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Renew our days as of old: Will we go back to Jewish activities and events?

Author(s): Jonathan Boyd, Carli Lessof and David Graham
Date: 22 September 2020

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JPR’s COVID-19 survey looks at how Jews have been impacted by the pandemic in terms of their health, jobs, finances, relationships and Jewish lives. The findings are being shared in a series of short reports looking at key policy issues, and this one focuses on the issue of how comfortable Jews feel about attending Jewish activities and events in person.

Drawing on survey responses from July 2020, it finds that whilst Jews situate themselves across the full length of the ‘comfort scale’ (running from very comfortable to very uncomfortable), there is a clear leaning towards the uncomfortable end.

Unsurprisingly, those who are uncomfortable are likely to be in older age bands and/or suffering from health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to the virus. Similarly, those who have had the virus and continue to suffer from secondary symptoms (i.e. ‘Long COVID’) also tend to be uncomfortable about attending events in person.

However, there are some interesting exceptions. The most elderly appear to feel more comfortable than average, and the youngest age bands (those aged 16-24) feel more uncomfortable than average. Those who have had COVID-19 and recovered feel more comfortable than those who have not. And those who have experienced job losses, or have been furloughed, are rather less comfortable than those whose working loves have remained reasonably stable.

It is also very striking to see that, denominationally, the Strictly Orthodox feel most comfortable about attending in-person events, whereas non-synagogue members feel most uncomfortable. Members of other ‘mainstream’ denominations cluster together in between. However, people’s level of religiosity is actually a slightly better predictor than denomination of how comfortable they feel about attending community activities or events in person – those with strong religiosity are most likely to feel comfortable, and those with weak religiosity most likely to feel uncomfortable.

Perhaps most interestingly, there is an important relationship between how comfortable people feel about attending community activities and events in person, and their general state of mental health. Those showing signs of psychological distress feel notably less comfortable than others.

Brief details about the methodology used in the survey are contained in the report. A more detailed methodological is being prepared and will be available shortly.