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Lay and professional leaders from across the British Jewish community convened in March at the annual JPR President’s lunch at the House of Lords. The event, hosted by JPR’s President Lord Leigh of Hurley, provided an opportunity to talk about JPR’s current work and future plans.
In his address, JPR’s Executive Director, Dr Jonathan Boyd, spoke about ‘Truth’, a topic he said was particularly pertinent at present. He recalled that when he studied at the Mandel Institute in Jerusalem, the Professor of Education, the late Seymour Fox, regularly used to ask his students his signature question: ‘How do you know that?’ Boyd explained that this question had remained with him ever since and lay at the basis of all JPR’s social scientific research.
He explained that JPR’s role is to contribute social and demographic research that: (1) relates to the real questions people are asking; (2) aids organisational policy development; and (3) is of sufficiently high quality to demonstrate both to our clients and to ourselves, exactly how, or to what extent we know our findings to be true.
He illustrated this approach with two examples: Jewish schools and antisemitism. Regarding Jewish schools, he noted that there has been considerable concern in recent years about an inadequate supply of places in Jewish secondary schools in North West London, yet no community leader has, until very recently, invested in a serious attempt to empirically measure the extent to which this is, in fact, a problem. Boyd reported that JPR recently published a study jointly with the Board of Deputies which quantifies the number of Jewish children in Jewish schools from the 1950s to the present, and was subsequently commissioned by Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS) to examine the demand for places in Jewish secondary schools in North West London. On the back of both these studies, JPR was commissioned by two of the key Jewish secondary schools in London to prepare bespoke reports for them containing statistical projections of the demand for places in future years. All of these reports have helped to provide a strong empirical basis from which to build Jewish educational provision in the UK going forwards.
Concerning antisemitism, he articulated JPR’s role as making research-based assessments about what is going on, and to monitor whether the situation is becoming better or worse over time. With the support of CST, as well as the Department for Communities and Local Government and a number of individual donors, he explained that JPR is currently carrying out one of the most detailed social studies of antisemitism ever conducted in this country. New data are being gathered to paint a highly detailed portrait of British people’s attitudes towards Jews, Israel and Zionism, including investigating attitudes within key sub-groups in the population. With this study, JPR hopes to pinpoint much more accurately where the problems of antisemitism exist in British society, enabling government, the police, the security services and the Jewish community to carefully fine-tune their strategies to combat it.
Boyd reported that as we do more work in the realm of education and antisemitism, amongst other areas, JPR’s reputation for quality, reliability, independence and expertise grows. We are invited to more and more key conferences, seminars, meetings about European Jewry, while international interest in our broader research grows too.
He thanked the JPR Board for their support and particularly singled out the contribution of Pears Foundation, which is JPR’s largest single contributor of unrestricted funding. He praised Trevor Pears for the visionary and strategic investments he has made in the Jewish and wider communities, maintaining that he has long understood that an investment in JPR is an investment in the British Jewish community as a whole, and that JPR can dramatically enhance the prospects for the future of Jewish life in the UK if we have the right data to answer that key question: how do we know that?