by Ner LeElef
The worldwide Jewish population is 13.3 million Jews. Jewish population growth worldwide is close to zero percent. From 2000 to 2001 it rose 0.3%, compared to worldwide population growth of 1.4%.
In 2001, 8.3 million Jews lived in the Diaspora and 4.9 million lived in Israel. Just about half of the world’s Jews reside in the Americas, with about 46 percent in North America. (top)
Approximately 37% of worldwide Jewry lives in Israel. Israel's Jewish population rose by 1.6% the past year, while the Diaspora population dropped by 0.5%.
Europe, including the Asian territories of the Russian Republic and Turkey, accounts for about 12 percent of the total. Fewer than 2 percent of the world’s Jews live in Africa and Oceania.
Metropolitan Tel Aviv, with 2.5 million Jews, is the world's largest Jewish city. It is followed by New York, with 1.9 million, Haifa 655,000, Los Angeles 621,000, Jerusalem 570,000, and southeast Florida 514,000.
In 2001, 8 countries had a Jewish population of 100,000 or more; another 5 countries had 50,000 or more. There is not a single Diaspora country where Jews amounted to 2.5 percent of the total population. Only 3 Diaspora countries had more than 1 percent. Gibraltar (24.0 per 1000), United States (20.1), Canada (11.9), France (8.8), Uruguay (6.7), Argentina (5.3), Hungary (5.2), and Australia (5.1) had the highest ratios.
The top twelve Jewish populations in the world are:
1. USA: 6,500,000
2. Israel: 4,950,000
3. France: 750,000
4. Russia: 650,000
5. Canada: 364,000
6. Britain: 275,000
7. Argentina: 250,000
8. Germany: 115,000
9. Ukraine: 112,000
10. Hungary: 100,000
11. Brazil: 97,500
12. South Africa: 65,000-88.000
Current Demographic Shifts
Countries with growing populations:
(Mainly due to immigration)
Germany is the fastest growing community of any size due to mass emigration from USSR. The non-Russian population of Germany is quite small, about 15,000 out of approximately115,000 Jews today.
Countries with Decreasing Jewish Populations:
South Africa - now between 88,000 and 65,000, down from a peak of 120,000 or possibly more. Immigration primarily to: Sydney, Melbourne, Atlanta, Toronto, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Israel and to a lesser degree London, Manchester, Perth and New Zealand.
Argentina – Leaving for Mexico City, Miami, Spain and Israel. However, the vast majority of Argentineans are staying put.
Russia – Population beginning to stabilize due to a developing economy and the Israeli security situation. However, together with all CIS countries, still experiencing emigration. Largest current exodus is to Germany, followed by Israel and the USA.
Ukraine – Represents the biggest immigrant group to the USA over the last 10 years.
Mexico – Steady immigration to the States. However, replenished by immigration from other Latin American countries to Mexico. Those leaving are much wealthier than those coming, though immigration to Mexico has positively impacted on its Judaism. Most Klei Kodesh in Mexico today are from Argentina.
Projections for the Future:
One study predicted that in the next 80 years America's Jewish population would decline by one-third to 3.8 million if current fertility rates and migration patterns continue. In the same period, according to the study, the number of Jews in Israel would likely double, swelling to 10 million. The study also anticipated a severe decline in the number of Jews in the former Soviet Union. By 2080, the data suggested, the Jewish community there would be virtually non-existent.
Among the study's conclusions was that Israel would be home to the world's largest Jewish community as early as 2020, and the majority of the world's Jews by 2050. Between the years 2030 to 2040 the majority of Jews will be living in Israel rather than in the Diaspora, where communities are aging.
In 2000, 48.35% of Jewish children 14 and under lived in Israel. By 2020, that number is expected to reach 59.20%.
The study noted in particular the rapidly aging Diaspora community, saying that by the year 2080, more than 40 percent of Diaspora Jews would be 65 and older.
Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami, a principal architect of the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey, which is currently under way, called the recent projections "a great starting point for discussion." But, he added: "Think if this were the year 1900, what could we have predicted? The Holocaust? The State of Israel? The very concept" of projections "is a difficult one."
In 1939, there were 17 million Jews in the world, and by 1945 only 11 million. While in the 13 years following the Holocaust the Jewish population grew by one million, it took another 38 years for it to grow another million. These sobering figures reflect how severely Jewish population growth has slowed down over the past 40 years. Even a fertility increase of 0.4% will add millions of Jews over the next 50 years. But this is not happening right now.
As we know, the distribution of the Jewish population now is completely different from before WW II. Europe was decimated of its Jewish population and Israel and America became the new major centers of Jewry. France, the Soviet Union and Hungary were the three Holocaust-hit countries left with reasonable populations. The war left 250,000 displaced Jews who were mainly supported by the Joint Distribution Committee until they could relocate.
But there were further changes after the war. The Moslem countries emptied out, and the world Jewish population has continued to consolidate over time in fewer countries with large urban Jewish populations over time. The main counter trend in Europe has been Germany, with a large Russian immigrant influx of over 100,000 Jews.
The Jews from Arab Moslem countries went in the main to Israel, but not always. The Algerian Jews, and also considerable numbers of Moroccans (75,000) and Tunisians (80,000), especially the more wealthy ones, went to France, doubling the French community from 300,000 to 600,000 overnight and creating a large Sephardic presence. (The Algerian Jews had French citizenship already in Algeria and had automatic rights of immigration to France.) The vitality of Orthodoxy in France today is largely a result of these immigrants, giving France a high kiruv potential to this day.
Many people do not realize how large and vital the Jewish populations of these Moslem-Arab countries were, with our historical consciousness swamped by Holocaust and pre-Holocaust literature. A number of these countries would make it to the top ten in numbers, were they to exist today. Morocco had 285,000 Jews, Iraq 140,000, Algeria 135,000, Iran 120,000 and Tunisia an estimated 105,000. Several others would be in the next ten. Libya, which was down to 20 Jews in 1974, had a population of 48,000 in 1948. Egypt had 75,000. Of these, possibly the most tragic was Iraq, for the community there had a direct lineage back to the original exile in Babylonia.
Some 150 Iraqi Jews have managed to leave the country in the past five years, leaving just 38 Jews in Baghdad, and a handful in the Kurdish-controlled northern areas of the country. There are just two or three young people left. Whereas Baghdad once had 53 active synagogues, only one remains open. Amazingly, Saddam Hussein's regime has in recent years shown reasonable tolerance toward the Jewish community, even refurbishing the tombs of Yechezkiel Hanavi and Ezra HaSofer (also considered sacred by Muslims), as well as that of Yonah.
2. The State of Orthodoxy
The present estimate for Orthodox Jews in Eretz Yisrael is between 900 thousand and one million; in North America, between 550-650 thousand; and in the rest of the world between 120-150 thousand, making for a total of between 1.67-1.8 million.
In virtually every city in the world, institutional Orthodoxy is on the rise. As an example, in 1975 there were 480 Chabad institutions worldwide. By the year 2000, there were 2,600. Or take the number of Yeshivas and Kollelim that have been established outside of North America and Israel in the last ten years. Cities that can be counted here include Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Caracas, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Moscow, Saratov, Tula, Kiev, Budapest, Berlin and Manchester amongst others.
In Russia and other former Soviet countries, Orthodoxy is the overwhelming presence. Claims by Reform in Russia are widely exaggerated, with many of the Reform communities barely existing or not at all. Orthodox shuls are the majority in Germany too, though other streams of Judaism remain well represented. (Below we will discuss Russia and Germany in greater depth.)
In South Africa, there is no Conservative, with almost no Reform to speak of. Becoming frum in South Africa is as legitimate a choice as becoming a lawyer or a doctor. Like England, Australia and many Southern towns in the USA, a good deal of the South African Orthodox are mechalelei Shabbos, but would fire the Rabbi if they caught him breaking Shabbos. South Africa has the most successful outreach movement of any country outside of Israel. Australia has the largest Lakewood Kollel in the world (Melborne), though in kiruv terms it is still waiting to take off.
South America is also dominated by the Orthodox in the main. Buenos Aires has 50 Orthodox synagogues, five Conservative, and one Reform. In Uruguay, there are 14 Orthodox synagogues and a Conservative one. There are some 15 synagogues in Venezuela, all but one considered Orthodox.
Yet, not everywhere is Orthodoxy already at the forefront. In Hungary, Orthodoxy can boast only one Orthodox shul and another two minyanim. Most Synagogues are Neolog, which as a movement is more observant than Conservative, and at least two Neolog Shuls are fully halachik. However, despite the painful tragedy of Hungarian Jewry, there is now a little kollel of locals and an initiative is underway to open a yeshiva. Alternatives to Orthodoxy remain strong in Brazil as well. Until 1930 the main religious stream was Orthodox. Today most synagogues are Conservative or Reform. However, there too the direction is definitely towards Orthodoxy.
In some countries, notably France and Argentina, there is a notable distinction between Sephardim who are quite involved with their Judaism, and Ashkenazim, who are overall more well to do and much more assimilated. In Argentina, 80% of the Jews are Ashkenazi, but 80% of the frum Jews are Sephardic. Moreover, the religious population is highly ghettoized, and in one area, Villa Crespo, there is one Shul left to service a population that may be as high as 50,000 Jews. The Israeli baal teshuva movement also attracts few Ashkenazim, though efforts by Shorashim and others are showing that this need not be the case.
Orthodoxy in Israel:
Last year, the AviChai foundation put out the results of a study it commissioned on the relationship of Israelis with Judaism in 2000. The results were in the main very encouraging. While 43% of the population described itself as non-religious, only 5% of the population described itself as anti-religious. A majority described themselves as traditional or more (35% traditional, 12% religious, 5% haredi), and even the secular population keeps quite a few Mitzvot as we shall see. The Israeli population still overwhelmingly identifies itself with their Jewish identity. 98% put up Mezuzahs, and a large majority fast on Yom Kippur, don’t eat chometz on Pesach, have a Seder and light Menorahs on Chanukah.
Yet, in a much smaller way, Israelis are beginning to mimic the trends of personalized religion we wrote about Americans in our last edition. On the one hand belief in G-d is slightly up from the 1990 survey (from 63% - 65%). Belief in reward and punishment, that the Torah is G-d given, and that we are the Chosen Nation is all up. Yet, the number of people defining themselves as traditional has dropped from 42% to 35% while the number who define themselves as non-religious has risen from 38% to 43%. This reflects a greater polarization of Israeli society, and it means that future kiruv efforts towards the secular Israeli population are likely to become more challenging.
3. Assimilation and Birthrate
Established (approximate) assimilation figures for the year 2000:
Over 70% of Jews in Russia, Ukraine and some Western countries, with small Jewish communities. (Moscow may be as high as 90%)
55% for Europe overall.
54% for South America overall.
53% for former CIS countries overall.
50-52 % among Jews of America and France.
Close to 40% among British Jews.
Over 30% among Jews in Canada and Australia.
It is difficult to come up with exact population figures on a country by country basis, let alone city by city around the world. Figures for Russia and other CIS countries are but educated guesses. Chabad and the Jewish Agency tends to give the highest figures, although the Jewish Agency is talking about Zakaeh Aliyah (Right of Return), making no pretense that most of those are not Jewish. In addition, some countries have large numbers of missing Jews, those who do not identify with being Jewish in any way. For example, the official figures for Buenos Aires show a Jewish population of 200,000 Jews. However, all leading communal figures believe that the figure could be as much as twice that. France is given a population of 600,000 Jews. In the field, a figure of 750,000 is used. We have generally put the official figure down first, with a second ‘field’ estimate in parentheses.
On eve of 5761, (2000/01) Israel’s population reached 6.3 million. During 5760, the country's population grew by 2.5%, or 165,000, slightly less than in the previous year.
Jews and immigrants arriving under the Law of Return constituted 82% of the population, growing 2.5% to 4.95 million, a growth rate that is still high by world standards, where the average rate is 1.3%. Registered Jews were 78.57% of the total population.
There are some 200,000 non-Jewish immigrants and their families living here, of which 180,000 are Christian and 20,000 unclassified.
The Arab population reached 1.15 million, 18% of the total. This includes Moslems, Druse, and Christians and has remained constant for the past few years.
Net immigration constituted 34% of the rise in the Jewish population, compared to the previous year's 36%. Some 63,000 immigrants arrived, down from the previous year's 73,000. Almost 90% of the immigrants came from the former Soviet Union, 36% from the Russian Federation.
Israeli populations abroad:
Israelis are included in the figures for Israel and not the host country. However, this is misleading, since most Israelis are de facto permanent residents of the host country. Current figures are
US: 350,000 - 500,000
South Africa: 10,000 - 15,000
In 2001, the Indian embassy in Israel noted a 50% increase on applications for immigration of Israelis to India. The British embassy recorded a 25% increase and the American embassy a 10% increase. (These figures may include Israeli Arabs and West Bank Arabs.)
Demographic Balance with Israeli Arabs:
The overall fertility rate of the Moslems is 4.6%, while that of Israeli Jews is 2.6%. The 110,000 Bedouins of the Negev have the highest fertility rate, with a 5.9% growth rate. Half the Bedouins are below the age of 13. The population doubles every 12 years. Excluding the Bedouins, the Moslem growth rate is 3.2%, still way above the 2.6% of the Jews. Put differently, there are 2.6 births per Jewish woman, against 4.6 births per Moslem woman. (In 1970, there were 9 births per Moslem woman.)
Within the Jewish population, the Hareidim as well as the Ethiopians have a growth rate of 3.5%. The annual growth rate of the rest of Israeli Jews is about 0.8%, somewhat higher than the average in Western countries.
Since independence, the Arab population has risen more than sixfold, from 160,000 in 1949 to 1.1 million today.
The immigration policy of Israel also favors a demographic shift away from a Jewish population. It is generally believed that 60% of those who have made aliyah in the last ten years are not Jewish.
Total immigration to Israel has in any case fallen significantly. In 2001 it was down to 33,858 and by September of 2002 there were 25,296 immigrants. Only 13,792 came from Eastern Europe this year, meaning probably less than 6,000 Jews. (This is compared to close to 26,000 the previous year and close to 38,000 for 2000.)
There are an additional 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and a further 1 million in Gaza.
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