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Date: 2018
Abstract: This study, which forms part of JPR’s research programme for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, investigates the numbers of births and deaths that have taken place in Jewish population of the UK in recent years. Births and deaths reflect natural life events and are critical to understanding how the population is changing over time, particularly in terms of its size and structure. By monitoring the balance of births over deaths or vice versa (i.e. natural increase or decrease), it is possible to predict future trends, including the stability, growth or decline of the population. The report, authored by JPR research Fellow, Donatella Casale Mashiah, demonstrates that the UK Jewish community has turned an important corner in recent years. Following several decades of demographic decline, during which Jewish deaths consistently exceeded Jewish births, births have exceeded deaths in every year since 2006, which implies Jewish demographic growth in the UK, all other factors being equal (e.g. migration, adhesions, renouncements). The total number of Jewish births per annum in the UK has increased by about 25% over the past decade, peaking in 2011 at 3,869. This has more to do with birth rates in the strictly Orthodox part of the Jewish community than the remainder, although both sectors have seen an increase. By contrast, the number of Jewish deaths per annum has been falling over time, broadly in line with national trends, due to increasing life expectancy. 2,411 Jewish death were recorded in the UK in 2016, the lowest number on record. The average between 1979 and 2016 was 3,738. Denominationally, the majority of deaths (68%) in 2018 were ‘central Orthodox’ – i.e. funerals conducted under the auspices of the United Synagogue, the Federation of Synagogues, or independent modern Orthodox synagogues. These were followed, in turn, by Reform at 18%, Liberal at 6%, Sephardi at 4%, Strictly Orthodox at 2% and Masorti at 1%. These proportions are reflective of the relative size of each group in the Jewish population at the oldest age bands. Beyond the overarching story of the Jewish population that these data reveal, the numbers themselves are also essential for planning purposes. They are of significant value to local authorities, politicians, community leaders, educators and charitable organisations among others, since they can be applied to assess a variety of communal needs, such as childcare facilities, school places, elderly care facilities, religious services and burial grounds.
Date: 2017
Abstract: This study, which was produced by JPR on behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, takes an in-depth statistical look at synagogue membership figures in the UK. Synagogue membership data have been gathered and analysed consistently over several decades, and constitute the best measure of Jewish communal affiliation in the UK that exists. They provide the only consistent indicator of patterns of Jewish affiliation and belonging over time, and are thus of particular interest to community leaders and planners.

The report, authored by JPR researchers Dr Donatella Casale Mashiah and Dr Jonathan Boyd, finds that despite the fact that there are now 454 synagogues in the UK – the largest number ever recorded – synagogue membership numbers have dropped below 80,000 households for the first time since records began. Indeed, there has been a 20% decline over a quarter of a century, and a 4% decline since the last such report was published in 2010.

However, the overall decline masks important developments at a denominational level. Critically, the sector that has declined most sharply is central Orthodoxy – broadly understood as the United Synagogue, the Federation and various independent modern Orthodox synagogues dotted around the country – which collectively have seen a 37% drop since 1990. This decline is partly due to disaffection, but it has also been driven considerably by natural decrease – more members dying than being born.

In contrast, membership of strictly Orthodox synagogues is growing. Indeed, it has grown dramatically over time – by 139% since 1990. A generation ago, the strictly Orthodox comprised 4.5% of all synagogue members households; today they comprise 13.5%. This growth is driven almost exclusively by demographic forces – particularly, high birth rates in this sector of the community.

Taken as a whole, Liberal, Reform and Masorti figures have been fairly stable over time. Liberal and Reform have both declined slightly since 1990, whereas Masorti has grown, albeit from a lower base. But this overall picture of stability is somewhat misleading: in reality, Liberal and Reform synagogues are both losing members at a similar rate to the central Orthodox ones, but unlike those central Orthodox ones, they are also attracting members from their religious ‘right’ to offset those losses.