why they US? ‘Because it’s a good place to invest,'” he recounted.

“Literally everyone – and it came up in every conversation – every single one of them said they didn’t feel comfortable or safe anymore.”

Kruzhkov told The Observer that, as a result, some “$1.44 billion in wealth” was transferred from France to New York.

Scenes of Jews trapped in synagogues as a furious largely Arab mob tries to break in; stores looted and torched; rabbis savagely beaten on the street, all have left a mark on the increasingly uncomfortable community, and supportive non-Jews, like the gallery owners.

“But what shocked them wasn’t that they were happening, or how violent they were – all were shocking – it was how little the police did to actually rein anybody in. It was really shocking, so that gives you a kind of sense of the environment over there,” he said.

“Once France held the largest Jewish population in Europe; but people don’t have faith – and it’s not by accident.”

“…everyone’s interested in getting their families out, and that’s almost exclusively driven by them not feeling safe anymore.”

About half of his clients are interested in gaining US citizenship, and not moving to Israel, he said. Of those, the sense was “why jump out of the frying pan and into the fire,” of settling into a country at war.

“A lot of people, who want to make aliyah, feel that it’s not a great time to be [in Israel]. It’s a complex situation at the moment; I definitely am glad that I don’t have to make those decisions for my family,” he said on a personal note.

When asked whether Jews from other troubled areas, like the Ukraine, Russia, or even the United Kingdom were also seeking to move, he said “it’s just a volume issue.”

He notes that, of late, South African Jews have also contacted him for his services. “Palestinians have been very good at creating the propaganda that Israel’s an apartheid state.”

“When people start calling and saying ‘I have to look out for my family; it’s not safe for Jews’ those are things your grandparents talked about.

When callers tell him, “‘people are being beaten up on the street, and the police don’t do anything about it; I don’t feel safe letting my children walk around’ – it’s scary. This is the 21st century!”

“All these normal, educated, civilized people, and they’re a hop, skip, and a jump away from ‘blame the Jews,'” he concluded.

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