JPR conducts research on Jews all over Europe. At the heart of this programme is our specialist unit dedicated to generating data about the fundamentals of European Jewish life – key statistics that allow community leaders and policymakers to understand the demographic structure of Jewish populations, to determine whether they are projected to grow, decline or remain stable, and to understand the factors underpinning any changes foreseen.
These types of data play a critical role in community planning. They can be used not only to understand trends at the national and local levels, but also to inform thinking about key policy issues. Should a community build a new school? Will there be sufficient demand to fill it? How many people are projected to need elderly care places over the coming years, and will the existing infrastructure be able to cater for them? Should a foundation invest in an infrastructural project in a particular city? Do population projections necessitate or justify such an investment? Making these types of decisions with reference to reliable data helps ensure that funds are invested wisely, with due consideration of what the Jewish population is expected to look like based on the available evidence.
The data generated by the unit play other key roles too. They inform analysis of contemporary antisemitism–migration data, for example, provide an important indicator of anxiety levels among Jews that, when used alongside other sources, can be attributed to that concern. They play an essential role in synagogue life – monitoring community affiliation rates over time, and understanding the causes of any changes seen, are critical indicators of community vitality. And they feed directly into a host of other research initiatives. To cite one example, the major pan-European studies of Jews undertaken by the European Union in recent years, that have formed the basis of the European Commission’s strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, simply could not have happened without the foundational demographic data provided by JPR.
The data we use come from multiple places – most notably national statistical agencies, community organisations and population surveys. But our demography unit also plays a didactic role with Jewish communities across Europe, training key professionals to create data gathering systems in their countries to ensure that the work we do not only serves the purpose of a single, particular project but leaves mechanisms in place to help understand the community for years to come.