Membership of a synagogue has traditionally been regarded as the most widely held point of formal affiliation to and identity with the Jewish community. However, the situation has been changing fast in recent years, with membership becoming more fluid and transient. It is therefore of interest that the Institute for Jewish Policy Research and the Board of Deputies of British Jews have jointly published Synagogue Membership in the United Kingdom in 2010, by David Graham and Daniel Vulkan. It is available to download from:
This report continues a series of approximately quinquennial surveys of synagogue membership in the UK which was initiated by the Board in 1977. However, in order to capture the growing Strictly Orthodox membership, the methodology employed for the 2010 census (primarily conducted online using Survey Monkey between June 2009 and February 2010) differed from earlier investigations, necessitating adjustment to the statistics published for earlier years.
The total number of synagogue members by household (i.e. not individuals) in the UK in 2010 is 82,963 in 409 synagogues. 73% of Jewish households in the UK are estimated to belong to a synagogue. The decline in synagogue membership flattened out between 2005 and 2010 (with a decrease of only 0.3%), but the 2010 figure is still 24% below the level in 1983.
The largest synagogue group, by denomination, is Central Orthodox (including the United Synagogue), with 55% of the total membership, compared with 66% in 1990. By contrast, the number of Strictly Orthodox synagogue members has more than doubled over these two decades, to reach 11%. Masorti numbers have also risen, by 85%, but they remain less than 3% of total synagogue membership. The overall proportion of ‘non-Orthodox’ relative to ‘Orthodox’ strands has increased from 26% to 31%.
Almost 64% of synagogue members live in London, a higher proportion than the 56% of affiliating Jews resident there at the 2001 census. However, the number of synagogue members in the capital (defined in terms of political administrative boundaries) has fallen by one-fifth since 1990. A further 9% of synagogue members are in districts contiguous with London (South Hertfordshire and South-West Essex) and 10% are in Greater Manchester. The remaining 10 UK regions account for only 17% of all synagogue members.