United Kingdom

British Jewry has always been concentrated in Greater London, where two-thirds of the community now reside. Major regional centers include Manchester (30,000), Leeds (10,000), and Glasgow (6,500). In Birmingham, Brighton, Bournemouth, Gateshead, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Southend, and Westcliff, there are also sizeable communities, and there are dozens of smaller communities across the British Isles.

The Jewish population has experienced a marked decline in recent decades. While 410,000 Jews were thought to be in Britain in 1967, the community has declined by some 25% since then, despite the arrival of an estimated 30,000 Israelis. The community is shrinking due to a low birthrate, intermarriage, and emigration.


The Board of Deputies links many synagogues and, together with a large number of special interest groups, brings British Jewry into a common framework. The board is the community's political representative and endeavors to encourage organizational cooperation and planning.

At the same time, this communal structure does not attract the interest of a significant number of Jews. Several initiatives have been dedicated to involving unaffiliated Jews in some form of Jewish activity. Support for Israel is fostered by a number of pro-Israel or purely philanthropic organizations. Zionist youth movements of a variety of religious and political persuasions are active and successful in promoting aliya and attachment to Israel.

Welfare structures are given high communal priority, and organizations such as Jewish Care and World Jewish Relief have prominent positions. Jewish Care plays a critical role in supporting dozens of retirement homes. Today's community is, for the most part, solidly middle class. Increasing numbers have turned to the professions, while many are involved in commerce. Relative to the population in general, British Jews have a strong tendency to attend institutes of tertiary education. Jews are active and prominent in political life, and a number have served as cabinet ministers and senior members of the judiciary.

Religious Life

Organized Jewish life in the United Kingdom is largely centered around synagogue affiliation. Britain's 360 houses of worship reflect 6 forms of religious affiliation: traditional Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, Reform, Liberal, Sephardi, and Masorati. Approximately 70% of the community is affiliated with these denominations.

A recent study suggests that these Jews are divided thusly: 47% are members of traditional Orthodox communities, 12% of Reform communities, 4% of Liberal, 4% of ultra-Orthodox, 2% of Sephardi, and 1% of Masorati.

Rabbinical training centers are operated by the Orthodox, Reform, ultra-Orthodox, and Sephardi communities. Each of the denominations is serviced by an independent umbrella organization, the most prominent of which is the Orthodox United Synagogue, which is headed by the chief rabbi.

Kashrut observance is served in London by a number of kosher stores, butcheries, restaurants, and caterers. Smaller communities have more limited facilities, but kosher food can be found in most parts of the country.

Culture and Education

A network of Jewish day schools operates in London and in other major cities. The educational institutions in Gateshead offer boarding facilities for Jews who wish to study in an ultra-Orthodox framework.

Jews College is the traditional Orthodox community's rabbinical studies center. Leo Baeck College trains Reform rabbis, and a number of yeshivot are operated by the ultra-Orthodox communities. One of Britain's leading centers of tertiary Jewish studies is the Oxford Centre for Hebrew Studies at Yarnton.

The Jewish Chronicle is the focus of communication for the community across the country. It is read by an estimated 75% of the community. The Jewish Quarterly is a magazine that offers commentary and articles of a cultural focus. New Moon is a magazine targeting a young adult audience.


Britain and Israel maintain full diplomatic relations. Aliya: Since 1948, 26,500 British Jews have emigrated to Israel.


The Jewish Museum, the London Museum of Jewish Life, and the Bevis Marks Synagogue are all of interest. Former Jewish quarters from the early period of Jewish life in the United Kingdom can be visited in London and in a number of cities and towns. The British Library and the British Museum contain major collections of Jewish artifacts and manuscripts.

Manchester has a Jewish Museum, and the medieval home of Aaron the Jew is located in Lincoln. In 1996 a Holocaust education center-the first of its kind in the United Kingdom-was opened near Nottingham.


Glasgow's contemporary community has moved from the industrial parts of the city into the suburbs, where many of the city's seven synagogues are located. Edinburgh, which has a smaller community of just over one thousand Jews, has one synagogue and a number of small, but active, Jewish societies. There are also small numbers of Jews in Aberdeen and Dundee.


The Welsh Jewish community took form when Jews immigrated from Russia and eastern Europe to escape persecution and stifled opportunity. Today Cardiff has both an Orthodox and a Liberal synagogue. There is a Jewish kindergarten. Kosher food is sold in several shops. Jews also live in Llandudno, Newport, and Swansea.

Northern Ireland

In recent decades, the civil unrest between Catholics and Protestants has seen most of Belfast Jewry migrate to England, Israel, and the United States. A modern synagogue was built in 1967, but today the community numbers only a few hundred.

Channel Islands

Jews first appeared in the Channel Islands in the middle of the 18th century, and the first synagogue was built in the middle of the 19th century. Most Jews managed to flee the island in advance of the German occupation, but those that remained were handed over to the Germans by the local authorities and deported to their deaths in Auschwitz. After the war, Jews returned to the islands, where they reside mainly in Jersey. There is a synagogue in Jersey that is served by a rabbi who visits from England.

Board of Deputies of British Jews
6 Bloomsbury Square
GB-London WC1A 2LP
Email: mfo@bod org uk
Website: www.bod.org.uk

2 Palace Green
London, W8 4QB
Tel. 44 171 957 9500
Fax 44 171 957 9555

Kosher Food


For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database


We welcome any comments you may have on this article.

Comments are moderated and we reserve the right to edit or remove any which are derogatory or offensive.

The WJC is not responsible for the content of any comments.