Jews in Britain: A Snapshot from the 2001 Census:
Author(s): David Graham, Marlena Schmool, Stanley Waterman
Published: Friday 18 May 2007
The challenges for the community to grasp
In May JPR launched Jews in Britain: A Snapshot from the 2001 Census, which was given extensive coverage in the national and international media and the Jewish press. It laid bare the complexity of the Jewish population and demolished several popular myths: ‘the Jewish nuclear family, the homogenous Jewish household, the Jewish housewife, the married Jewish couple or the universally successful and prosperous citizen.’
Over 120 pages long, the report covers a wide range of subjects, including the nature of Jewish partnerships, intermarriage, living standards, social inequality, ethnicity, educational standards and many other demographic issues. ‘Our understanding of the British Jewish population has been revolutionized’, concluded the authors of JPR's comprehensive analysis of the data on Jews derived from answers to the first ever voluntary question on religion in the 2001 Census. ‘The results have been truly fascinating and mould-breaking.’
A debate has now been started which, JPR hopes, will provoke an extensive and much-needed examination into the nature of the Jewish community in Britain and its future needs.
The report was launched at two well-attended seminars held on consecutive days at JPR: the first, intended for Jewish community professionals and lay leaders, was attended by representatives from a wide range of communal organisations, including the UJIA, Jewish Care, Interlink Foundation, Assembly of Masorti Synagogues, Norwood, League of Jewish Women, Board of Deputies, Nightingale House, Sephardi Welfare Board and Agudas Israel Housing Association. The second seminar was intended for demographers and academics and participants came from Oxford University, the LSE, National Centre for Social Research, Greater London Authority, Royal Holloway College and the Cohesion and Faith Unit.
All three authors of the report, David Graham, Marlena Schmool and Stanley Waterman, were on hand to present the findings and discuss the policy implications, together with JPR Director Tony Lerman.
Report authors Stanley Waterman, Marlena Schmool and David Graham
To highlight a few interesting findings presented in the report:
- 36% of Jews live alone in England and Wales, therefore households containing married couples with children are no longer the norm.
- About three quarters of Jews are in-married.
- Men are slightly more likely than women to have a non-Jewish spouse or partner.
- In Tower Hamlets, 68.3% of Jews do not own a car.
- Jews are more likely to be self-employed than non-Jews.
- 17.5% of all British Jews live in Barnet.
- 47% of Jews in Hackney are economically inactive.
- Over a quarter of babies are now born into the strictly Orthodox community.
JPR Chairman, Peter Levy OBE, challenged the Jewish community professionals and lay leaders to ensure that this data is put to good use in planning for the future and to give careful consideration to the policy implications for the Jewish community.
He warned that since the Jewish community was not homogeneous, adhering to a narrow definition of community meant that significant numbers of self-defining Jews were abandoned. He recommended the adoption of a broader idea of the community. ‘Was it not time for us to take a mature look at what is happening in Jewish partnerships? We should integrate the “new Jewish family” into our thinking.’ Peter Levy said that the report posed a complex challenge for Jewish planners and that everything should be re-thought in light of this new data. Looking ahead to the 2011 census, he also highlighted the need for continued detailed independent research.
The communal professionals generally agreed that before 2011, more should be done to encourage members of the Jewish community to fill out the voluntary question on religion. It was feared that the poor response rate, particularly in some strictly Orthodox areas where residents ignored the voluntary question on the advice of their religious leaders, had resulted in a serious undercount which might have funding implications for the future.
Marlena Schmool said that demographic figures alone were not sufficient in a changing world. Attitudinal research was also required which could show us how people live their lives and make their choices. There was no longer merely one kind of Jewish answer. She called for consolidated Jewish leadership relating to research and planning. Since an increasing number of Jews no longer felt part of the Jewish community, the numbers were shrinking. She warned that the Jewish community could no longer afford to compartmentalize the way its services were provided, for example in Jewish education, where there is often no strategic thinking before a new school is opened. A leadership that prevents compartmentalization was therefore a top priority.
David Graham said he would like to see ‘Jewish’ listed as an ethnic category choice in the 2011 census. He also explained that the different wording employed by the Scottish census in their questions about religion had thrown up fascinating data. By asking respondents to list their current religion as well as their religion of upbringing, the census revealed that nearly a quarter of respondents considered themselves to be ‘lost’ to Judaism.
Marlena explained that the death rate amongst British Jews was higher than the birth rate. Any Jewish community abroad which had grown in numbers had done so as a result of the influx of Russian immigrants, but as the UK did not receive many Russian Jews, there was less potential for growth here. Since the 1950s principally Jews from the United States, South Africa and Israel had been attracted to the UK. Meanwhile, more younger people in the future would be excluded from the statistics either because they did not identify themselves as Jews or were only partially Jewish.
Tony Lerman said the report tells us to open out our thinking about the Jewish community, which is very variegated with very varied needs. He recommended that we must look at different segments and explore their specific needs. He also pointed out that the report proved the lie to Bernard Wasserstein’s predictions that there would be no Jews left in Europe by 2050.
Participants at the seminar for demographers and academics were more concerned with wider issues, such as where the Jewish community started and ended? Who do we include or exclude? They were impressed with the fact that this set of data makes the British Jewish population the best analysed in Europe.
Representatives of other minority groups who were present at the seminar expressed an interest in replicating this pioneering study within their own ethnic or religious communities. Linda Bellos pointed out that similar issues are frequently debated in the Sikh, black and Asian communities.
Stanley Waterman warned that the Jewish community had difficult decisions to make in the light of the realisation that it is an ageing population and that its younger people do not contribute to the wellbeing of the community.
David Graham regretted that all the headlines about the report in the media had focused on the data on intermarriage and assimilation. Where were all the headings about non-marriage, birth rate and divorce and re-marriage rates, he asked? The wider society was changing fast, just as the Jewish population was, but these changes went unrecognised in the search for sensationalism.
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