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British Jewry Moves Toward Ethnic Rather Than Religious Identification

The trend of British Jewry is toward becoming an ethnic community in this country rather than a religious community, Dr. Cecil Roth told the Conference on Jewish Life in Modern Britain, held here today.

The conference was organized by the Institute of Contemporary Jewry of the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, under the auspices of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The trend toward ethnic rather than religious identification, said Dr. Roth, “is not a positive development,” but he stated that the fact must be accepted in view of the movement of Jews in this country from synagogal life toward secular existence.

Dr. Roth also warned against the fallacy of considering that the recent influx of Sephardic Jews here justifies fears that the Sephardic and Oriental Jews “may lower the life of a Jewish community.” “There are great intellectual reserves in the Sephardic segment of Jewry,” he said.

Dr. Moshe Davis, head of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, told the conference that, among many Jewish communities throughout the world, the role of religion in Jewish life is diminishing while Israel’s impact is growing. “These two phenomena,” he said, “must be taken into consideration. We must study all these developments if we want to understand world Jewry.” British Jewry, he pointed out, can play a great role in the life of Jewry outside Israel because it is the only Jewish community in Europe that did not suffer destruction during World War II.

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