British Jews (often referred to collectively as British Jewry or Anglo-Jewry) are British citizens who are ethnically and/or religiously Jewish. The number of people identifying as Jews in England and Wales rose slightly between 2001 and 2011, with the growth being due to the high birth rate of the ultra-Orthodox community.
|263,346 (2011 Census)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Greater London, Hertfordshire, south-west Essex, Greater Manchester, Gateshead, Leeds, Greater 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, Atheism, Irreligion|
|Related ethnic groups|
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, 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). 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.
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. Around 80-90% of British Jews today are Ashkenazi.
Following decolonisation, the late twentieth century saw Yemeni Jews, Iraqi Jews and Baghdadi Jews settle in the United Kingdom. A multicultural community, in 2006, British Jews 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. 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. 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 half married people who did not share their faith at that time. 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% 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. 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. 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%).
About two-thirds of UK Jews live in Greater London or contiguous parts of South Hertfordshire and south-west Essex. 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 majority of the Jews in England and the UK live in and around London, with almost 160,000 Jews in London alone, and a further 21,000 just in Hertfordshire, mostly in Southwestern Hertfordshire. The next most significant population is in Greater Manchester, a community of slightly more than 25,000, primarily in Bury (10,360), Salford (7,920), Manchester proper (2,725) and Trafford (2,490). There are also significant communities in Leeds (6,760), Gateshead (3,000), Brighton (2,730), Liverpool (2,330), Birmingham (2,150) and Southend (2,080). Towns and villages in Hertfordshire with large absolute populations include Bushey (4,500), Borehamwood (3,900), and Radlett (2,300). It is generally believed that Jews are under-counted in censuses due to a disinclination on the parts of some community members to reveal their ethnoreligious background and practise, so these numbers may be low estimates.
According to the 2011 census, British Jewry is overwhelmingly English, with only around 5,900 Jews in Scotland, 2,100 in Wales, and less than 200 in Northern Ireland. There are also around 100 in the Channel Islands, primarily in Jersey. According to some sources, there are around 200 Jews on the Isle of Man, although unlike Jersey and Northern Ireland, there is no synagogue.
The British Jewish population has a substantially 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. A high proportion (83.2%) of Jews in England and Wales were born in the UK. 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.
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 to fulfill a growing demand.
In 2015 about 6% of Jews in England held an Israeli passport. In 2018, 534 Britons emigrated to Israel in 2018, representing the third consecutive annual decline. The figure was one third down on 2015 and was the lowest for five years.
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. Of those affiliated, the affiliations are distributed across the following groupings:
- Orthodox ("consisting of the United Synagogue, the Federation of Synagogues and independent Orthodox synagogues") – 52.8%
- Reform (Movement for Reform Judaism and Westminster Synagogue and Chaim V'Tikvah and Hastings and District Jewish Society) – 19.4%
- Strictly Orthodox ("synagogues aligned with the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations and others of a similar ethos") – 13.5%
- Liberal (Liberal Judaism and Belsize Square Synagogue) – 8.2%
- Masorti (Assembly of Masorti Synagogues) – 3.3%
- Sephardi – 2.9%
About 60% 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 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. In 2011, another large state-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% less likely to have no qualifications, and 80% more likely to have "higher-level" qualifications. With the exception of under-25s, younger Jews tend to be better educated than older ones. 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.
According to a poll published by the Jewish Chronicle 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. There was little Jewish support for smaller parties such as 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 polls at the time, had the Conservatives and Labour almost tied at about a third each. A May 2016 poll of British Jews showed 77% would vote Conservative, 13.4% Labour, and 7.3% Liberal Democrat.
Jews are typically seen as predominantly part of the British middle-class, though traditionally there was a large number of Jews in working-class communities of London. According to polling, attitudes toward Israel influence the vote of three out of four of British Jews.
|Jewish MPs by election|
1945–1992[full citation needed]
|Election||Labour||Conservative||Liberal/Alliance||Other||Total||% of Parliament|
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 more likely to be economically inactive than their counterparts in the general population; 89.2% of these were students.
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. Other publications include the Jewish News, Jewish Telegraph, Hamodia, the Jewish Tribune and Jewish Renaissance.
The earliest Jewish settlement was recorded in 1070, soon after the Norman Conquest. 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. The Jewish presence continued until King Edward I's Edict of Expulsion in 1290.
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. Jews were regularly subjected to discrimination and humiliation which waxed and waned over the centuries, gradually declining.
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. 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.
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.
While records of antisemitic incidents have been compiled since 1984, changing reporting practices and levels of reporting make comparison over time difficult.
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British Jewish communal organisations include:
- Anglo-Jewish Association
- Association of Jewish Refugees
- Board of Deputies (1760)
- Campaign Against Antisemitism
- CCJO René Cassin
- Community Security Trust
- Institute for Jewish Policy Research
- Jewish Board of Guardians
- Jewish Book Council
- Jewish Care
- Jewish Council for Racial Equality
- Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain
- Jewish Labour Movement
- Jewish Leadership Council
- JW3 – a London venue
- League of British Jews
- League of Jewish Women
- Leo Baeck Institute London
- Liberal Judaism
- London Jewish Forum
- London Jewish Cultural Centre
- Mitzvah Day International
- Movement for Reform Judaism
- The S&P Sephardi Community
- Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
- UCL Institute of Jewish Studies
- UK Jewish Film Festival
- Union of Jewish Students
- United Restitution Organization
- United Synagogue
- Union of Jewish Women
- World Jewish Relief
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