Funding call to aid communal recovery post-pandemic

Institute for Jewish Policy Research paper highlights challenges facing the community


LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Members of the Jewish community walk along the street in the Stamford Hill area on January 17, 2015 in London, England. Police have announced they will increase patrols in areas with large Jewish communities such as London and Manchester in response to last week's Paris attacks. The safety of other minority communities, including Muslims, and the protection of police officers deliberately targeted by extremists, is also being reviewed. Stamford Hill is a predominantly a Hasidic Jewish community with only New York City having a larger population of Hasidic Jews outside Israel. (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

Funds to support synagogues, Jewish schools, youth movements and families left struggling financially by the pandemic should be set up to help the community recover, according to a paper issued this week by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

The think-tank highlighted a number of challenges facing British Jewry following its series of reports on the impact of Covid-19, based on a survey of nearly 7,000 members of the community last July.

More than 10,000 Jewish households were in “acute need” last summer; there were “acute signs” of economic stress in seven per cent of households and a further 15 per cent were at “notable risk”.

One-in-ten Jews working before the outbreak of the pandemic had been furloughed — compared with 27 per cent of Britons as a whole.

Among a raft of recommendations, JPR called for investment in helping those in acute need, as well as assisting people to get back to work and initiatives to aid wider society such as the “outstanding” example provided by JW3.

Synagogues remained the “main mechanism for fuelling Jewish life” with 71 per cent of individual Jews affiliated to one.

But they would be trying to rebuild communal activity with “fewer financial resources”, indicated by a drop in membership income found by the survey.

Jewish schools had also experienced a decline in funding with those paying full voluntary contributions for Jewish studies falling from 66 per cent to 56 per cent. Noting the disproportionate impact on the mental health of young people, JPR called for efforts to ensure youth activities could take place in summer with subsidies for participants who would need them.

JPR executive director Jonathan Boyd, the paper’s author, also advocated moves to improve “intra-communal relations”, following press reports of non-compliance with Covid rules within the Charedi community.

As the Charedi population became an ever larger part of the Jewish community, “we can anticipate that the community will experience further conflicts [as indeed it has already in at least two areas — cultural life and education].

“The scope for more acute tensions and polarisation along the lines already seen in both Israel and the UK is clear.”

Although constructive efforts were being made to address some of the challenges facing Charedi Jews, particularly in the areas of education and employment, “levels of frustration and anger are rising in both the Charedi and mainstream Jewish sectors”.

The survey’s findings suggested the Jewish charity sector may emerge from the Covid crisis “relatively unscathed”. While JPR is carrying out more research on this in the coming months, it believes there should be more detailed assessment on the impact of Covid on other areas of community life.

It also suggested looking at the longer-term effect of online activities. Participation in religious services fell by an estimated 23 per cent in the first five months of the pandemic and by 27 per cent in cultural activities. But adult education appeared to have a “slightly increased” take-up after moving online.

The think-tank is also seeking support for its new UK Jewish population panel to collect data on the community following the Board of Deputies’ withdrawal of funding for demographic research three years ago.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive