Birth figures reveal strength of the family

More British Jews are being born than are dying each year, according to the latest survey by the Board of Deputies published this week.

And the number of divorces sanctioned by Orthodox or Reform rabbinic authorities dropped to the lowest on record for nearly 20 years.

The number of Jewish deaths last year also dropped - below 3,000 for the first time since the Board began compiling records in the 1960s.

There were 2,948 funerals and cremations under Jewish auspices in 2007 and 3,107 in 2006: compared with estimated births of 3,314 in 2006 and 3,339 in 2005. Birth statistics are usually compiled one year behind.

However, David Graham and Daniel Vulkan, authors of Britain's Jewish Community Statistics 2007, argue against interpreting the figures as evidence of "overall growth" in the British Jewish population.

The statistics reflect "two separate demographic paths", they write.

"At least one third of the births are to strictly Orthodox Jews but because of the young age structure of this group, they account for only a very small proportion of the deaths."

On the other hand, they point out, "the majority of ‘mainstream' Jewish population accounts for a relatively small proportion of the births but a high proportion of the deaths".

Births have leapt by more than 600 from 2,742 in 1997, while deaths have dropped by 1,000 since 1998.

Births are estimated according to calculations based on the number of circumcisions - although the authors note that some mohelim have failed to report figures, while there some Jewish boys may go without any circumcision ceremony.

The number of Jewish religious marriages, up from 894 in 2006 to 911 last year, has generally remained flat for over a decade - with the strictly Orthodox share rising from around 18 per cent to 26 per cent.
The number of gittin (religious divorces) fell to 229 last year, 60 fewer than four years earlier.

However, Mr Vulkan said that it was "too early" to attach any significance to the decline in divorces.

"It is the first year we've seen this big drop. We'll have to wait to see whether it reverses next year," he said.
The average age of first-time marrying Jewish couples outside the strictly Orthodox community is 30 for men and 28 for women (compared with an average of 31 for men and 29 in the UK generally).

The report also says that 43 per cent of the funerals conducted under Reform and Liberal jurisdiction in 2007 were cremations, which accounted for 11 per cent of Jewish funeral services that year.

Numbers up

911
The number of Jewish marriages in 2007, up from 894 the year before

3,314
The estimated number of Jewish births in 2006, compared with 3,339 in 2005

2,948
Jewish burials or cremations in 2007, compared with 3,107 in 2006

229
Jewish divorces under religious auspices in 2007, the lowest on record since 1989

    Last updated: 1:06pm, November 6 2008