What baby boom? Board dis­putes birth sta­tis­tics for UK Jews

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEON SY­MONS

A CLAIM by a Univer­sity of Manch­ester re­searcher that Bri­tain’s Jewish pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing for the first time since the Sec­ond World War has been ques­tioned by the Board of Deputies.

Yaakov Wise, of the Univer­sity’s Jewish-stud­ies de­part­ment, claimed that the pop­u­la­tion was 275,000 in 2005, but had in­creased to 280,000 by 2008. He said the main fac­tor was the steady in­crease in births in the strictly Ortho­dox com­mu­nity.

Th­ese had been cal­cu­lated from an­nual records com­pleted in De­cem­ber 2007 and showed, he claimed, that sec­u­lar Jewish women had on av­er­age 1.65 chil­dren whereas Charedi women were hav­ing on av­er­age 6.9 chil­dren, and in some ar­eas even more.

Dr Wise said: “Though Bri­tain’s Jewish pop­u­la­tion is the fifth largest in the world, it has de­clined by 40 per cent, from over 450,000 in 1950 to only 280,000 to­day.

“The high birth rate of ul­tra-Ortho­dox Jews is now re­vers­ing this trend and that will have a ma­jor im­pact on the Jewish com­mu­nity in the years to come. The birth rate has ex­ceeded the mor­tal­ity rate for the first time since the war in each year since 2005.”

Dr Wise ad­mit­ted that the ma­jor­ity of his re­search was based on the Charedi com­mu­nity in Manch­ester, while he “kept an eye on” the com­mu­ni­ties in Lon­don and Gateshead.

But David Gra­ham, de­mog­ra­pher at the Board of Deputies and co-au­thor of Jews in Bri­tain: A Snap­shot from the 2001 Cen­sus (2007), said: “There is no ev­i­dence to show that the to­tal num­ber of Jews in the UK is on the rise. The data shows that the pop­u­la­tion is flat­ten­ing out af­ter a pro­longed pe­riod of de­mo­graphic con­trac­tion. This sug­gests the pos­si­bil­ity of growth oc­cur­ring in the fu­ture; how­ever, it is pre­ma­ture to con­clude that this has al­ready be­gun.”

Dr Wise coun­tered, say­ing that the Board’s fig­ures were “skewed un­wit­tingly to­wards the Pro­gres­sive end of the mar­ket” as there was bet­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion of syn­a­gogue mem­ber­ship.

“They are much more able to pro­vide th­ese types of fig­ures,” he added.


Charedi fam­i­lies “re­vers­ing a trend”

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