Let's not see a return of the Jedi

By Dr David Graham, February 24, 2011
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Jedi? Or Jewish?

Jedi? Or Jewish?

The 2001 Census recorded 270,000 Jews in Britain - and 360,000 Star War "Jedis," as a result of a hoax email campaign which, undoubtedly, raised a chuckle. But, unlike Jews, Jedis are not in the business of caring for the vulnerable and disadvantaged, nor do they run homes for their elderly, schools or social facilities.

In other words, the Census is a vital tool of communal service provision. Only a census has wide enough coverage to obtain a full picture of the extent of disadvantage in the community. Only a census can really tell us about those living at the margins.

Ten years ago the Census told us that over 4,300 children lived in households with no adult working, and that 9,500 Jews under 49 suffered from a permanent illness which limited their ability to work.

Only the Census provides such data. Without it, the community is poorer, not just because of data lost but the expense charities would incur gathering it themselves.

Simply by ticking "Jewish", you can help plan for future service provision. Compared with the United States, where there is no such religion question, it is an enviable position to be in.

Of course, the Census doesn't tell us everything; it will always be necessary to carry out surveys that ask questions directly. But even here the Census matters because it significantly improves the quality of other communal research. It provides a baseline by which we can better assess how well our surveys represent the population.

This one is significant as it marks the first time a question about religion has been asked over two consecutive censuses: we will be able to see how the community has changed in a decade.

So on Sunday March 27 please tick "Jewish". Reporting Jedi as a religion might have been amusing in 2001 but the Census is not about entertainment; it is about us and the people we care for and will continue to care for in the future.

Dr David Graham is director of social and demographic research at JPR.

Last updated: 2:13pm, February 24 2011