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Dec 12

Census Figures Reveal Key Challenges for Jewish London

This week’s census figure reveal a Jewish community that numerically is stable, but one that is increasingly becoming closer together and more significant in fewer areas of the country.

This consolidation of the Jewish community in London into key areas of Jewish population will throw up some key challenges for our community to adapt to in the coming years, and we ignore some of them at our peril. From the increased demand that care providers will face from an ageing community, the demand for primary school places in Jewish Schools to the crisis in affordable housing, we  need to look to find the answers to some big questions we face.

According to census the last time around, our community in London is disproportionately older than London at large. Around 41% of Jews in London at that time were over 50, compared to 27% of London. 13% of us were over 75 compared to just 6% of London. If this picture of an older Jewish London doesn’t change, we can only expect that the need for Jewish adult social care will increase.  At a time of severe cuts in Government and Local Government expenditure, ensuring that culturally specific services that meet the needs of our growing and ageing population are readily available will be a key concern.

With our community moving further North West and East out of London, the location of Jewish communal infrastructure will need to change too. With the increasing trend towards parents choosing faith-based schooling for their children, schools will inevitably need to adapt to the changing environment. With the Government’s Free School agenda allowing parents flexibility in setting up schools with the ethos of their choice in more convenient locations, at the same time as tight budgets for school transport, our migrating community will only force the need further for Jewish schools to adapt over the coming years. With the crisis in primary school places in North London, we can also expect the need for a greater number of forms of entry into Jewish Primaries, or even new Primary Schools being established in Barnet and Hertsmere.

This consolidation is also a key indication that community infrastructure is important to Jewish Londoners. Being close to your community, kosher shops, synagogues and Jewish Schools define for many the search criteria for setting up a Jewish home. But the increasing popularity of a smaller number of locations spells good news for some, and bad news for others when it comes to house prices. In London, despite the economic environment, property prices have continued to rise. Increasingly younger members of the community are finding it almost impossible to get onto the property ladder for the first time with many unable to rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad for support. Just like the rest of London, our community needs to be invested in the drive to ensure that good, affordable accommodation is built in and around our existing communities.

Rapid growth in the Charedi communities too will pose some serious challenges for Hackney and Haringey Councils. With overcrowding already a well recognized issue in Stamford Hill, and with the average size of a family being well over 8 people, the desperate need for large family accommodation is now reaching crisis point. With local reference rents outstripping the housing benefit cap element of the Universal Credit system of benefits due in late 2013, we could well see Jewish families finding themselves statutorily homeless. With such a low dependence on Council Housing now, Councils could well find themselves needing to house large families without houses to put them in.

The story of immigration and integration that the Jewish Community share with newer communities in London has also been reflected in this week’s figures. Just as our community established itself in the East End of London, then moving East and North West, so too are newer communities following the same pattern of migration within London. Tower Hamlets, now the home of a strong Bangladeshi community, just like the Jewish and Irish communities before it, is actually decreasing. As the East End makes way for newer communities, just as we have left behind key pieces of communal heritage, preserving them for future generations will be a concern we will share with others.

As new communities migrate within London, becoming more established in new areas of the city, London Boroughs face their communities becoming ever more diverse than they have been. London is now a city of over 150 languages but these languages are now being spoken in parts of our city that perhaps they haven’t been before. Ensuring that London remains a dynamic place of many cultures, one that welcomes diversity at the same time as delivering on cohesion is now an increasing challenge for us all.

The London Jewish Forum will continue to work with the GLA and London Boroughs on many of these issues, ensuring that when decisions are taken about the future shape and structure of services at a local level, our growing community will be in a position to deliver on the changing needs of our community.