British Jews

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British Jews
Total population
263,346 (2011 Census)
292,000 (2010 estimate by the Jewish Virtual Library)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Greater London, South Hertfordshire, south-west Essex, Greater Manchester, Gateshead, Leeds, Greater Glasgow, Edgbaston
Primarily English; also Hebrew, historically Spanish and Portuguese among Sephardim, Yiddish primarily among Haredi Jews, Amharic among Beta Israel, Arabic among Yemeni Jews, Marathi among Bene Israel, Russian among Ashkenazim, French among more recent French Jewish immigration.
Related ethnic groups
Other Jews

British Jews (often referred to collectively as Anglo-Jewry) are British citizens who are ethnically and/or religiously Jewish. The number of identifying Jews in England and Wales has risen slightly over the past decade. The growth is largely due to the rapid growth of the Haredi 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 its commercial skills would make his newly won country more prosperous. Two hundred years later the Jews were no longer welcome. On 16 March 1190 in the run up to the 3rd Crusade the Jewish population of York was massacred at the site where Clifford's Tower now stands,[2] and 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).[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]



Historical British Jewish population
Year Pop. ±%
1882 46,000 —    
1890 125,000 +171.7%
1900 225,000 +80.0%
1910 275,000 +22.2%
1920 300,000 +9.1%
1930 340,000 +13.3%
1955 410,000 +20.6%
1980 330,000 −19.5%
1990 340,000 +3.0%
2001 266,740 −21.5%
2011 269,568 +1.1%
  • 2001 & 2011 figures based on respective censuses
  • Prior data based on estimates[6][7]

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.[8] 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.[1]

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".[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15] Research by the University of Manchester in 2007 showed that 75 percent of British Jewish births were to the Haredi community.[16] Ultra-Orthodox women have an average of 6.9 children, and secular Jewish women 1.65.[17]

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.[18] 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.[10] A high proportion (83.2 percent) of Jews in England and Wales were born in the UK.[19] 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.[citation needed]

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.[20]


There are some 454 synagogues in the country, and it is estimated that 56.3% of all households across the UK with at least one Jew living within them held synagogue membership in 2016 .[21] Of those affiliated, the affiliations are distributed across the following groupings:


About 60 percent of school-age Jewish children attend Jewish schools.[23] 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, R (E) v Governing Body of JFS, in 2009.[24] In 2011, another large government funded school opened in North London named JCoSS, the first cross-denomination Jewish secondary school in the UK.[25]

The Union of Jewish Students is an umbrella organisation that represents Jewish students at university. There are over 50 Jewish Societies.[26]

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.[27] With the exception of under-25s, younger Jews tend to be better educated than older ones.[28]


The annual Limmud winter conference is a high-profile educational event of the British Jewish community, attracting a wide range of international presenters.[29]


Politically, Jews in the U.K. tend to lean to the Conservative Party, as a poll published by the Jewish Chronicle in early 2015 shows. Of British Jews polled, 69% would vote for the Conservative Party, while 22% would vote for the Labour Party. There was little Jewish support for UKIP or the Liberal Democrats, with each polling around 2%. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the voter population, which according to a BBC poll had Conservatives and Labour almost tied at about a third each.

Jews have typically been a part of the British middle class, traditional home of the Conservative Party, though the number of Jews in working class communities of London is in decline. The main voting bloc of poorer Jews in Britain now, made up primarily of ultra-Orthodox, votes "en masse" for the Conservatives. Attitudes toward Israel influence the vote of three out of four of British Jews.[30][31]

Jewish MP's by Election
Election Labour Conservative Liberal/Alliance Other Total No. % of Parliament
1857 1 1 0.2
1859 3 3 0.5
1865 6 0.9
1874 1
1880 1 4 5
1885 3 6 9 1.3
1886 9 1.3
1900 7 2 9 1.3
1945 26 0 0 2 28 4.4
1950 23 0 0 0 23 3.7
1951 17 0 0 0 17 2.7
1955 17 1 0 0 18 2.9
1959 20 2 0 0 22 3.5
1964 34 2 0 0 36 5.7
1966 38 2 0 0 40 6.3
1970 31 9 0 0 40 6.3
1974 Feb 33 12 1 0 45 7.2
1974 Oct 35 10 1 0 45 7.2
1979 21 11 1 0 32 5.0
1983 11 17 1 0 29 4.5
1987 7 16 1 0 24 3.7
1992 8 11 1 0 20 3.1


The 2001 UK 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.[35]


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.[36] Other media include the Jewish News, Jewish Telegraph, Hamodia and the Jewish Tribune.


Antisemitism in the United Kingdom originated with the arrival of Jews in the country soon after the Norman Conquest. The earliest Jewish settlement was recorded in 1070.[1] Jews living in the United Kingdom at this time experienced religious discrimination and it is thought that the blood libel which accused Jews of ritual murder originated in Northern England, leading to massacres and increasing discrimination.[2] The Jewish presence continued until King Edward I's Edict of Expulsion in 1290.[3]

Jews were readmitted to the United Kingdom by Oliver Cromwell in 1655, though it is believed that crypto-Jews lived in England during the expulsion.[4] Jews were regularly subjected to discrimination and humiliation which waxed and waned over the centuries, gradually declining as Jews made commercial, philanthropic and sporting contributions to the country.[5]

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the number of Jews in Britain greatly increased due to the exodus of Jews from Russia, which resulted in a large community of Jews forming in the East End of London.[6] Popular sentiment against immigration was used by the British Union of Fascists to incite hatred against Jews, leading to the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, at which the fascists were repulsed by Jews, Irish people and Communists, who barricaded the streets.[7]

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, undisguised, racial hatred of Jews became unacceptable in British society. Outbursts of antisemitism emanating from far right groups continued however, leading to the formation of the 43 Group led by Jewish ex-servicemen which broke up fascist meetings. Far-right antisemitism was motivated principally by racial hatred, rather than theological hatred which accused Jews of killing Christ.

Contemporary antisemitism in Britain has become more complex and multifaceted, evolving its own vocabulary[8] and imagery[9]. It is perpetrated principally by the far-left, far-right and Islamists, whose distinct forms of antisemitism have gradually merged with one another.[10]

Records of antisemitic incidents began to be compiled in 1984, however reporting practices have changed considerably since records began, as have levels of reporting.

Communal institutions[edit]

British Jewish communal organisations include:

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ The question had appeared in the past several censuses in Northern Ireland.[9] In Scotland there were two questions: "What religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?" and "What religion, religious denomination or body were you brought up in?".[8]


  1. ^ a b "The Jewish Population of the World (2010)". Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  2. ^ Design, SUMO. "The 1190 Massacre: History of York". 
  3. ^ Prestwich, Michael. Edward I p 345 (1997) Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07157-4.
  4. ^ "History", Jewish Ireland, archived from the original on 2010-02-22 .
  5. ^ "EJP looks back on 350 years of history of Jews in the UK", On Anglo Jewry (in‐depth article), European Jewish Press, 30 October 2005, retrieved 1 April 2011 .
  6. ^ Institute for Jewish Policy Research (2011) Key trends in the British Jewish community: A review of data on poverty, the elderly and children, p.11
  7. ^ "Waterman and Kosmin, (1986) British Jewry in the Eighties. A Statistical and Geographical Study, p.6". 
  8. ^ a b Graham, David; Waterman, Stanley. "Underenumeration of the Jewish Population in the UK 2001 Census" (subscription required). Population, Space and Place 12 (2): 89–102. March/April 2005. doi:10.1002/psp.362.
  9. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman, p. 18.
  10. ^ a b Graham, Schmool & Waterman, p. 3.
  11. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman, pp. 12–13.
  12. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman, pp. 20–21.
  13. ^ "Census 2011". Board of Deputies of British Jews. Accessed 10 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Is this the last generation of British Jews?", The Telegraph, UK, November 26, 2006 .
  15. ^ Pigott, Robert. "Jewish population on the increase". BBC News. 21 May 2008. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  16. ^ "Majority of Jews will be Ultra-Orthodox by 2050". University of Manchester. 23 July 2007. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  17. ^ Butt, Riazat. "British Jewish population on the rise". The Guardian. 21 May 2008. Accessed 10 August 2011.
  18. ^ choose Leeds? - Institute for Jewish Policy Research
  19. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman, p. 5.
  20. ^ "Exodus to the UK as French Jews escape antisemitism". Jewish Chronicle. February 21, 2013. Accessed January 23, 2014.
  21. ^ Casale Mashiah & Boyd 2017, p. 6.
  22. ^ Casale Mashiah & Boyd 2017, pp. 11–12. Other affiliations were not considered in the JPR report.
  23. ^ "The Future of Jewish Schools", p. 7.
  24. ^ "Jewish school admissions unlawful". BBC News. 25 June 2009. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  25. ^ Kessler, Sarah. "A Cross-Denominational Approach to High School in the U.K.". The Forward. 21 January 2009. Accessed 3 April 2011. Archived 2 April 2011.
  26. ^ "About Us". Union of Jewish Students. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  27. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, p. 79.
  28. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, pp. 79–80.
  29. ^ Gringras, Robbie. "Writing the Limmud theme song ". Haaretz. 8 January 2010. Accessed 1 April 2011. Archived 1 April 2011.
  30. ^ Huge majority of British Jews will vote Tory, JC poll reveals The, 7 April 2015
  31. ^ How Ed Miliband Lost Britain's Jewish Voters The Jewish Daily Forward, 8 April 2015
  32. ^ Medding, Peter Y. (1 January 1995). "Studies in Contemporary Jewry: XI: Values, Interests, and Identity: Jews and Politics in a Changing World". OUP USA/Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem – via Google Books. 
  33. ^ Jewish Identity in British Politics: The Case of the First Jewish MPs, 1858–87
  34. ^ Crewe, Ivor (16 October 2015). "The Politics of Race". Routledge – via Google Books. 
  35. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, p. 87.
  36. ^ "The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841–1991". Cambridge University Press. Accessed 3 April 2011.
  37. ^


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]