SOUTH Africa has a vibrant Jewish community despite the number of Jews in the country steadily dwindling, a study by Sydney-based demographer David Graham has found.
The Jews of South Africa in 2019 was broadly based on the methodology of the Gen-17 study of the Australian Jewish community, which Graham conducted on behalf of JCA.
He became involved through his role as a senior research fellow at the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in London, who were approached by the Kaplan Centre at the University of Cape Town to do the study.
“We were running a survey from Sydney – through London – of South Africa, so it was a very logistically complicated exercise,” Graham said.
The report estimates South Africa’s Jewish population to be 52,300, with 58 per cent in Johannesburg, 24 per cent in Cape Town and seven per cent in Durban.
Graham said a key takeaway was the decline in the population due to migration – overwhelmingly to Australia, Israel, the US and the UK.
“When we asked people, ‘Have you thought about leaving the country in the past year?’, 43 per cent said they had. It’s an astonishing statistic,” he said.
“That said, what was equally striking is how vibrant the Jewish community is in South Africa, especially in Johannesburg,” he said, describing it as communally and religiously engaged with low intermarriage rates.
“In no sense did you see this as a community that is dying.”
With that in mind, Graham said it “shouldn’t be surprising” that many communal organisations in Sydney have ex-South Africans at the helm.
“They are a very communally minded group. It has undoubtedly been an enrichment to our community,” he said.
“In that sense our gain in Australia is very much at their loss.”
There were 4193 respondents aged 18 and above from 2402 households surveyed as part of the study.
In other notable findings, an estimated 57 per cent of households belong to a synagogue, 75 per cent of school-aged children attend a Jewish school and 78 per cent of respondents said they had attended a communal event in the past year.
74 per cent felt anti-Jewish sentiment has increased in the past five years.
View the report at jpr.org.uk/publication?id=17373.