British Jews

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British Jews (often referred to collectively as British Jewry or Anglo-Jewry) are British citizens who identify as Jewish. The number of people who identified as Jews in England and Wales rose slightly between 2001 and 2011, with the growth being attributed to the higher birth rate of the Haredi community.[2][3]

British Jews
Total population
263,346 (2011 Census)
Core Jewish population (2018):
Enlarged Jewish population (includes non-Jewish relatives of Jews) (2018):
Regions with significant populations
Greater London (especially North London), Hertfordshire, Essex, Brighton, Bournemouth, Liverpool, Manchester, Gateshead, Leeds, Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, 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
Judaism or irreligion
Related ethnic groups
Other Jews


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 Third Crusade, the Jewish population of York was massacred at the site where Clifford's Tower now stands,[4] 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).[5] 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.[6] Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881), of Jewish birth although he joined the Church of England, served in government for three decades, twice as prime minister.

The oldest Jewish community in Britain is the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community, which traces back to the 1630s, and was unofficially legitimised in 1656, the date counted by the Jewish community as the re-admittance of the Jews to England (which at the time included Wales). A trickle of Ashkenazi immigration primarily from German countries continued from the late 17th century to the early 19th century, before a second wave of Ashkenazi immigration, a large wave of Ashkenazi Jewish immigration fleeing persecution in the Russian Empire, such as pogroms and the May Laws between 1880 and the imposition of tighter immigration restrictions in 1905. Many German and Polish Jews seeking to escape the Nazi Holocaust arrived in Britain before and after the Second World War.[7][better source needed] Around 80-90% of British Jews today are Ashkenazi.

Following de-colonisation, the late twentieth century saw Yemeni Jews, Iraqi Jews and Baghdadi Jews settle in the United Kingdom.[8][9][10] A multicultural community, in 2006, British Jews celebrated the 350th anniversary of the resettlement in England.[11]


Population sizeEdit

Historical British Jewish population
Source: * 2001 & 2011 figures based on respective censuses

The Jewish population of England was 500,000 at the beginning of World War II.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] This equates to 0.43% of the population of the United Kingdom.

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".[18] 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.[19] Of people who chose Jewish as their religion, 97% 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.[20] 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.[21]

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 half married people who did not share their faith at that time.[22] 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.[2] Research by the University of Manchester in 2007 showed that 75% of British Jewish births were to the Haredi community.[3] Ultra-Orthodox women have an average of 6.9 children, and secular Jewish women 1.65.[23] In 2015, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research reported that in England the orthodox community was growing by nearly 5% per year, while the non-haredi community was decreasing by 0.3% per year.[24] It has been also documented that in terms of births, between 2007 and 2015, the estimated number of Strictly Orthodox births per annum increased by 35%, rising from 1,431 to 1,932. While, the estimated number of ‘Mainstream’ (non-Strictly Orthodox) births per annum increased to a lesser extent over the same period, going from 1,844 to 1,889 (+2.4%).[25]


The great majority (83.2%) of Jews in England and Wales were born in the UK.[26] In 2015, about 6% of Jews in England held an Israeli passport.[24] In 2019, the Office of National Statistics estimated that 21,000 people resident in the UK were born in Israel, up from 11,890 in 2001. Of the 21,000, 8,000 had Israeli nationality.[27] In 2013, it was reported that antisemitic attacks in France led to an exodus of French Jews to the UK. This has resulted in some synagogues establishing French-language Shabbat services.[28]

In 2018, 534 Britons emigrated to Israel, representing the third consecutive annual decline. The figure was one third down on 2015 and was the lowest for five years.[29][30]

Geographic distributionEdit

The majority of the Jews in the UK live in South East England, with around 160,000 in London, and a further 21,000 in Hertfordshire, mostly in southwestern Hertfordshire adjacent to Jewish areas in Barnet and Harrow,[31] and south-west Essex. Barnet and Hertsmere councils are the most Jewish local authorities in England, with Jews composing one in five and nine residents respectively. The next most significant population is in Greater Manchester, a community of more than 25,000, in Bury (10,360),[32] Salford (7,920),[33] Manchester (2,725)[34] and Trafford (2,490).[35] There are also significant communities in Leeds (6,760),[36] Gateshead (3,000),[37] Brighton (2,730),[38] Liverpool (2,330),[39] Birmingham (2,150)[40] and Southend (2,080).[41] Towns and villages in Hertfordshire with large Jewish populations include Bushey (4,500), Borehamwood (3,900), and Radlett (2,300). Finchley and Golders Green is the political constituency with the largest Jewish population in the UK.[42] An Orthodox community exists in Stamford Hill, Hackney, London.[31]

Age profileEdit

Two boys with kippahs at a bus stop in Hendon, north London

The British Jewish population has an older profile than 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.[18] About 24% of the community are over the age of 65 (compared to 16% 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]


About 60% of school-age Jewish children attend Jewish schools.[43] Jewish day schools and yeshivas are found throughout the country. Jewish cultural studies and Hebrew language instruction are 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.[44] In 2011, another large state-funded school opened in North London named JCoSS, the first cross-denomination Jewish secondary school in the UK.[45]

The Union of Jewish Students is an umbrella organisation that represents Jewish students at university. In 2011 there were over 50 Jewish Societies.[46]

British Jews generally have high levels of educational achievement. Compared to the general population, they are 40% less likely to have no qualifications, and 80% more likely to have "higher-level" qualifications.[47] With the exception of under-25s, younger Jews tend to be better educated than older ones.[48] However, dozens of the all-day educational establishments in the Haredi community of Stamford Hill, which are accused of neglecting secular skills such as English and maths, claim not to be schools under the meaning of the Department for Education.[49]

The annual Limmud festival is a high-profile educational event of the British Jewish community, attracting a wide range of international presenters.[50]

Employment and incomeEdit

The 2001 UK Census showed that 30.5% of economically active Jews were self-employed, compared to a figure of 14.2% for the general population. Jews aged 16–24 were less likely to be economically active than their counterparts in the general population; 89.2% of these were students.[51] In a 2010 study, average income per working adult was £15.44 an hour. Median income and wealth were significantly higher than other religious groups.[52] In a 2015 study, poverty has risen the fastest per generation than other religious groups.[53]


In 2016, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research reported that the intermarriage rate for the Jewish community in the UK was 26%. This was less than half of the US rate of 58% and showed little change from the rate in the early 1980s of 23%, though more than twice the 11% level of the end of the 1960s. Around one third of the children of mixed marriages are brought up in the Jewish faith.[54][55]


There are around 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.[56]: 6  The percentage of households adhering to specific denominations is as follows:

Those in the United Kingdom who consider themselves Jews identify as follows:

  • 34% Secular
  • 18% Ultra Orthodox
  • 14% Modern Orthodox
  • 14% Reform
  • 10% Traditional,but not very religious
  • 6% Liberal
  • 2% Conservative
  • 2% Sephardi [56]: 11–12 

The Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue in the London Borough of Harrow said in 2015 that it had the largest membership of any single Orthodox synagogue in Europe.[57]


There are a number of Jewish newspapers, magazines and other media published in Britain on a national or regional level. The most well known is The Jewish Chronicle, founded in 1841 and the world's oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper.[58] Other publications include the Jewish News, Jewish Telegraph, Hamodia, the Jewish Tribune and Jewish Renaissance. In April 2020, The Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish News, which had announced plans to merge in February and later announced plans for a joint liquidation, continued as separate entities after the former was acquired by a consortium.


Benjamin Disraeli in 1878, the only Prime Minister who was Jewish by birth.

Before the 2015 general election, 69% of British Jews surveyed were planning to vote for the Conservative Party, while 22% would vote for the Labour Party.[59] A May 2016 poll of British Jews showed 77% would vote Conservative, 13.4% Labour, and 7.3% Liberal Democrat.[60] An October 2019 poll of British Jews showed 64% would vote Conservative, 24% Liberal Democrat, and only 6% Labour.[61]

Jews are typically seen as predominantly middle-class, though historically many Jews lived in working-class communities of London. According to polling in 2015, politicians' attitudes towards Israel influence the vote of three out of four British Jews.[62][63]

In London, most of the top constituencies with the largest Jewish populations voted Conservative in the 2010 general election - these are namely, Finchley and Golders Green, Hendon, Harrow East, Chipping Barnet, Ilford North, and Hertsmere in Hertfordshire. The exceptions were Hackney North and Stoke Newington and Hampstead and Kilburn, which both voted Labour in the election. Outside the region, large Jewish constituencies voted for Labour, namely Bury South and Blackley and Broughton.[42]

Jewish MPs by election
1945–1992[64][65][full citation needed][66]
Election Labour Conservative Liberal/Alliance Other Total % 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 2 0 30 4.6
1987 7 16 1 0 24 3.7
1992 8 11 1 0 20 3.1
2017[67] 8 11 0 0 19 2.9
2019 5 11 0 0 16 2.5

Some MPs, such as Robert Jenrick and Keir Starmer, while not Jewish themselves, are married to Jews and have Jewish children.[68][69]


The earliest Jewish settlement was recorded in 1070, soon after the Norman Conquest. Jews living in the England 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 into the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland 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.[5]

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the number of Jews in Britain greatly increased due to the exodus from Russia, which resulted in a large community 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, when the fascists were forced to abandon their march through an area with a large Jewish population when the police clearing the way were unable to remove barricades defended by trade unionists, left wing groups and residents.[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 from 1945 to early 1950.

Records of antisemitic incidents have been compiled since 1984, although changing reporting practices and levels of reporting make comparison over time difficult. The Community Security Trust (CST) was formed in 1994 to "[protect] British Jews from antisemitism and related threats".[70] It works in conjunction with the police and other authorities to protect Jewish schools, Synagogues, and other community institutions.

Communal institutionsEdit

British Jewish communal organisations include:

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit


  1. ^ The question had appeared in the past several censuses in Northern Ireland.[17] 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?".[15]


  1. ^ a b DellaPergola, Sergio (2019), "World Jewish Population, 2018", in Dashefsky, Arnold; Sheskin, Ira M. (eds.), American Jewish Year Book 2018, American Jewish Year Book, vol. 118, Springer International Publishing, pp. 361–449, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-03907-3_8, ISBN 9783030039066, S2CID 146549764
  2. ^ a b Pigott, Robert. "Jewish population on the increase". BBC News. 21 May 2008. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Majority of Jews will be Ultra-Orthodox by 2050". University of Manchester. 23 July 2007. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  4. ^ Design, SUMO. "The 1190 Massacre: History of York".
  5. ^ Prestwich, Michael. Edward I p 345 (1997) Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07157-4.
  6. ^ "History", Jewish Ireland, archived from the original on 2010-02-22.
  7. ^ Jews escaping from German-occupied Europe to the United Kingdom
  8. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (2018-05-05). "Iraq-born refugee could become first Arabic speaker to head Britain's Jews". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  9. ^ "The Jewish Museum". Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  10. ^ Ahroni, Reuben (1994). The Jews of the British Crown Colony of Aden: History, Culture, and Ethnic Relations. BRILL. ISBN 978-9004101104.
  11. ^ "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, archived from the original on 3 May 2011, retrieved 1 April 2011.
  12. ^ "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" (PDF).
  13. ^ "Waterman and Kosmin, (1986) British Jewry in the Eighties. A Statistical and Geographical Study, p.6".
  14. ^ "Lord Shmuley?". 4 January 2012.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "The Jewish Population of the World (2010)". Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  17. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, p. 18.
  18. ^ a b Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, p. 3.
  19. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, pp. 12–13.
  20. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, pp. 20–21.
  21. ^ "Census 2011". Board of Deputies of British Jews. Accessed 10 August 2011.
  22. ^ Jeffay, Jonathan Wynne-Jones (November 26, 2006), "Is this the last generation of British Jews?", The Telegraph, UK.
  23. ^ Butt, Riazat. "British Jewish population on the rise". The Guardian. 21 May 2008. Accessed 10 August 2011.
  24. ^ a b Sokol, Sam (20 November 2015). "Israel emigration to UK outstrips aliya, says report". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  25. ^ Casale Mashiah, Donatella (2018). Vital statistics of the UK Jewish population: births and deaths (PDF). Institute for Jewish Policy Research & Board of Deputies of British Jews.
  26. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, p. 5.
  27. ^ "New figures show near-doubling of Israeli-born UK residents since 2001". Jewish News. 29 November 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  28. ^ "Exodus to the UK as French Jews escape antisemitism". Jewish Chronicle. February 21, 2013. Accessed January 23, 2014.
  29. ^ Rocker, Simon (19 March 2019). "Aliyah from Britain falls for third year in a row". The Jewish Chronicle.
  30. ^ "Aliyah from UK close to lowest level as just 534 made the move in 2018". Jewish News. 20 March 2019.
  31. ^ a b "London by religion: Analysis". 21 January 2005.
  32. ^ "Bury Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  33. ^ "Salford Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  34. ^ "Manchester Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  35. ^ "Trafford Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  36. ^ "Leeds Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  37. ^ "Gateshead Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  38. ^ "Brighton and Hove Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  39. ^ "Liverpool Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  40. ^ "Birmingham Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  41. ^ "Southend-on-Sea Census Demographics United Kingdom".
  42. ^ a b Boyd, Jonathan (May 2015). "Where Jewish Votes May Matter Most: The Institute for Jewish Policy Research Guide to the 2015 General Election in the UK" (PDF).
  43. ^ "The Future of Jewish Schools", p. 7.
  44. ^ "Jewish school admissions unlawful". BBC News. 25 June 2009. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ "About Us" Archived 2011-05-15 at the Wayback Machine. Union of Jewish Students. Accessed 1 April 2011.
  47. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, p. 79.
  48. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, pp. 79–80.
  49. ^ Titheradge, Noel (27 February 2018). "Should a school be in a place like this?". BBC News. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  50. ^ Gringras, Robbie. "Writing the Limmud theme song ". Haaretz. 8 January 2010. Accessed 1 April 2011. Archived 1 April 2011.
  51. ^ Graham, Schmool & Waterman 2007, p. 87.
  52. ^ Field, Clive (27 April 2010). "Economic Inequality and Religion". Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  53. ^ Heath, A. and Li, Y. (2015) Review of the relationship between religion and poverty; an analysis for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. CSI Working paper 2015-01. Page 16. Downloaded from
  54. ^ Rocker, Simon (7 July 2016). "Intermarriage at record high – but rate of increase slows". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  55. ^ Graham, David (5 July 2016). "Jews in couples: Marriage, intermarriage, cohabitation and divorce in Britain". IJPR. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  56. ^ a b Casale Mashiah, Donatella (2017). Synagogue membership in the United Kingdom in 2016 (PDF). Institute for Jewish Policy Research & Board of Deputies of British Jews.
  57. ^ "Welcome to our shul! This week: Stanmore and Canons Park".
  58. ^ "The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841–1991". Cambridge University Press. Accessed 3 April 2011.
  59. ^ "General Election Poll" (PDF). 2015-04-07.
  60. ^ "Jewish Chronicle survey results - May 2016". The Jewish Chronicle. 30 May 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  61. ^ "EXCLUSIVE – ELECTION POLL: One quarter of UK Jews set to vote Lib Dem". Jewish News. 30 October 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  62. ^ "Huge majority of British Jews will vote Tory, JC poll reveals". The JC, 7 April 2015
  63. ^ "How Ed Miliband Lost Britain's Jewish Voters Archived 2015-04-12 at the Wayback Machine". The Jewish Daily Forward, 8 April 2015
  64. ^ 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. ISBN 9780195103311 – via Google Books.
  65. ^ Jewish Identity in British Politics: The Case of the First Jewish MPs, 1858–87"
  66. ^ Crewe, Ivor (16 October 2015). The Politics of Race. Routledge. ISBN 9781317382973 – via Google Books.
  67. ^ "Election 2017: Winners and losers on a night of drama". The Jewish Chronicle. 16 June 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  68. ^ Harpin, Lee (15 September 2019). "Communities minister Robert Jenrick vows to tackle parts of local Government 'corrupted' by antisemitism". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  69. ^ After Corbyn, UK Labour elects Keir Starmer, Zionist with Jewish wife, as leader, AFP/Times of Israel staff (April 4, 2020).
  70. ^ "About CST – CST – Protecting Our Jewish Community". Retrieved 2019-07-31.
  71. ^ "Members".


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit