The Jewish population in Britain grew for the first time since World War II, University of Manchester researchers said.
But a senior researcher for the main umbrella body of British Jewry told JTA the reports of growth were premature.
According to the Manchester researchers, the number of British Jews increased in 2008 to 280,000 from 275,000 in 2005. They cited exceptionally high birth rates in fervently Orthodox families.
The number of British Jews peaked at 450,000 in 1950 but has declined consistently since that time.
Yaakov Wise of the university’s Center for Jewish Studies told the daily Independent that the high birth rate of fervently Orthodox Jews is now “reversing the trend and that will have a major impact on the Jewish community for years to come.”
An average fervently Orthodox family has 6.9 children, whereas the average secular Jewish family has 1.65, according to figures presented by Wise.
Professor Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem told JTA he wasn’t surprised by the numbers. Della Pergola, an expert on global Jewish demography, said the data are an indication of a process of Charedization, or a significant strengthening of an Orthodox stream within the larger British Jewish community.
David Graham of the Board of Deputies said, however, that the community is still shrinking.
“The overall Jewish population will be growing in the not too distant future thanks to the growth in births, but we aren’t there yet,” said Graham.