Jewish faith settled out of class

16th February 1996 at 00:00
Attending a Jewish school makes little difference to whether or not pupils choose to remain in the Jewish community, according to a new study by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

Parental attitudes are overwhelmingly the most important factor, says the report which was conducted in response to great concern at the number of young Jews leaving the faith.

Estimates suggest that the number of British Jews has declined from 400, 000 after the war to 300,000. This is believed to work out as the loss of 10 Jews a day, for which "marrying out" of the community has been widely blamed.

"Jewish education appears to play very little part in determining whether an individual maintains his or her Jewish identity, once religious background is allowed for," says the report, which reaches the same conclusion about Jewish youth groups.

Clive Lawton, chief executive of the Jewish Continuity organisation, which is spending Pounds 2 million on projects aimed at fostering a sense of Jewish identity, said that, while disturbing, the findings will not be a great surprise.

"If schooling is in conflict with parental approaches, then it's not going to turn around those parental attitudes. We have paid insufficient attention as a community to providing for parents as well as schools."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which represents the Orthodox section of British Judaism, has set up the Jewish Family Education Executive. "We're very conscious of the need to promote Jewish family values in school and have already been working to that end," said Laurie Rosenberg, the board's director of education. "We believe the benefits will start to feed through."

The report says there is "a growing sector of British Jews who feel firmly and securely rooted in British society, have no sense of living in dispersion or 'exile', do not see the Bible as the actual word of God, and do not feel an imperative to find a Jewish partner."

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