First Findings from the Jewish Community Survey of South Africa

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The Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at UCT and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in London have released the official report from the Jewish Community Survey of South Africa (JCSSA). The survey was the largest and most extensive study of its kind ever undertaken in South Africa.

The Kaplan Centre and JPR estimate South Africa’s Jewish population at 52,300, with four in five living in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The median age is 45 years, similar to the median age of Australia’s Jewish population (44 years), but with significant variation between Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban. Jews have emigrated from South Africa in significant numbers since the 1960s; the study speculates that the South African Jewish diaspora may now be larger than the Jewish population living in South Africa.

Despite numerical decline, the report finds that the South African Jewish community is remarkably vibrant and resilient. Overall, Jewish identity in South Africa appears to be stronger, and more religious, than in either Australia or the UK. The community remains very close-knit: over 70% of South African Jews say that more than half or all of their close friends are Jewish, compared to 68% in Australia and 56% in the UK, and the intermarriage rate for the period 2010-14 was 17%, compared to 21% in Australia, 26% in the UK and 58% in the US.

The study finds significant differences between the Jewish communities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, with 48% in Johannesburg self-identifying as either Orthodox or strictly Orthodox, compared with 22% in Cape Town. In Cape Town 40% self-describe as Progressive or Secular, compared with 18% in Johannesburg. These differences manifest in a variety of other indicators. 71% in Johannesburg, for example, completely agree with the statement ‘I believe in God,’ compared to 51% in Cape Town.

The report offers insight into a variety of other topics relating to the demography, identity, education, religion, politics, and wellbeing of South African Jews. To read the full report, go to http://www.kaplancentre.uct.ac.za/kaplancentre/reports.  

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