Jewish birth rate rose three times higher than the British population, new report finds

And births outside strictly Orthodox rise nearly a fifth in recent years


The number of Jewish births in Britain outside the strictly Orthodox community has increased by nearly a fifth in recent years, a new report has found.

UK Jewish births increased at a rate three times higher than for the British population as a whole during the decade from 2005 to 2015 — due to the large families in the Charedi community, who accounted for 47 per cent of Jewish babies born in 2015.

Jewish births continue to outstrip Jewish funerals, a trend that has been evident for more than a decade.

British Jewry has “clearly turned a corner following several years of decline” in numbers, said the report, which was published by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) and the Board of Deputies.

The 2,411 deaths in the community in 2016 are the lowest on record. In contrast, the estimated 3,821 Jewish babies born in 2015 come close to the 3,869 four years earlier, which was the highest in recent decades.

“In every year since 2006, the number of births has exceeded the number of deaths, whereas prior to this the reverse was the case,” said the report’s author Donatella Casale Mashiah.

For nearly a quarter of a century from 1979, Anglo-Jewish births had been steadily falling, before an upturn in 2003.

The number of Jewish births rose by a quarter overall from the decade 2005 to 2015.

In the period from 2007 to 2015, births among the non-Charedi Jewish community increased by 19 per cent, according to JPR’s calculations, while the comparative rise among the strictly Orthodox was 35 per cent.

Despite the increase, however, the birthrate among the non-Charedi community has not reached “replacement level”. At 1.98 it is, however, “slightly higher” than the 1.93 for England and Wales as a whole, the report said.

The Charedi fertility rate is estimated to be more than three times greater — at six to seven children per woman.

Gillian Merron, the Board’s chief executive, said the report offered “an essential analysis of the UK Jewish population and great insight into its different components and sectors.

“Most of all, it is wonderful to see that our vibrant, dynamic and thriving UK Jewish community is also growing”.

The births are calculated from the numbers of circumcisions performed annually by Orthodox and Progressive mohelim.

“The balance between mainstream and strictly Orthodox births shifted in 2013 when it was estimated that strictly Orthodox births accounted for a majority of Jewish births — 50.3 per cent— for the first time,” Dr Casale Mashiah observed.

“However, this figure may well understate the total number of mainstream births, since it does not include Jewish babies circumcised by doctors in hospitals without a religious ceremony or those who parents chose not to circumcise them at all.”

The proportions would change if numbers are factored in for those who do not have religious circumcision ceremonies — an estimated eight per cent of Jewish boys, according to data from JPR’s last community survey five years ago — or those who had no circumcision at all (16 per cent).

Previous estimates suggest half of Anglo-Jewish children aged four and under will be Charedi by 2031.

The number of Jewish funerals in 2016 was less than half the 4,937 in the peak year of 1979, reflecting a smaller total Jewish population than there was then and people are now living longer.

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