The Sunday Telegraph had an interesting article titled ‘Is this the last generation of British Jews?‘:
“The Jewish community in England, as in other parts of Europe, is demographically unviable,” he said. “It is a dying community, without even counting assimilation. They say that in order to remain stable, a community needs to average 2.2 children. I don’t think this is the case in Anglo-Jewry. Whatever the figure, when you add the devastating devaluation of assimilation and intermarriage, it is becoming smaller all the time.”
His comments are borne out by the decline in the outward expressions of Judaism, from weddings to synagogue attendance, and the disappearance of its cultural heritage, with Jewish architecture said to be more at risk than ever before.
It is the continual rise in the number of Jews marrying gentiles that poses the biggest challenge facing the community. In 1990, there were estimated to be about 340,000 Jews in Britain, but the population has declined by a fifth to only 270,000 today. According to the 1996 Jewish Policy Review, nearly one in two are marrying people who do not share their faith.
It is unnecessarily apocalyptic? Compared to British Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims there is probably less outward expressions of faith and lesser number of children being born. Inter-marriage is probably also a higher percentage. But then we know British Asian parents stress about the exact same issues regarding their own offspring. The article also states that while mainstream followers are in decline, the ultra-orthodox sections are growing, another parallel that can be drawn with Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities. The real issue is this:
However, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, the president-elect of Liberal Judaism, argues that this decline would not be as steep if synagogues were more welcoming to those who still identify with Judaism, but have married out. She argues that many people retain a residual sense of their Jewish heritage, which often grows as they approach marriage or starting a family.
Lady Neuberger believes that Anglo-Jewry is at a crossroads, faced with a choice between following the ultra-Orthodox path and risking becoming isolated, or embracing people such as Lynne Walmsley who have married out and are no longer considered Jewish by many Orthodox rabbis.
A dilemma that will increasingly be debated within other minority religions too I bet.
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