Census 2021 – Jewish leaders urge community to ‘Count Us In’!

With less than one week to go until the 2021 Census this coming Sunday, the Board of Deputies dedicated the latest in its popular BoDCast series to the national population count.

The panel, comprising the Office of National Statistics’ Peter Benton, the Institute of Jewish Policy Research’s Dr Jon Boyd and prominent Charedi educator and blogger Eli Spitzer, all spoke about the need to tick the ‘Jewish’ box under the religion question.

Kicking off the event, Board of Deputies’ President Marie van der Zyl said: “We have a clear message for everyone: Be counted!”

She reminded viewers that it is a “legal requirement to complete the census”, adding, “It is a communal obligation to tick the ‘Jewish’ box, in order for local authorities and charities to understand the services which we all need”.

Peter Benton, the Office for National Statistic’ Director of Population and Public Policy Operations, reflected on the Census as a 220 year-old institution, saying, “All of our local services are planned on the basis of census information. If you’re not counted, your needs can’t be seen, whether it’s for healthcare or education or school places or housing.”

Dr Jon Boyd, Executive Director of the Institute of Jewish Public Policy Research, said: “Stand up and be proud. Fundamentally, we need to take Jewish life seriously”, and outlined the importance of the data that the census provides for community planning around synagogues, schools, care homes and cemeteries. “By ticking that box, you count yourself in and include yourself in the research that is done by the community and about the community.”

Eli Spitzer, prominent Charedi educator and blogger, said: “It is so important to raise awareness of the need for members of the Charedi Jewish community to engage with the census, complete the census and also to do it properly by ticking the Jewish question.”

Mr Spitzer said that the starting point for the distribution of funding for community needs was based on census data, so there was a real risk of the Charedi community in particular missing out, if people did not complete the form for every individual.

He outlined the two main obstacles in terms of Charedi participation: lack of access to the internet in many Charedi homes, and the fact that the paper form only has space for five household members, far fewer than the membership of many Charedi families.

Dr Boyd said that the data showed that the British Charedi community was “roughly doubling in size every 20 years”, due in large part to a combination of high fertility rates with good national healthcare provision.

Mr Benton said that the Office for National Statistics had set up assisted digital centres to help those who could not get online and had taken on around 300 local community engagement managers and community advisers. This included one in Hackney and Haringey, Carole Sandground, to specifically support the Stamford Hill Charedi community, with similar provision in the north.

Asked about concerns surrounding the census’ data security, Mr Benton sought to reassure people that the safety of information provided was guaranteed by law, adding, “That responsibility sits on me personally. I could go to prison for two years if the data were unlawfully disclosed”.

On the question of whether this was the last national census, Mr Benton said that there would be a full review in 2023 about whether comparable data could be gathered in other means before deciding on whether or not to hold another census in 2031. Dr Boyd said that while he understood the considerations around whether to hold another census, the previous censuses in 2001 and 2011 “have been the most extraordinary gift to this community in terms of the insight they provide into the community and are the envy of other Jewish communities around the world. “

Expressing his gratitude to the Board of Deputies for putting on the event, Mr Benton, said: “This event speaks volumes. To have people from your own community telling us why the census matters is worth a hundred times any words I could say, so I am really, really grateful for this event.”

This was the last public event for the Board of Deputies’ outgoing Chief Executive Gillian Merron, who chaired the panel. Later this month, Gillian will be leaving the organisation to join the House of Lords as Baroness Merron of Lincoln.

Census Day is 21 March in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the Census has been delayed until 20 March 2022.

To watch the event, please click here.

For more information and to complete the census, visit census.gov.uk.

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