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Monday, December 22, 2014

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Last week, in this space, I referred to the most recent demographic study of the world’s Jewish com- munity published in the 2012 American Jewish Yearbook.

The article on population comprises Chapter 6 of a 23-chapter report on the state of world Jewry. The report is a treasure of important, interesting and worthwhile information.

The population study was compiled by Hebrew University professor Sergio DellaPergola. In this column I continue to mine its rich, instructive veins of detail and data.

It is no exaggeration to write that DellaPergola is the Jewish world’s pre- eminent demographer. As his biography notes, inter alia, he “holds a PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is the for- mer chairman and professor of popula- tion studies at the Hebrew University’s Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry. He has published numerous books and over 100 papers on historical demography, the family, international migration, Jewish identi- fication, and population projections in the Diaspora and in Israel.”

DellaPergola’s data is reliable. His observations are sound. His conclusions are insightful.

All the figures relate to 2012. And of course, DellaPergola discusses at great length the various ways by which one might be defined as being Jewish. I avoid any reference to that discussion and will simply report the final figures used by DellaPergola.

In 2012, the number of Jews in the world was 13,746,100.

Israel’s Jewish population was 5,901,100. (We know Israel’s Jewish population has since then exceeded 6,000,000.)

Throughout the rest of the world, there are 7,845,000 Jews. When one subtracts from this number, the num- ber of Jews in the United States, namely 5,425,000, we are left with a total of 2,420,000 Jews outside Israel and the United States.

DellaPergola provides concise num- bers for the Jews that comprise the Diaspora communities.

In North, South and Central America – not counting the United States – there are 758,200 Jews. By far, the largest of these communities is our own in Canada with 375.000. Canada is home to the fourth-largest Jewish commu- nity in the world. South America has 329,000 Jews and Central America, 54,200. Argentina’s community is 181,800-strong. Brazil’s is 95,300.

The total number of Jews in Europe is 1,426,900. The community there will never restore the Jewish civilization that the Nazis destroyed. Of that number, 1,109,400 Jews live in the countries of the European Union.

The three largest EU communi- ties are: France, 480,000; the United Kingdom, 291,000 and Germany, 119,000. The size of the community in the European portion of the former Soviet Union is 276,900.

DellaPergola reports that some 119,600 Jews live in Australia and New Zealand and that 75,300 in Africa. Of this latter number 70,200 live in South Africa. In the once flourishing Jewish communities north of the Sahara in the Arab countries of the Maghreb, there are now only 3,600 Jews. And finally, DellaPergola notes that 40,000 Jews live in Asia.

This latest study by DellaPergola is a compre- hensive sweep of world

Jewry. In his concluding remarks, DellaPergola notes that most of the Diaspora communities are not growing. (Canada, for the time being at least, is an exception.) Typically, he writes in an understated manner, inviting – if not hoping, too – that we draw the appro- priate conclusions.

“It is important to recognize that powerful and consistent trends con- stantly shape and reshape the demo- graphic profile of world Jewry. It is important that we read current data in historical and comparative context. The recent momentum of Jewish popula- tion change in the United States and in most other countries of the world – at best tending to zero growth – contrasts with that of Israel, characterized by the continuation of significant natural increase.

“While the transition of Israel to the status of largest Jewish population in the world is grounded on solid empirical foundations, the United States remains a very large, culturally and socioeco- nomically powerful, creative, resilient and influential centre of Jewish life. The aggregate weight of other Jewish communities globally – aside from their continuing cultural relevance – is gradually decreasing. In a Jewish world that has become demographically more bipolar, but also more individualistic and transnational, the cultural and institutional projection and influence of the two major centres, Israel and the United States, tends to become more significant in other geographical areas of Jewish presence.”

DellaPergola tells us with unsparing, footnoted detail where we are across the globe. He cannot tell us, of course, who we are. That detail lies within our own hearts. And it is for each of us to spend our entire lives to discover and act upon it.

– MBD

 

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