Jewish Demography and Jewish Education in the UK: The Continuity Crisis and Jewish Renewal Efforts

Dec. 20, 2007

Source: Presented at a Seminar in Honor of Professor Naamah Tsabar-Ben Yehoshua at Tel Aviv University School of Education.

The Jewish population of the UK is the second largest in Western Europe. An analysis of demographic data from the national Census of 2001 made by the UK Board of Deputies Community Research Unit indicates a sharp decline in the number of Jews in the UK over the last decades. Over the last fifty years the Jewish population has dropped from 420,000 to 280,000. One of the major contributing factors to this decrease is a marked drop off in the Jewish birth rate. This decline results from changes in Jewish family patterns:
• Intermarriage (men) (estimated at 30%)
• Non-marriage
• Cohabitation patterns
• Late marriages
• Divorce
• Late births
• Small family units
The decline in Jewish population is also a consequence of Jewish assimilation, disaffiliation and apathy.
However, over the last decade communal efforts have resulted in a meaningful increase in Jewish schools and kindergartens as well as a marked growth in enrollment in Jewish educational institutions. Strengthened Jewish education has been named as the main mechanism to address the demographic crisis. In order to determine if Jewish schools can decelerate the demographic decline of the Jewish community, the following questions must be answered.
• What is the 'impact' of Jewish education?
• Does Jewish education make a difference?
• Does Jewish education influence the identity, the choices and the Jewish way of life of its students?
• Does Jewish education reduce intermarriage

Updated: Mar. 24, 2008