Irish census form omits box for Jews

Jews will have to register their religion as part of the "other" category.

shamrock star of david  (photo credit: )
shamrock star of david
(photo credit: )
Ireland's Jewish community is expressing dismay after learning that the country's upcoming census will not include a distinct category for Jews in the section concerning religious identity. The forms to be used in the census, to take place on April 23, include a question that asks, "What is your religion?," which is followed by seven boxes that respondents may check to indicate their reply. These include Roman Catholic, Methodist and Muslim, but not Jewish. Instead, those wishing to identify themselves as Jews will have to register their religion as part of the "other" category. In a telephone interview from Dublin, Brian King, a statistician and spokesman for the Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO), told The Jerusalem Post that, "The CSO doesn't mean to cause offense or confusion among the Jewish community." King cited practical reasons for not including a separate "tick box" for Jews, including the community's small size and that other religious groups are not listed either due to space considerations. Ireland's Jewish community numbers just 1,790, according to the 2002 census, or less than 1 percent of the population. Previous census forms included a separate category for Jews, but it was dropped in 2002. "The reason it isn't there is solely due to the frequency," King said. "We are constrained by space, but people still have the option to write down their religion in the box." Nevertheless, Ireland's Jews feel slighted. "It's a pity and unhelpful that the Central Statistics Office didn't include a category," Carl Nelkin, vice chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, told the UK Jewish Telegraph. Nelkin noted that when filling out the form, people might be less inclined to go to the trouble of writing in "Jewish‚" thereby resulting in an under count. "If there was a specific category, it would help," he said. Irish Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Pearlman told the Post Tuesday by phone that "it would be nice to have a box to be ticked off for Jewish people and to be recognized that we are a community here." However, he said, the community is indeed small, "so it is understandable" that no separate category for Jews was included on the forms. "I am sure there was no anti-Semitic intent" behind the decision, he added. At its peak in the late 1940s, Ireland's Jews numbered approximately 5,500, but emigration and other factors resulted in the community's decline. But due to robust economic growth over the past decade, Ireland experienced a surge in immigration, leading many to believe that this year's census may reveal an increase in the Jewish population. Preliminary results of the count are expected within three months, and the complete figures should be available within a year.