Israeli emigration to the United Kingdom surpassed British immigration to the Jewish State by three-to-two, offsetting any Israeli population gains caused by aliya, according to a new report released Wednesday.
Based on data from the 2011 British census and other sources, the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research asserted that this “net migratory dividend for Britain’s Jewish community” actually contributed to keeping Jewish population levels stable there during the first decade of the new millennium.
Despite this increase, however, the estimated Israeli-British population of just under 25,000 as of 2011 is “considerably lower” than others have claimed, JPR researchers stated.
Last month the group reported that England’s Orthodox community is increasing by nearly five percent a year, while the wider, non-haredi Jewish population is decreasing by 0.3%. Haredi birth rates are six to seven children per couple, more than three times the average UK national rate. If high haredi birth rates continue, half of all Jewish children and around 30% of young Jewish adults living in the United Kingdom will be haredi by 2031.
Overall, Israelis constitute 6% of English Jewry, with some 8870 having moved to England during the 2000s. Around 6400 Britons immigrated to Israel during the same period.
“The expatriate Israel-born population living in Britain is now by far the largest on record, totaling 18,178 people in 2011, 49% more than in 2001, and implying a very rapid average net increase of around 4% per year over the decade,” the report stated.
Of particular interest is that only around two-thirds of Israeli expatriates identified as Jewish on the census, although housing statistics indicate that many of these Israelis live in largely Jewish areas. Around 9% of Israelis in England identify as Christians; 73% identify as Jews by religion or ethnicity; 16% are “religious nones” and up to 16% are ultra-Orthodox.
Despite being overwhelmingly secular, however, more than half of Israelis in England send their children to Jewish schools, although synagogue membership lags behind their native born counterparts.
Around 20% of Israelis there hold only an Israeli passport; 21% hold dual citizenship, and 23% are dual citizens who were born outside of Israel, “mainly in the UK,” the report added.
“The evidence indicates that Israelis constitute about 6% of the UK Jewish population today. Most are secular, and relatively few choose to belong to synagogues. But they are just as likely as British Jews to send their children to Jewish schools, so it is clear that this is the main point of contact with the community,” said JPR executive director Dr. Jonathan Boyd.
“Given that this is quite a young population – the majority is aged between 25 and 45 and is highly educated – Israelis could well represent an incredibly valuable pool of talent for the Jewish community if they become active in British Jewish life.”
“The study sheds some interesting light on the community of Israelis living in the UK. We know that it is a sizable group."
However, it is largely a transitory population, most of whom are intent on returning to Israel, as many do, while others take their place,” Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told The Jerusalem Post.
“Of course some stay longterm, particularly where they have a British partner. I’m not sure that it’s helpful to make any comparison with British olim, the great majority of whom are successfully absorbed in Israel, where they remain permanently.”
According to Andrew Balcombe, former president of the UK Zionist Federation and a recent immigrant to Israel, England’s welfare state and advanced economy may prove attractive to many Israelis, but the numbers overall do not appear to be significant.
I think they are over-egging the pudding in terms of the numbers. I don’t think there is a statistical significance to what they are trying to say,” he mused.
Danny Sudwarts, a recent white-collar British oleh to Israel, said that he believed that the study did not take into account recent increases in British aliya among educated professionals.
London’s multicultural vibe and welcoming atmosphere make it a logical destination for those seeking to move abroad, he said, explaining that “in terms of western countries, England is very attractive financially and culturally.”
“Generally, [Israelis] tend to fit in quite well,” he said.
According to Tal Ofer, an Israeli member of the Board of Deputies, aliya numbers may be lower than those of incoming Israelis because “British Jews know they are better off in the UK economically.”
“Around 500-600 Brits make aliya every year, while many more Israelis come to the UK using both Israeli & EU passports.
The ramifications are a net brain drain for Israel, especially as many young and educated professionals leave the country,” he said.
According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, which facilitates aliya from England, there has been a “steady increase in the number of UK olim we have assisted over the past few years.”
Jewish Agency figures pegged aliya between January and October at 663 people, up 24% over 2014, a figure generally in line with that cited by the JPR report.
The issue of emigration exploded in the Israeli media last year after an expatriate in Berlin called for an exodus to Europe, citing the high cost of dairy goods in Israel.
However, Central Bureau of Statistics data released at the time showed that fewer Israelis are leaving the country for the long term than ever before.
JTA contributed to this report.
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