A major survey of 10,000 people shows British Jews are more likely to donate to non-Jewish causes, writes Justin Cohen.
That’s among the most striking findings of a new survey published today of 3,700 households and nearly 10,000 people – the most comprehensive report of its kind ever conducted.
It also finds young Jews are becoming more religious, while older members of the community see supporting Israel as a more important part of their identity than their children.
In terms of charitable giving, 93 percent of respondents to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research survey claimed they made donations in the year leading up to last summer’s research.
A total of 45 percent prioritised non-Jewish causes compared with 37 percent for Jewish charities. While a further breakdown has communal causes in the UK as the biggest priority (34 percent) and Israel causes with a further nine percent, these were outweighed by the total for general causes in the UK and aid for other countries. JPR’s Dr David Graham – who authored the report with the organisation’s Dr Jonathan Boyd and Dr Laura Staetsky –said that taking those figures alone “may be a cause for concern” for the Jewish charitable sector.
But he added: “The larger the total given, the more likely it is to be directed at Jewish charities.” While 35 percent of those donating £100 to 500 over a year gave more than half to Jewish charities, that figure soared to 71 per- cent for sums above £10,000.
There was also a divide between the priorities of different parts of the community, with Charedi respondents prioritising Jewish or Israeli charities (95 percent) compared with 82 percent for Orthodox and 10 percent of those who classed themselves secular or cultural.
The JPR survey sheds new light on what the community considers most important in making up its Jewish identity. Overall, respondents prioritise ethno-cultural aspects of Jewishness over religious belief and practice. Three of the top five items listed as important to identity were remembering the Shoah (91 percent), feeling part of the Jewish people (89 percent) and combating anti-Semitism (87 percent), while only around half list keeping kosher or prayer as central.
Sixty-nine percent considered supporting Israel to be very or fairly important to their identity – though nearly half of over 65s considered this to be very important, 14 percent more than is the case for under 40s.
Younger respondents were more likely to rate aspects of religious practice very important than their elders. But the report’s authors argue this may have more to do with high birth rates among the ultra-Orthodox, which have seen that sector become a far larger proportion of Anglo-Jewry, than the investment in Jewish education in recent decades.
Dr Boyd, JPR’s executive director, described the finding as “Highly significant. For several decades, the community has worried about whether the young will have strong enough Jewish identities to pass on to children and grandchildren. We now have evidence to suggest that, overall, younger Jews may be better placed to achieve that than generations that preceded them”.
Those describing themselves as traditional were the largest group at 26 percent, while 24 percent said they were secular/cultural.
Eighteen percent said they were reform or progressive and 16 percent Charedi/Orthodox. When compared with the type of upbringing, however, the traditional group has seen a net loss of a third whereas the secular grouping saw a net gain of 63 percent.The report, based on data collected by Ipsos MORI in June and July last year, said: “’Denominational switching’ over the course of people’s lives is effecting the overall balance of the community, with clear evidence of movement away from Orthodoxy and towards more religiously liberal or secular positions. This movement, combined with the demographic growth among the most Orthodox, is causing a shakeout of the mainstream middle ground of the UK Jewish community.”
While marrying a Jew was only 13th in the list of issues considered important, the report says the “steep rise in intermarriage which occurred prior to the 1990s has slowed”. But of those in marriages currently intact, 23 percent are with a non-Jew, rising to 61 percent for those cohabiting.[divider]