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UK Synagogue Membership On Decline (06/07/2017)

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research released a report that found UK synagogue memberships are down 20% since 1990

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Central Synagogue, London (source:

Despite having more synagogues than ever, synagogue memberships in the UK have dropped to an all-time low, according to a new report released by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research on Wednesday.

In partnership with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the independent think-tank reported that there are a record-breaking 454 synagogues in the UK today, yet the number of household memberships has dropped 4% since 2010 and over 20% since 1990.

In 1990, there were 99,763 Jewish households with synagogue memberships. In 2016, that number dropped to 79,597.

This is the first time the number of households with synagogue memberships has dropped below 80,000 since records began.

The report titled “Synagogue Membership in the United Kingdom 2016” found a notable decline in the percentage of “central” Orthodox Jews in the total membership, from 66% in 1990 to 53% last year. That is a drop from 66,201 members to 41,990. The report cites disaffection as being part of the reason for the decline, but also “natural decrease- more members dying than being born.”

Both Reform and Liberal synagogues saw a slight decline in their representation since 1990 (8% and 16% drops in their memberships, respectively). They currently represent 19% and 8% of all synagogue memberships.

The report’s introduction adds that this seeming stability is “misleading”, as “Liberal and Reform synagogues are both losing members at a similar rate to the central Orthodox ones, but unlike those central Orthodox ones, they are also attracting members from their religious ‘right’ to offset those losses.”

The Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation synagogue (source: wiki)

Meanwhile the number of Masorti members has tripled, representing 3% of memberships compared to 1% in 1991.

The biggest spike in representation is within the “strictly” Orthodox synagogues. Thanks to demographic forces- particularly high birth rates- these members nearly tripled their representation, from 4.5% of all synagogue members within the total number of household memberships in 1990 to 13.5% in 2016.

Dr. Jonathan Boyd, the executive director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, said of the increase in the “strictly” Orthodox members: “Because the more progressive wing is largely stable, representing just under a third of the total, the trends point to a future in which stricter forms of Orthodoxy will hold an increasingly prominent position, not only in synagogue membership, but in how Judaism is practiced and how Judaism is seen and understood by others.”


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