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Jewish community income: How is it being affected by the pandemic?

Author(s): David Graham, Jonathan Boyd and Carli Lessof
Date: 07 January 2021

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As soon as the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic became evident, concern began to be expressed in the Jewish community about how its effects might damage aspects of Jewish life. Our July 2020 survey of Jews across the UK was designed to investigate some of these effects and bring some data into policy discussion about the future of the community.

Part of that discussion involves community income, and specifically whether Jews will feel able to donate to charities in the ways they have previously, or if they will continue to pay membership fees to synagogues or make voluntary contributions to cover the Jewish studies programmes, security and other supplementary activities in Jewish schools.

This paper looks at these issues first by examining respondents’ giving behaviours in 2019, and comparing them to their actual or expected behaviours during the first few months of the pandemic. It finds that, as of July 2020, its effects were found to be rather limited – while charitable giving, synagogue membership fees and voluntary contributions to schools were all expected to take a hit, a strong majority indicated no change in their giving behaviour at this time. Moreover, there are some indications that a shift has taken place in people’s tendency towards giving to Jewish charities over general ones. Whether this is part of a longer-term trend or simply a response to the pandemic is unclear.

The study then investigates those who said they were planning to make a ‘negative switch’ in their giving behaviour, to explore the extent to which that change was due to economic factors caused by the pandemic, or two alternative possibilities: their economic situation prior to it, or the strength/weakness of their Jewish identity.

It finds that changes in behaviour are heavily influenced by the economic impact of the pandemic, particularly with respect to synagogue membership fees, but that Jewish identity also plays a part, most acutely in relation to making voluntary contributions to schools.


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