At a conference in Budapest, one of Israel’s top rabbis has said that high assimilation rates among European Jews were “worse than the Holocaust”.

Rabbi Shimon Elitov, a member of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Council High, was commenting on reports presented to a gathering of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, where over 300 Jewish religious figures met to discuss the problem.

The rabbis heard that over 85% of European Jews assimilated and intermarried, four out of every five did not attend shul, even for Yom Kippur, and three quarters did not receive a Jewish education.

“Assimilation in the shocking numbers that we see is worse that the physical Holocaust that we saw,” said Elitov, as reported in Arutz Sheva.

Other senior rabbis also invoked the Holocaust, with Rabbi Barel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia, speaking about threats to shechita (ritual slaughter) and bril milah (male circumcision) saying: “In the Holocaust they killed us by force, through murder, but they understand (now) that it didn’t work… Today they try to murder our souls.”

The landmark conference, which was attended by Israeli Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef and was held in Budapest to mark 70 years since the murder of Hungarian Jews by the Nazis, also heard calls for European Jews to make aliyah.

Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan called for European rabbis to save their communities by coming to Israel. In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Ben-Dahan said that in Israel “there is no intermarriage”.

On what he tells his European colleagues, he said: “I tell them there is no choice, to immigrate with (the remaining Jews) to Israel. I don’t know any other solution to prevent intermarriage.”