Thursday, November 25, 2010

How Many Jews Are There?

Not that many. No matter how you define them, there are millions fewer now than there were in 1939, and it's not likely we'll ever get back to that number, not this century, anyway.

Sergio Della Pergola and colleagues have published their annual Jewish demographic report, which seems, at first glance, to be quite interesting, especially if you like demography.

If one counts people for whom being Jewish has any significance, the largest Jewish community is in Israel. It's also the only sizable community which is growing.


Lee Ratner said...

This brings up some bits of demographic trivia that always puzzled me. From various sources, I've heard it estimated that there would be about 32 or 33 million Jews in the world if the Holocaust never happened.

This estimate makes no sense to me and I can't find any of the reasoning behind it. The main reason why Jews haven't recovered so much after the Holocaust is because the Jewish birthrate has decreased due to a rise in the socioeconomic status/education level of most Diaspora Jews and because of medium to high rates of intermarriage. I've yet to find a plausible explanation on why these factors would not happen without the Holocaust.

Putting it more numerically. The Jewish population increased by about twenty percent from 1945 to the present. If the non-Holocaust estimates are to believed than the the Jewish population would have increased a little under eighty percent. This is a dramatic increase in the number of Jewish births.

Can anybody clue me in on this puzzle?

Lee Ratner said...

One think that I really like about the Orthodox Jews, is that they are Jews that are having lots of Jewish children. I wish that they would be a bit more open the importance of the secular aspects of Jewish culture and identity but its good that they are having children.

Yaacov said...


In 1939 there were about 18 million Jews in the world. I've never heard the 32 million speculation, and don't see what it might be based upon.

Still, 18 million, given current trends, seems well beyond any imaginary target to reach.

Lee Ratner said...

Yaacov, yeah thats what I figure. Even assuming a higher birthrate/lower intermarriage rate; I still don't think you can get close to 32 million from 18 million. I assume it would be somewhere in the lower to mid-twenties.

As to where I heard it, its a number I've seen bounced around in various books and on some forums but without much reasoning behind it. It always seemed dubious.

Yitzchak Goodman said...

Does Israel now have somewhat more than half of the world's Jewish children (Ages 1 -14)?

Anonymous said...

OT Hebrew translation question
How does
" אירועי המשט הטורקי לעזה בסוף מאי"

get translated into "botched Israeli raid" ?


Sylvia said...

In the absence of an "atrocity du jour", and to retain its crowds of Jews-haters Haaretz English edition still has to supply them with their daily fix. Hence the botched translations.
Haaretz Hebrew edition - the newspaper - makes up for the loss of subscribers by .... pimping. Yes, sex ads. That's how they stay afloat.

Anonymous said...


the other day I read that high class subscription only publications are doing well, the highest subscription annual I've read was 5.700$

I wonder if that is an explanation why news in the meant to be for "us" outlets have become so mediocre or have they always been so and it is only now due to internet and bloggers that one becomes aware of it?

on the other hand The Atlantic used to have great stuff and now I don't even bother, the same for NYTimes Sunday Magazine and others.

i.e. it is not only Hebrew subsidized by pimping and English subsidized by "ain't it awful horror porn" but the hopefully well researched info only for the well heeled customers?


Avigdor said...

Is 32 million some magic target? If the Jewish population of Israel could double every 20 years like the Arabs of Gaza have been doing, at least once, from both in-migration and natural increase, it would go a long way towards resolving the country's geopolitical headaches. That's not a reason to have children, it's the icing on the cake. Unsurprisingly, as on so many other issues, there is no policy on encouraging a high Jewish birth rate, either in Israel or in the Diaspora.

Ultimately, having Jewish kids is the major contribution that most of us will ever make to Jewish peoplehood. As I tell friends and family who pester me about what Obama is doing to Israel, "You want to really teach him a lesson? Have a baby."

Maybe one of those Jewish billionaires we keep hearing about will sponsor a global "one more child" campaign, to encourage a sense of purpose and communal responsibility for Jewish parents to have one child more than what they were planning.

Lee Ratner said...

Victor, its not so much that 32 million is a magic target as its an estimate I've seen referenced on how many Jews there would be without a Holocaust. Considering that the demographic trends among Jews are largely unrelated to the Holocaust, I always found this puzzling. Even assuming more poor, religious, and non-intermarried Jews, I'd assume that you would get twenty to twenty five million Jews without the Holocaust.

Anonymous said...

Considering that the demographic trends among Jews are largely unrelated to the Holocaust,

would you please stop writing stuff like that?

it is beyond decency to speculate whether the Holocaust influenced or not, demographic trends among Jews.

All what if history is per se baloney but to do it with that event in the mix is beyond the pale.


Anonymous said...

"would you please stop writing stuff like that?"

From one anonymous to another. It's hardly speculation to say that if there were 18 million Jews in the world in 1939 that by 2010 there should be at least 20 to 25 million Jews.

I would like to know how many Jews decided not to bring up their children as Jews because of the Holocuast and antisemitism?