Community research reveals 3,000 children living below the poverty line
AROUND 3,000 Jewish children are living below the poverty line in Britain today, according to new research into deprivation in the Jewish community.
Four hundred children are providing unpaid care for dependent adults in their own homes, while four per cent of children at state-aided Jewish schools are eligible for free school meals.
The figures, obtained from analysis of the 2001 Census and other surveys, have been released to the JC by the Shoresh Trust, which is to conduct further investigations into Jewish child poverty with the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).
The need for more data became evident at a meeting chaired by Lord Turnberg at JPR last summer, which was attended by a range of Jewish agencies from across the community, from the Agudas Israel Housing Association to Jewish Women’s Aid. Katherine Hallgarten, a trustee of the Shoresh Trust — which was set up by her mother, Ruth Borchard — told the JC this week: “What c a me o u t clearly was that poverty is not an issue only in the Charedi community.” While Jewish organisations were confident about dealing with problems about the elderly, they were less so about child poverty, she said.
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, rabbi of the North Western Reform Synagogue in London and also a Shoresh trustee, believes that synagogues in particular need to be more aware of the impact of financial hardship.
“Poverty has a marginalising effect. It often takes people out of synagogue membership or makes it difficult for them to participate in synagogue activities, such affording youth club events,” he said.
People may also leave centres of Jewish life to look for cheaper housing, where there are fewer Jews and hence the likelihood of further detachment from the community.
The research will try to determine the extent of Jewish child poverty, the number of families below the poverty line — nationally defined as 60 per cent of the average wage — and what their needs are.