Are British Jews living in new ghettos?

Warning over growing insularity as community concentrates in fewer areas

By Marcus Dysch, December 19, 2013
Thousands of strictly Orthodox men attended a conference on banning the internet at Leyton Orient's football stadium in 2012

Thousands of strictly Orthodox men attended a conference on banning the internet at Leyton Orient's football stadium in 2012


British Jews are moving to ghetto-style communities and becoming increasingly isolated from mainstream society, new research has claimed.

A report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research says the community is “heading in the direction of insularity”, which is jeopardising integration.

Using data gathered in the census two years ago, JPR uncovered “significant demographic shifts” between 2001 and 2011.

Its report shows a greater concentration of Jews living in fewer geographic areas and confirms anecdotal evidence that has long suggested that while some Jewish population centres are thriving, others are rapidly dying out.

Communities in Barnet, Hackney, Salford, Bury and Hertsmere are booming while Leeds, Brighton, Glasgow and Redbridge are shrinking.

JPR executive director Jonathan Boyd said the results showed a “voluntary return to the ghettos” and would prompt a debate over the community’s place in multicultural Britain.

“If you live in a demonstrably Jewish area, your kids are likely to have a stronger Jewish identity than if you don’t. But we live in a multicultural society and you are increasingly closing yourself off from that. British Jews are not as visible and present across the country.

"That raises all sorts of questions about integration and how engaged we will be. At what point does that become problematic?”

JPR found that the changes could largely be attributed to the booming Charedi birth rate in some areas and assimilation and intermarriage in others.

But Mr Boyd said it was not only Charedi demographics that had an effect: “There are clearly moves into other parts of Barnet such as Golders Green, Hendon and Hampstead Garden Suburb. There is a tendency for the frum, engaged mainstream to gravitate to certain locations and build up centres of Jewish life.”

Newly-released details from the 2011 Scottish Census have allowed JPR to calculate a minimum figure for Britain’s Jewish population. It is now known that 269,568 people identified themselves as Jewish, an increase of just over one per cent from 2001 to 2011.

The 10 largest Jewish areas now account for 44 per cent of British Jewry — up from 33 per cent a decade ago. Among the biggest “winners” was Nottingham, boosted substantially by the city’s large Jewish student population.

“Losers” included Liverpool, Southend and the London boroughs of Harrow, Brent and Enfield.

David Graham, who authored the report, titled Thinning and Thickening, said it was unclear whether the trends would continue, but he predicted British Jewry would have an “increasingly thin nationwide presence”, with an ever-greater focus on London and south Hertfordshire.

Last updated: 12:45pm, December 19 2013