National community survey: We must change our education

By Felix Posen, February 7, 2014
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The JPR report showed the deep changes that have affected UK Jewry over the past few decades.

It states that there is a clear growth of the most Orthodox end of the community and, “to an even greater extent, at the secular end”.

Also, “the proportion of Jews who described themselves as currently secular or cultural has grown significantly relative to the proportion brought up that way.”

Both these comments are consistent with what has been happening to Jews in the United States and Israel but, contrary to action taken in Israel to make Jewish education available to this growing secular portion of the population, the UK Jewish community has so far made no changes whatsoever.

There is, to the best of my knowledge, not a single school in the UK that is suitable, or capable of teaching the children of this growing sector what Judaism is all about from a cultural and non-religious point of view.

It must therefore stand to reason that unless there is a substantial and immediate change to the make-believe policy that nothing needs to be done to keep secular Jewish children Jewish, a further substantial demographic decline in the numbers of Jews in the UK is certain.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed the movement of the majority of world Jewry from central Europe, to the US, and now to Israel.

During all this time the Jewish demographics in the UK have been on a downward slope, notwithstanding some refugee influx in the 1930s, and the recent high Orthodox/Charedi birth rates.

UK Jewry, although financially, socially, politically solvent and, overall, very successful, has lagged woefully behind in Jewish education for the majority of its brethren who are non-religious.

Until this changes, further decline in their numbers is inevitable. It is, I believe, a self-inflicted and lamentable situation, but probably correctable if there is a will.

Felix Posen is the founder of the Posen Foundation to promote the interests of secular Judaism

Last updated: 8:45am, February 7 2014