Financial impact of the Covid crisis on UK Jewish charities likely to be 'modest and manageable'

Major JPR survey suggests that the giving habits of the community are relatively unchanged


The financial hit to UK Jewish charities from the pandemic is likely to be “modest and manageable” in the short to medium-term, according to the findings of a new report.

It was based on a survey of nearly 7,000 British Jews by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) last July, shortly after the first lockdown restrictions had begun to ease.

Although there have been concerns about the impact of anti-virus restrictions on the income of Jewish organisations, JPR’s assessment of the giving intentions of community members suggest it may not be as severe as might have been feared.

“These early indicators suggest that the Jewish community should hold up reasonably well in light of the economic challenges presented by the pandemic,” said JPR executive director Jonathan Boyd.

“While many people have had to cope with redundancies and reductions in their income, most Jews are telling us that they will continue to make charitable donations, pay synagogue membership fees and contribute to Jewish schools.”

But he added it was essential to continue “to track attitudes over time, as these could change if the economic effects of the pandemic become more acute”.

Eighty-six per cent of the sample said they had given to charity last year and 83 per cent said they were planning to make a donation this year.

Nearly a quarter — 24 per cent — of those giving this year planned to donate more than last year, compared with 21 per cent who thought they would donate less.

Seventy per cent of those making donations would allocate half or more to Jewish charities (compared with 55 per cent in JPR’s 2013 community survey). It was “distinctly possible that there has been a shift in Jewish giving habits in favour of Jewish charities”, the report noted.

Those planning to reduce or stop donations were far more likely to have reported feeling “much worse off”.

Overall, just under half, 49 per cent, of households in the survey were paying synagogue fees.

The number paying full membership subscriptions to synagogues was likely to drop from 83 per cent of members to 76 per cent — although that included some who were unsure whether they would be able to afford the fees rather than certain they could not.

Ten per cent of synagogue members “expected to pay less, to stop paying at all or expressed uncertainty about what they would do on the next occasion fees were due”, JPR reported.

Those expecting to cut their synagogue contribution were “almost five times as likely as other synagogue membership fee payers to say they felt much worse off economically since the onset of the pandemic”.

The Covid crisis appears to have had most impact on voluntary contributions to Jewish schools, which are mostly to cover Jewish studies.

Nearly one-in-five, 18 per cent, who were either paying these in full or in part in the last academic year “expected to pay less, or not pay at all, or were unsure about what they would do” this year.

Last year, 66 per cent of those with a child at a Jewish school paid the full requested contributions, 25 per cent part and only nine per cent none.

Those who expected to cut their contributions this year exhibited “notably weaker levels of Jewish identity”, JPR found.

The report is JPR’s fourth in a series examining the effect of the pandemic.

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