British Jews told to tick ‘Jewish’ to get Jewish faith schools

Photographer: Paul Gooddy,

In an article released this morning on, the Board of Deputies of British Jews urged those Jews to tick the ‘Jewish’ box in the forthcoming census so as to ‘ensure the appropriate provision of funding for the diverse needs of [the Jewish] community’.

Warning against an under-representation of British Jews, Daniel Vulkan from the Board of Deputies claimed that ‘the answers [from the census religion question] will help both national and local government in planning the provision of faith-specific services … If the census shows that a certain area has a lot of young Jewish couples, this may indicate the need for a new Jewish school.’

This is, of course, regrettably true: census data has, over the last decade, been misused to justify a wide range of policy decisions and resource allocations; and there is no reason to think things will be different in the next few years. ‘Misused’ rather than ‘used’ because the census data about religion is only informative with respect to the (often weak) cultural affiliation of individuals: not on how they feel about religious schools or other religious services.

However, the link between census data and these misuses are not often cited as explicitly as in this article. It seems that more people are coming to understand the grave importance of this question under the presumption that the data will be misused as frequently over the next decade as it was over the last.

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10 Responses to British Jews told to tick ‘Jewish’ to get Jewish faith schools

  1. Annie Hall says:

    I think it was a big mistake for the BHA to drop ‘for God’s sake’ – it changes the effect of the line which now sounds rather hectoring where before it had a nice humour about it. They should have published and be damned. [:)].

    You might as well say an atheist should not be able to say ‘goodbye’ (god be with you) or use words like ‘dispirited’. The Archbishop of Canterbury nor any believer in creator-gods does not own the language or the ideas involved in our religious-heritage.

    The complexity and bias in the form of the question on the census have been correctly identified and the issue of cultural affiliation is an important one in a country where a lot of people feel that Englishness is the culture that dare not speak its name in the face of all the respect due to incoming cultures.

    An important element of English culture is the right to have a laugh – not something recognised in the usual statement of enlightenment values -except arguably it is part of freedom of expression. I, for one, whilst being a devout atheist, agloblinist, aeasterbunnyist etc. would not want to live in an English village without an Anglican parish church. I love church architecture, hymns, christmas rituals, nativity plays etc.etc. I do even go to church on occasion – but find a little goes a long way. I also hope generations of young children to come enjoy visits from Easterbunny and Father Christmas.

    btw – I will be ticking the no religion box.

  2. elaine Kilshaw says:

    There are 10 thousand children dying a day yet the Vatican is worth a fortune, has money stashed in Banks, most probably in the UK. Is this what they call religion, then I do not want any part of it.
    When there is not one child dying or being abused by the Clergy and only have to say a couple of hail marys not to go to hell, and yet in the bible if a so called jewish girl marries out of the religion she will go to hell. nice eh..
    Anyway the earth has been around for at least 50 billion years.

    • LWASS says:

      Hello Elaine

      Well done on making your point. Just one slight pedantic point and it helps to get it a bit right. The age of the Earth is about 5 billion years old not 50.
      An easy typo to make.

  3. elaine Kilshaw says:

    I was born in to a Jewish family but relgion escaped me as I saw it for what it was discrimination against others. I am putting atheist on my census form and I encourage all those who want a better future to do so. By the way my favourite food is a bacon sandwich.

  4. Emma says:

    Well, Richard, that works either way for me. If it’s true that Jedis aren’t religious (and bear in mind that some actually do see it as a faith) then great – that makes for a higher proportion of people not just ticking “Christian” without thinking about it. And if the Jedis want their own school, maybe they’ll get one.
    When I said “what nonsense” I simply meant that ticking a specific box wasn’t necessarily going to mean that those people would get faith-specific schools.
    As far as the bigger picture is concerned, I personally believe that having a breakdown of how many people belong to/practice a particular religion is about as useful as asking how many people would choose purple as their favourite colour. The census should be used to simply count how many people are in this country, their gender, age and general occupation. Any other information should be irrelevant.
    Yes, I understand that governments/councils use these figures in order to allocate resources but again, I don’t believe that someone’s religion should have any bearing on how much the council chooses to spend on them. No-one “needs” a faith-based school, or a church or a temple or a support group for their religion. Faith/religion is personal and can easily be kept within the home.
    The amount of money spent on education, for instance, in any one area should be based solely on how many children aged between 5 and 18 are in that area, not what religion their parents have chosen (or chosen for their child) or any other factor other than whether they have specific educational special needs.

  5. Stephen O'Donnell says:

    It is only through discussion and debate that the UK will survive the pernicious segregation and Balkanisation that is encouraged by faith schooling.

    Discussion and debate? Sounds as if you’ve already made up your mind?

    You have to remember it was predominately religious institutions who provided education for the masses in this country. Why should there be a complete disassociation because secularists perceive injustice?

    The real injustice, the real segregation is the postcode lottery where depending on your income bracket you are chosen by a school(yes-they choose you not the other way about) in an affluent area or consigned to a failing school in a poorer one.

  6. Al Dente says:

    It must be pointed out that there has been much discussion within the Jewish community regarding the wisdom of faith schools and segregation, in a way that would perhaps not take place in other religions, particularly Islam.

    Whilst I do feel concern at this news, at least there is intelligent discussion and dissent within Semitic circles in the UK. It is only through discussion and debate that the UK will survive the pernicious segregation and Balkanisation that is encouraged by faith schooling.

    • Cecil Ballantine says:

      What does Al Dente mean by Semitic? This also includes Arabs who are as Semitic as Jews. Why should he expect Arabs to comment on the provision for Jewish education?

  7. Emma says:

    If Daniel Vulkan’s comments are true, then I trust that if a high proportion of people in my local area complete the religion question with “Jedi” (as in the last census), then provision will be made for a Jedi-specific school in the coming years. What nonsense.

    • Richard says:

      Unfortunately it’s not nonsense Emma it’s not what you say but how it’s used, as you can see from the history of how the census data has been used before:
      if you select Jedi that will be used to increase the statistic for how religious the country is when a civil servant or government official want to back up a religion based paper or the ‘need’ for faith schools, it will not mention the % of Jedi’s because this would weaken their argument as they are very unlikely to be religious.