292,000 (2010 estimate by the Jewish Virtual Library)
|Regions with significant populations|
|Greater London, South Hertfordshire, south-west Essex, Greater Manchester, Gateshead, Leeds, Greater Glasgow|
|Overwhelmingly English, also Hebrew, historically Spanish and Portuguese, Yiddish primarily in the Haredi communities, Arabic language, Russian language|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Jews, British people|
|Part of a series on|
|Jews and Judaism|
British Jews (often referred to collectively as Anglo-Jewry) are British people of Jewish descent who maintain a connection to the Jewish community, either through actively practising Judaism or through cultural and historical affiliation. The UK is home to the second largest Jewish population in Europe, and has the fifth largest Jewish community worldwide. The number of identifying Jews in England and Wales has risen slightly over the past decade, indicating a stability which contrasts with the usual impression of relentless diaspora decline. The growth is largely due to the rapid growth of the Charedi community.
The first recorded Jewish community in Britain was brought to England in 1070 by King William the Conqueror, who believed that what he assumed to be their commercial skills would make his newly won country more prosperous. Two hundred years later the Jews were no longer welcome. King Edward I of England passed the Statute of the Jewry (Statutum de Judaismo) in 1275, restricting the community's activities, most notably outlawing the practice of usury (charging interest). When, 15 years later, Edward found that many of these provisions were ignored, he expelled the Jews from England. They emigrated to countries such as Poland which protected them by law. A small English community persisted in hiding despite the expulsion. Jews were not banned from Scotland, which until 1707 was an independent kingdom.
In 1656 Oliver Cromwell made it clear that the ban on Jewish settlement in England and Wales would no longer be enforced, although when Rabbi Manasseh Ben Israel brought a petition to allow Jews to return, the majority of the Protectorate Government turned it down. Gradually Jews eased back into England, first visiting for trade, then staying longer periods, and finally bringing their families. In mid-nineteenth century Ireland, then ruled by the British, Daniel O'Connell, known as "The Liberator" for his work on Catholic Emancipation, worked successfully for the repeal of the "De Judaismo" law, which prescribed a special yellow badge for Jews. Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881), of Jewish birth although he joined the Church of England, served in government for three decades, twice as prime minister.
In 2006, the Jewish community celebrated the 350th anniversary of the resettlement in England.
According to the 2011 census, 263,346 people answered “Jewish” to the voluntary question on religion, compared with 259,927 in the previous count of 2001. However, this final figure is considered an undercount. Demographers David Graham and Stanley Waterman give several reasons: the underenumeration for censuses in general; the question did not record secular Jews; the voluntary nature of the question; suspicion by Jews of such questions; and the high non-response rate for large numbers of Haredi Jews. By comparison, the Jewish Virtual Library estimated a Jewish population of 291,000 (not limited to adherents of Judaism) in 2012, making Britain's Jewish community the fifth largest in the world.
The 2001 Census included a (voluntary) religion question ("What is your religion?") for the first time in its history;[n 1] 266,740 people listed their religion as "Jewish". However, the subject of who is a Jew is complex, and the religion question did not record people who may be Jewish through other means, such as ethnically and culturally. Ninety-seven percent of people who chose Jewish as their religion put White as their ethnic group; however, a report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) suggests that, although there was an apparent option to write down "Jewish" for this question, it did not occur to many, because of "skin colour" and nationality bias; and that if "Jewish" was an explicit option, the results—only 2594 respondents were Jewish solely by ethnicity—would have been different. The religion question appeared in the 2011 Census, but there was still no explicit option for "Jewish" in the ethnic-group question. The Board of Deputies had encouraged all Jews to indicate they were Jewish, either through the religion question or the ethnicity one.
From 1990 to 2006, the Jewish population showed a decrease from 340,000 Jews to 270,000. According to the 1996 Jewish Policy Review, nearly one in two are marrying people who do not share their faith. From 2005 to 2008, the Jewish population increased from 275,000 to 280,000, attributed largely to the high birth rates of Haredi (or ultra-Orthodox) Jews. Research by the University of Manchester in 2007 showed that 75 percent of British Jewish births were to the Haredi community. Ultra-Orthodox women have an average of 6.9 children, and secular Jewish women 1.65.
About two-thirds of the UK's Jews live in Greater London or contiguous parts of South Hertfordshire and south-west Essex. Substantial communities outside the London area include Greater Manchester, home to some 30,000 Jews, and Leeds, although the Leeds Jewish community became smaller in the late 20th century. Other substantial communities include Gateshead, Glasgow and Liverpool, as well as other former industrial cities. Barnet and Hertsmere councils in the London borders polled as the first and second most Jewish local authorities in England, with Jews composing one in five and nine residents respectively.
The British Jewish population has a substantially older profile than that of the general population. In England and Wales, the median age of male Jews is 41.2, while the figure for all males is 36.1; Jewish females have a median age of 44.3, while the figure for all females is 38.1. A high proportion (83.2 percent) of Jews in England and Wales were born in the UK. About 24 percent of the community are over the age of 65 (compared to 16 percent of the general population of England and Wales). In the 2001 census Jews were the only group in which the number of persons in the 75-plus cohorts outnumbered those in the 65–74 cohort.
In 2013 it has been reported that due to anti-semitic attacks in France upon Jews, this has led to an exodus of French Jews who have moved across to the UK. This has resulted in some synagogues establishing French-language Shabbat services to fulfill a growing demand.
There are some 409 synagogues in the country, and it is estimated that 74 percent of the country's Jews are affiliated with one. Of those affiliated, the affiliations are distributed across the following groupings:
- Central Orthodox ("consisting of the United Synagogue, the Federation of Synagogues and independent Orthodox synagogues") – 54.7%
- Reform (Movement for Reform Judaism and Westminster Synagogue and Chaim V’Tikvah) – 19.4%
- Strictly Orthodox ("synagogues aligned with the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations and others of a similar ethos") – 10.9%
- Liberal (Liberal Judaism and Belsize Square) – 8.7%
- Sephardi – 3.5%
- Masorti (Assembly of Masorti Synagogues) – 2.7%
British Jewish communal organisations include:
- Board of Deputies - founded in 1760, represents the community at a national and international level. All synagogues and communal organisations are entitled to elect deputies to the Board.
- Scottish Council of Jewish Communities - the representative body of all of the Jewish communities in Scotland.
- Jewish Leadership Council - comprises the chairpeople of the major organisations in each sector of communal life, together with key individual leaders of the community.
- Community Security Trust - works to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community in Britain.
- Union of Jewish Students - supports Jewish students at university.
- London Jewish Forum.
- Movement for Reform Judaism - Formerly known as the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, It is the main organisational body of Reform Judaism throughout Great Britain.
About 60 percent of school-age Jewish children attend Jewish schools. Jewish day schools and yeshivas are found throughout the country. Jewish cultural studies and Hebrew language instruction is commonly offered at synagogues in the form of supplementary Hebrew schools or Sunday schools. The majority of Jewish schools in Britain are funded by the government. Jewish educational centres are plentiful, large-scale projects. One of the country's most famous Jewish schools is the state-funded JFS in London which opened in 1732 and has about 2100 students. It is heavily over-subscribed and applies strict rules on admissions, which led to a discrimination court case in 2009. In 2011, another large government funded school opened in North London named JCoSS, the first cross-denomination Jewish secondary school in the UK.
British Jews generally have high levels of educational achievement. Compared to the general population, they are 40 percent less likely to have no qualifications, and 80 percent more likely to have "higher-level" qualifications . With the exception of under-25s, younger Jews tend to be better educated than older ones.
The 2001 Census showed that 30.5 percent of economically active Jews were self-employed, compared to a figure of 14.2 percent for the general population. Jews aged 16–24 were more likely to be economically inactive than their counterparts in the general population; 89.2 percent of these were students.
There are a number of Jewish newspapers, magazines and other media published in Britain on a national level and on more regional levels. The most famous of these is The Jewish Chronicle, which was founded in 1841 and is the world's oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper. Other media include the Jewish News, Jewish Telegraph, Hamodia and the Jewish Tribune.
During the second half of the 20th century, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the undisguised, racial hatred of Jews became unacceptable in British society. The Jewish community was largely unaffected by occasional outbursts of antisemitism emanating from far right groups, whose energies were focused on hostility to the more visible black and ethnic minority communities.
However, since the beginning of the 21st century there has been an increase in the scope and severity of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country. The dominant sources of contemporary anti-Semitism in the UK are the far right and fundamentalist aspects of Muslim minority communities. Although in the aftermath of the Holocaust far right extremism became marginalised, Holocaust denial and Jewish conspiracy theories remain core elements of far right ideology. Nevertheless, contemporary anti-Semitism is to be found as well on the left of the political spectrum. Criticism of Israel, especially from the left, has been fuelled further by the second Palestinian Intifada and by the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
A similar explanation was given in a report released in 2012 by the Community Security Trust, documenting anti-Semitic incidents from January–June 2012, revealed that the number of incidents rose in these months compared to incidents in 2011, with 299 cases deemed anti-Semitic. There was a significant rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in March 2012, apparently influenced by the Toulouse and Montauban shootings during that month by Mohammed Merah.
In 2005, the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism commissioned an inquiry into antisemitism, publishing its findings in 2006. The inquiry stated that "until recently, the prevailing opinion both within the Jewish community and beyond [had been] that anti-Semitism had receded to the point that it existed only on the margins of society", and found a reversal of this progress since 2000. Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi, said in 2009 that increased globalisation was allowing a new kind of antisemitism to permeate into the UK. He said in 2010 that UK universities were failing to deal with "inflammatory public speeches" taking place on campus.
A number of key anti-Semitic incidents since the year 2000 can be mentioned:
- On 7 November 2003, a synagogue near Manchester was severely damaged in an arson attack.
- On 28–29 December 2008, The Community Security Trust reported that several synagogues were vandalised with anti-Semitic slogans, including “Kill Jews” and “Jihad 4 Israel” and a Jewish community centre was spray-painted with pro-Hamas slogans.
- In December 2009 there were several assaults on Jews and Jewish shops in London, mainly by Muslim youths.
- On 3 January 2009, assailants tried to burn a synagogue in the Brondesbury section of London.
- On 19 January 2009, a 31-year-old Jewish man was beaten in London by several men who shouted “for Gaza” as they attacked him.
- On 4 July 2012, a Jewish male was severely beaten in London by four assailants and taunted with anti-Semitic epithets.
- On 23 July 2013, a group of Hasidic Jewish boys riding on a coach bus near Sheerness were attacked by a gang of teenagers who shouted anti-Semitic slurs while pelting the bus with rocks and eggs.
- List of British Jews
- History of the Jews in England
- History of the Jews in Scotland
- History of the Jews in Ireland
Notes and references
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- Graham & Schmool Waterman, p. 18.
- Graham & Schmool Waterman, p. 3.
- Graham & Schmool Waterman, pp. 12–13.
- Graham & Schmool Waterman, pp. 20–21.
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- Graham & Vulkan 2010, p. 9.
- Graham & Vulkan 2010, pp. 12–13. Other affiliations were not considered in the JPR report.
- "The Future of Jewish Schools", p. 7.
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- Graham, David; Schmool, Marlena; Waterman, Stanley (18 May 2007), Jews in Britain: A Snapshot from the 2001 Census, Institute for Jewish Policy Research, archived from the original on 22 July 2011, retrieved 22 July 2011, 4.93 MiB. See webpage.
- Graham, David; Vulkan, Daniel (13 May 2010), Synagogue membership in the United Kingdom in 2010, Institute for Jewish Policy Research, archived from the original on 22 July 2011, retrieved 3 April 2011, 2.68 MiB. See webpage.
- Anti-Semitism Worldwide 1999/2000. Stephen Roth Institute. Distributed by the University of Nebraska Press. pp. 125–135.
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- Endelman, Todd M. (2002). The Jews of Britain, 1656 to 2000. University of California Press.
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- Schreiber, Mordecai; Schiff, Alvin I.; Klenicki, Leon. (2003). The Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia (3rd edition). Schreiber Publishing. pp. 79–80.
- Wynne-Jones, Jonathan; additional reporting by Jeffay, Nathan. "Is this the last generation of British Jews?". The Daily Telegraph. 26 November 2006. Accessed 1 April 2011.
- Shindler, Colin. "The Reflection of Israel Within British Jewry". Ben-Moshe, Danny; Segev, Zohar (eds) (2007). Israel, the Diaspora, and Jewish Identity. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 227–234.
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- Graham, David; Boyd, Jonathan. PDF (1.64 MB). Institute for Jewish Policy Research. 15 July 2010. Accessed 4 April 2011. Archived 22 July 2011. See webpage.
- Brown, Mick. "Inside the private world of London's ultra-Orthodox Jews". The Daily Telegraph. 25 February 2011. Accessed 1 April 2011.
- "Publications on British Jews from the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner".