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Shul membership declines

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2006-06-27

Synagogue membership declines

Synagogue membership declines

A shrinking Jewish population in Britain has highlighted the need for synagogues to reach out to younger Jews to replace dwindling membership as well as the community needing to unite on projects, a new report from the Board of Deputies has found.

According to the Trends in British Synagogue Membership 1990-2005/6 report, "synagogue membership, participation in services, voluntary contributions and volunteering, are declining in most sectors of the community", it cites research showing that in 1990 there were 354 synagogues in the UK while today that figure has dropped to 341.

Household membership to a synagogue was 102,030 in 1990 and has now dropped to 83,860. The research also found certain sections of the community increasing membership. The Masorti movement had 2,090 households as members in 2006 compared to 1,280 in 1990. Mainstream orthodox which includes the United Synagogue saw a decline from 67,300 households in 1990 to 46,330 in 2006.

The report also confirmed the north west London as being the main geographical location for Jews in the London area with 45% of synagogue members living in the area and overall north west London makes up 29% of all national synagogue membership.

The research also indicated a need to understand the community better, including those Jews who are not affiliated with any synagogue movements. According to research, around 30% of the British Jewish community is not affiliated to a synagogue.

“The research shows confirms many of our understandings of changes within our community, but it also flags up those areas where young adults may drift away from involvement with Jewish life, and the factors motivating their lifestyle choices need to be recognised," said a Board spokesperson.

The report concluded on the changes in the make up of the British Jewish community and the challenge the community faces and how better forms of unity are needed: "These changes pose unique challenges relating to membership, engagement and retention for all communal institutions and not only for synagogues, and may indeed require more extensive cross-communal collaboration, as well as closer cooperation across institutions to face these successfully."

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Board of Deputies