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Date: 2021
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic hit the British Jewish community hard. According to data gathered by JPR in July 2020, 25% of British Jews had already contracted the virus by that time and Jewish mortality rates in London in April 2020 – the peak of the first wave – were almost three times as high as usual. In Manchester, the picture was even worse. Building on our previous studies on this topic, this paper looks at Jewish mortality over the first year of the pandemic, taking in both the first wave (March to May 2020) and the second wave (December 2020 to February 2021). Whilst it confirms that excess mortality among Jews during the first wave was considerably higher than among comparative non-Jews (280% higher compared to 188%), it reveals that the second wave saw the opposite picture: 69% higher than expected levels of mortality for that period among Jews, compared to 77% among the non-Jewish comparative group. This second wave picture is exactly what one might expect to see given that Jews typically enjoy relatively good health and longevity, so it forces us to ask again: what happened during the first wave to cause such devastation across the Jewish community? Whilst not yet definitive about their conclusions, the authors point towards the ‘religious sociability’ hypothesis – that notion that close interaction between Jews, prior to the first lockdown, caused the devastating spike in Jewish deaths early on. The paper also demonstrates that the ‘Jewish penalty’ at this time was greater among Orthodox Jews than Progressive ones which further strengthens the hypothesis, as much higher proportions of Orthodox Jews gather regularly for religious reasons than Progressive Jews (even though Progressive Jews do so more regularly than British society as a whole). The fact that the picture of extremely high excess mortality among British Jews was not repeated during the second wave (on the contrary, excess mortality among Jews was very slightly lower than among the comparator non-Jewish population, and slightly higher among Progressive Jews than Orthodox ones), suggests that the religious sociability theory was no longer a major factor at this time. With many synagogues closed or complying closely with the social distancing policies established by government, Jews were affected by coronavirus in much the same way as others. The findings in this paper should be taken seriously by at least two key groups. Epidemiologists and public health experts should explore the impact of religious sociability more carefully, as currently, socioeconomic factors tend to dominate analysis. And Jewish community leaders must also reflect on the findings and, in the event of a similar pandemic in the future, consider instituting protective measures much more quickly than occurred in early 2020.
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: 2012
Author(s): Staetsky, L.
Date: 2011
Date: 2007