Ultra-orthodox British and American Jews are set to outnumber their more secular counterparts by the second half of this century according to research by a University of Manchester academic. Historian Dr Yaakov Wise says the increase in religious British Jewry – recognisable by their traditional dress – is now outstripping the decline in the overall Jewish population which has been shrinking by one to two per cent each year since the 1950s.
European ultra-orthodox Jewry is expanding more rapidly than at any time since before World War Two.
Almost three out of every four British Jewish births, he says are ultra- orthodox who now account for 45,500 out of a total UK Jewish population of around 275,000 or 17 per cent.
According to Dr Wise and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Professor Sergio Della Pergola, Israel is experiencing similar changes.
Dr Wise said: “If current trends continue there is going to be a profound cultural and political change among British and American Jews – and it’s already well on the way.
“This is in spite of demographic studies which show that the non-Ultra Orthodox Jewish population is flat or falling.
“And you can see evidence for this in communities across the UK: in Greater Manchester for example the Ultra- orthodox number 8,500 which is almost a third of the 28,000 Jews in the region.
“This is up from around one quarter only ten years ago.
“Approximately half of all the Jewish under fives in Greater Manchester are Ultra-orthodox.
“And in Greater London the Ultra-orthodox now account for 18 per cent of the Jewish population, up from less than 10 per cent in the early 1990s.”
He added: “My work and that of Professor Sergio Della Pergola reveal a similar picture in Israel.
“By the year 2020, the Ultra-orthodox population of Israel will double to one million and make up 17 per cent of the total population.
“A recent Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics report also found that a third of all Jewish pupils will be studying at haredi schools by 2012, prompting emergency meetings at the Education Ministry.
“In America too, where the Jewish population is stable or declining, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish numbers are growing rapidly.
“Professor Joshua Comenetz from The University of Florida says the Ultra-orthodox population doubles every 20 years, which he says may make the Jewish community not only more religiously observant but more politically conservative.
“Comenetz estimated the Ultra-orthodox population in 2000 was about 360,000, 7.2 per cent of the approximately 5 million Jews in the U.S.
“But in 2006, demographers now estimate the number had grown to 468,000 or 9.4 per cent.”
(Source: University of Manchester)