A report on the findings of the 2005 Kaplan Centre survey comments that “an ageing Jewish community has adapted well to the new and democratic South Africa”(Bruk and Shain 2006:1). Since then, little quantitative work has explored trends within the South African Jewish population. As a remedy, in 2017, the Kaplan Centre initiated a comprehensive study of the Cape Town community. This report outlines some of the demographic information collected during the course of that project.
The information in this report, such as the number of weddings, emigrations and births, provides insight into the demographic profile of the Cape Town population and how it has changed over time. More broadly, this is the first in a series of papers that focus on South African Jewry, and trends and patterns within South African Jewish communities.
While the 2005 report opened with a reference to the ageing Jewish community, this report will close with a similar sentiment. The information signals a community that is both ageing and experiencing natural population decline. Around 44% of Herzlia graduates since the 1950s have emigrated. The annual number of Orthodox marriages has declined from 71 in 2002 to 35 in 2019. While there is no complete database of births, available datasets point towards a downward trend. While the annual number of communal deaths is similarly trending dowawards, the affiliated community is likely in a period of natural population decline (i.e. excluding emigration and semigration). Finally, that the Cape Town affiliated community is an ageing one was made manifest by the communal register: distilling the communal register to a subsample for whom date of birth and gender is known resulted in a median age of 52.
While demographics are one part of the Cape Town community’s story, so to are the findings from the Cape Town Jewish Community Survey – which are available in Serman et al. (2019). While not immune to external economic and political conditions, the survey findings indicate a community with a strong sense of communal connectivity and Jewish identity.