Around a quarter of UK Jews mark Yom Hazikaron and Yom Atzmaut

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Around a quarter of UK Jews mark Yom Hazikaron and Yom Atzmaut

New JPR figures from 2022 show increased awareness of new commemorations

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Yom HaZikaron
Yom HaZikaron

Just under a quarter of British Jews now mark Israel’s Memorial Day (Yom Hazikaron) — and more observe its independence day, (Yom Ha’atzmaut), according to new research released by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).

The figures come from JPR’s recent study of Jewish identity in the UK today, based on the responses of nearly 5,000 British Jews, members of the JPR research panel, to its UK National Jewish Identity Survey, held in November – December 2022. The results represent the first look at the extent to which British Jews mark these holidays and provide important insights into the nature of their Jewishness and their relationship with Israel.

Some of the key findings, from JPR senior research fellow Dr David Graham, show that 24 per cent of adult Jews in the UK observed or marked Yom Hazikaron “either in person or online” in 2022, and a slightly higher proportion (32 per cent) observed or marked Yom Ha’atzmaut. About one in five (22 per cent ) observed both days.

Generally speaking, the more religious a person is, the more likely they are to observe these events. The exception is among strictly Orthodox or Charedi Jews, whose level of participation is more or less equal to the most secular and religiously non-practising.

JPR’s executive director, Dr Jonathan Boyd, said: “The question of whether Jews mark these days or not tells us a great deal about the nature of Jewish identity in Britain today. These occasions are quite new additions to the Jewish calendar, certainly when compared to traditional Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur or Pesach, so we should not expect them to be as well embedded in the consciousness of Jews in the diaspora as more ancient festivals.

“They are also fundamentally secular in tone, so contrast significantly from more overtly religious occasions. Yet there is a correlation between people’s choice to mark these days and their levels of religiosity, and indeed their degrees of attachment to and engagement in Jewish communal life.

“What this tells us is that today, three-quarters of a century after the establishment of the state of Israel, the existence of the country and the losses it has endured play a strikingly significant part in many people’s Jewish identities, particularly those who are most likely to be communally involved. We know that Israel constitutes an important part of many British Jews’ sense of Jewishness; these new data help to provide a deeper insight into that relationship, and set a benchmark against which to assess the evolution of that relationship over time – a critical issue in the post-October 7 world.”

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