The Board of Deputies has questioned the methods used to count Jews on the national Census, suggesting that some may feel excluded as Jewish is not listed as a specific ethnicity.
On last year’s Census, as on the previous two, “Jewish” was listed in the possible responses to the question on religion, but not on ethnicity.
The Board said the results of the 2021 Census - released on Tuesday - “raise the question on whether the continued narrow focus of the Census recognising Jewish status as a religion with the exclusion of considering Jewish ethnicity explicitly is appropriate for a 21st-century Jewish community.
“We are concerned that until this situation is rectified, many Jewish citizens will not feel fully counted.”
The number of Jews in England and Wales who identified themselves by religion in last year’s Census was 271,327,
But the number who registered themselves as ethnically Jewish was 67,984 - double those who did so in the previous Census in 2011.
Researchers have not yet had time to calculate the overlap - the number who identified both as religiously and ethnically Jewish.
Whereas the question on religion is optional, the question on ethnicity is compulsory; although “Jewish” is not specified as an ethnic category, it is possible to tick “Other” and then add the detail.
The Board explained that until 2019 it had not been campaigning for a specific Jewish ethnicity tick box because there were concerns over comparing data from Census to Census.
But there is now an overwhelming consensus among the Board’s community and defence divisions that ethnicity should also be included as an explicit option for Jews. While concerns about comparability remained, the balance has now shifted in favour of a specific Jewish tick box.
Nationally, the Census showed an increasing shift towards secularism with more than a third of the population in England and Wales saying they had no religion.
If those trends are reflected in the Jewish community, then the number of Jews who identify by ethnicity rather than religion could be expected to rise.
In a recent survey of American Jewry, more than two out of five of those under the age of 30 professed to have no religion.
After 2011, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research calculated the UK Jewish population to be 292,000 - made up of Jews who identified either by religion or ethnicity in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, with an estimate for those who did not answer the religion question factored in.
But after the latest results, that figure is set to rise.