Britain’s Jewish community, long in decline, may ‘very probably’ be experiencing natural increase, and much of this growth may be due to Strictly Orthodox Jews, who now (conservatively) account for more than two-fifths of Jewish births.
This is according to a new report from Daniel Vulkan, Britain’s Jewish Community Statistics, 2010, the first study of Jewish life events for five years. Published by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, it is available at:
The data are subject to important caveats. In particular, ‘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’. Also, no account is taken of migration flows or of conversions/lapsations.
With these reservations in mind, the key findings may be noted:
- The number of births in 2007 (the last year for which they can be computed by inference from circumcisions of boys) was 3,313, an increase of 21% over the 1997 figure.
- For 2005-07 there were 1,037 more inferred births than deaths.
- There were 836 Jewish marriages in 2010, the lowest figure since the Board’s records began in 1901. 2005 was the last year in which there were more than 1,000.
- Strictly Orthodox marriages in 2006-10 were 28% of the total and Central Orthodox 50%. This represented a big shift from the position in 1981-85 (9% and 66% respectively).
- 81% of marriages in 2010 were first marriages for both parties (15% more than in England and Wales as a whole), 10% involved one divorced partner, and in 7% both parties were divorced.
- Average age of Jewish marriage, where known, was 33 years for men and 31 for women (30 and 28 in the case of first marriages). It is likely that the age at first marriage for Strictly Orthodox Jews was considerably younger, possibly 19 or 20 years.
- There were 221 religious (ie excluding civil) divorces in 2010, the trend being downwards, as it is in the country generally.
- 2,734 burials or cremations under Jewish auspices were recorded in 2010, a big fall (37%) from a twenty-year peak of 4,346 in 1993.
- The proportion of Central Orthodox deaths was 69%, Strictly Orthodox only 5% (suggesting a very youthful age profile), Reform 16%, Liberal 7%, others 3%.
- The incidence of cremation was far lower among Jews (11%) than for all deaths in England and Wales (73%).