National community survey: Orthodox and secular both need our help

By Vivian Wineman, February 7, 2014

While the initial results of the Jewish Policy Research were informative, some of the most instructive points were among the less obvious.

Two in particular were striking. First there is a move, particularly among the young, away from traditional religious categories, with many people brought up as traditionally religious now regarding themselves as secular or culturally Jewish.

At the same time levels of religious observance are higher among the younger members of the community. On a communal level we are frummer than our parents.

In fact ours is a tale of two communities. On the one hand the mainstream community is like any other western community only more so — bourgeois with low birth rates, high educational and economic achievement and well integrated into the economic and cultural life of the host society.

On the other hand there is the strictly Orthodox community, with high birth rates, strong family and communal ties, low divorce and out-marriage rates, but with rates of social and economic deprivation higher than those of the host community. The stereotype of the rich Jew does not apply to the most visible Jews in our community.

There are lessons for us here. Secular Jews, who with their Israeli counterparts form a large part of world Jewry, need to be accommodated by the community, and by the Board of Deputies which represents it. We at the Board have to be sensitive to their aspirations and concerns. A large part of our work is devoted to this.

At the same time, we have to reach out to the Orthodox community — which the Board is doing, partly through the new All Party Parliamentary Group, which focuses particularly on their needs.

Vivian Wineman is president of the Board of Deputies

Last updated: 8:45am, February 7 2014