First UK Sephardi census launched

Online questionnaire will help community planning for the next two decades


The first national census to gather data on Sephardi Jews in the UK has been launched this week.

The S & P Sephardi UK instigated the “landmark” initiative in association with the Board of Deputies and the World Jewish Congress, as a follow-up to the Bush report on racial inclusivity in the Jewish community published by the Board last year.

In a letter to synagogue heads to encourage participation, SPSC chief executive Rachel Fink said, “There has never been any prior detailed research into Sephardim in the UK regardless of the communities to which they belong”.

Information gleaned from the online questionnaire would help the SPSC “understand how to best support our communities over the next 20 years”, she said.

“We hope that the rich data we collect will provide a firm foundation to inform how we can strengthen Sephardic identity across the United Kingdom as this demographic is a crucial component of community life," she said.

While the survey had “a Sephardic angle”, she added, “anyone who self-identifies as Jewish can participate, with the insights shared back with all participating organisations, enriching the knowledge base of the UK Jewish community as a whole.”

The census would be anonymous, she said.

The Spanish and Portuguese formed the original Jewish community in England after Cromwell permitted them to openly congregate for the first time since the expulsion in 1290. Bevis Marks, which opened in the City of London in 1701, is the country's oldest synagogue.

In the 20th century, particularly in the aftermath of the creation of the state of Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese were supplemented by Jews from North Africa and the Middle East.

Dr Efrat Shaoulian Sopher, vice-chair of the SPSC, said its collaboration with the Board and the WJC's Atidenu programme reflected its "intention to assist and advise on Jewish communities’ individual needs worldwide.

"Atidenu is a flagship programme from the WJC aimed at strengthening Jewish communities across the world. The work with the S & P and BoD  is the second such initiative, and hopes to help shape the future of synagogue membership in the wake of the pandemic."

To access the questionnaire, click here.

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