• Britain’s Jewish Community Statistics

    Introduction

    The Board of Deputies has been collecting statistics relating to the British Jewish community for over 50 years. This report is the latest in a series covering data relating to births, marriages, divorces and deaths, and covers the period up to 2012. The previous report, covering the period up to 2010, was published in April 2012.

    These data are collected on behalf of the whole community. It is the only exercise to do this on a regular basis and therefore the data are unique in being able to show changes over time. From the point of view of community planners, the data represent the most up-to-date portrayal of the Jewish community in Britain.

    Although they are indicative of actual demographic trends, they only represent those Jews who have chosen, or whose families have chosen, to associate themselves with the Jewish community through a formal Jewish act, ie circumcision, marriage in a synagogue, dissolution of marriage by a beth din, or Jewish burial or cremation. Consequently, Jews who have not chosen to identify in these ways do not appear in this report.

    However, the results of the National Jewish Community Survey, commissioned and carried out by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and currently being analysed, are expected to shed further light on this particular area.

    Further, it should be recognised that these data are collected regardless of institutional denomination. They therefore include some individuals who would not be recognised as Jewish by all sections of the community.

    Executive summary

    Births

    From the most recently available data, it is estimated that there were at least 3,860 Jewish ‘births’ in 2011. The true figure may indeed be somewhat higher than this.

    What is undeniable is that the number of births within the strictly Orthodox community has been continuing to increase to the extent that, even by a conservative estimate, they now comprise at least four out of every ten Jewish births.

    Marriages

    The number of Jewish marriages recorded by the Board fell to 808 in 2011, the lowest figure since the Board’s records began in 19011, before recovering slightly to 857 in 2012. The trend still appears to be downwards.

    Over the last 30 years, the proportion of marriages taking place under the auspices of ‘central Orthodox’ synagogues (the United Synagogue and other synagogues of a similar orientation) has declined from more than 60% to just under a half. Over the same period, marriages taking place in the strictly Orthodox community have increased from less than one in ten of the total to more than three in ten.

    If existing trends continue, strictly Orthodox marriages are expected to comprise a majority of all Jewish marriages within the next decade.

    Deaths

    A total of 2,452 burials or cremations under Jewish auspices were recorded in 2011 and, despite an increase to 2,575 in 2012, the downwards trend of recent decades is clearly continuing.

    Conclusions

    The number of deaths being recorded each year is now significantly lower than the inferred number of births. We can therefore conclude that the community is experiencing a period of natural increase. Whether or not this extends to a net overall increase in the Jewish population is subject to some caveats, which are discussed in the final section of this report.

    What is abundantly clear though is that the British Jewish community now contains two very different sub-communities (even though the boundary between them is not always well defined). The strictly Orthodox part of the community continues to exhibit characteristics (a younger age profile, earlier marriage and higher birth rate) which ensure that it is growing at a significant rate, and that it comprises an increasing proportion of the Jewish population of the UK. The ‘mainstream’ community, meanwhile, is continuing to experience a gradual decline in size.

    Download the full report