Notes from Limmud 2008
Demographic trends in the Anglo-Jewish Community [my title; actual one mislaid]
There were no censuses asking whether the respondent is Jewish until 2001.
Also, who counts, as a Jew? Benjamin Disraeli? Bishop Montefiore? In the case of the former, he was born Jewish, regarded himself as a Jew, and was regarded by everyone else as a Jew, but at the age of twelve was baptised, and thereafter was an Anglican. As PM he got to choose the Anglican bishops!
What about Karl Marx, who was born Jewish? His Jewish origins were the fare of antisemites. He was baptised Lutheran, and was an atheist. He was fond of reading the prophetic books.
Historians and demographers do not constitute a Beth Din; all they can do is report on what they find. They're constantly faced with the question of whether someone with a Jewish father and name, but no Jewish mother, should go in.
Historians came up with the following best estimates:
|Year||Size of the
Other estimates say as high as 1% of the mediaeval population. There were established Jewish communities in places which do not have a Jewish community now: Norwich, Lincoln and York, which are not renowned today for their large Jewish populations. This is because William the Conqueror broughr over the Jews to collect taxes: they're a good proxy for where the income was.
0.5–1%—roughly the same as now. There was no visible Jewish community between the expulsion in 1290 and 1656, though there were always some Jews here in the meantime. [Always!?]
It's surprising there were so few Jews here: they were free here. They couldn't sit in Parliament, but they had all other rights. Their property was protected; England was the world's leading country. You'd have thought it would have attracted more Jews, but they didn't come yet.
Of those that were here, there was a striking absence of a Jewish middle class. There was only upper class and paupers, and shopkeepers. Jews could not become doctors or lawyers, because that was barred to a professing Jews; there were very few graduates, for the same reason. It wasn't until London University opened in 1830 that education was opened up to Jews (and Catholics).
Further note about this period: England industrialised during the Industrial Revolution without Jews.
The 1921 figure is an estimate from the Board of Deputies. We don't know how large the margin of error here is; 300,000 is a suspiciously round figure. The Jewish population by European standards pre-Holocaust was rather small—probably about 12th to 15th in Europe.
One of the great anomalies about Jewish numbers in the country. In 1955, there was a well-known article about the Jewish people in the UK. Hannah Neustatder's figures were accepted by the Board of Deputies, who wanted it to appear there were more Jews than there actually were.
This figure appears in all reference books uncritically. However, this figure is almost certainly a wild exaggeration: it is demographically impossible:
If there were 300,000 in 1930, where did the extra people come from?
Additions: Refugees from the Third Reich: 55,000?* Net increase because of the baby boom after 1945: 10,000† Holocaust survivors and other post-1945 immigrants: 7500 Conversions to Judaism: say 2000 Total additions: 74,5000 Subtractions: Immigration to the Commonwealth, USA, Israel and elsewhere: 10,000‡ Wartime losses through military deaths, the Blitz, etc: 3000§ Conversions from Judaism: 5000** Total subtractions: 18,000 Total net gain: 56,500 Total Jewish population in ca. 1955–60: 365,500
* There are no figures, but about 70,000 people came to the UK in total, including non-Aryan Christians, the non-Jewish spouses of Jews, and people who went on elsehwere.
† This is giving it the benefit of the doubt, because the earlier generation had large families.
‡ A lot of Jews didn't stay in Britain.
§ The Blitz included in heavily Jewish areas
** People from well-established families often became Anglicans at this time.
Apparently Hannah Neustatder arbitrarily added 15% to the figure she had to account for Jews not accounted for.
Since then there has been an apparent decline in Jewish population:
In the middle sixties the Board of Deputies became aware these figures were wrong, and set up a unit to research this. The first question was: what was it they were trying to measure? So they came up with as the practical definition: anyone who might want to use the services of the Jewish community at any time, for schools or burials or whatever.
The only reasonably reliable numbers was burials. Until recently, anyone who identified as a Jew would be buried as a Jew. From that you could try and extrapolate back to the population, using actuarial tables; though there were still certain assumptions. The 1960–65 estimate was the first to use this.
300k allowing for non-responses to the religious question in the census: In the 2001 census we had a new figure, and, adjusting for the people who didn't want to tick the box, the two figures accord quite well.
The definition of who is a Jew used by the Board of Deputies is largely religious: it measures routes de passage; it does not measure people who regard themselves as ethnically Jewish, or people who are halachically Jewish but are members of another religion. How much larger that pool is, nobody knows.
The decline of the Jewish people between its alleged peak and today is not anywhere as bad as it is depicted: For a community to shrunk by 50% without a catastrophe over fifty years is impossible. It's not 450,000 to 267,000 but 350,000 to 330,000, most of which can be accounted for by emigration.
However, the Jewish community does have certain characteristics. The most important change in Anglo-Jewry is the rise of the Charedim: Although they comprise only 10–15% of the community, they probably account for one third of all Jewish births, and one-third of all British Jews under eighteen. This is a worldwide phenomenon that is going to have a huge effect on world Jewry in the future. For example, two of the three Charedi neighbourhoods in New York have the highest birth rate of any districts in New York.
Because of the increasse in Charedi numbers, it is possible, even likely, that the Anglo-Jewish community is increasing in size for the first time in many years, possibly for the first time since the First World War.
All the 2001 census and other data confirms that Ango-Jewry is heavily concentrated in a few geographical areas, and is a well-educated, upper middle class community.
According to the 2001 census, about 70% of Jews are married to Jewish spouses and 7% married to spouses of no religion. 18% of Jewish men, and 14% of married Jewish women, are married to spouses of another religion. This percentage is much higher among "cohabiting" couples—whatever that means.
In 2001, 83% of Jews in England and Wales were born in the UK. The largest foreign-born groups were born in Israel, the USA and South Africa.
Among the strictly Orthodox the percentage [of marriages] has increased (though many do not get married here, but go to Israel). The others have stagnated in the period 1998–today. Because the total number of marriages among the Charedim has gone up, the total number of marriages has stated the same, even though fewer people are getting married.
A similar picture is found in Israel. Israel is the only western country with a fertility rate about the replacement rate.
There is therefore a mixed picutre. The Jewish population of Britain is not declining; it's rising, but the nature of the community is going to change radically. This is a reversal of a very long-term trend in Jewish identity, that of escape from the ghetto. Since 1960, the history of the Jewish people is a re-ghettoisation. It's a major change in the nature of Jewish identity in the last two generations.
This will have a major change on Jewish life in the next century, though how is unpredictable.