World Jewish population nears pre-Holocaust level: report

Published June 28, 2015
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem June 28, 2015.– Reuters
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem June 28, 2015.– Reuters

JERUSALEM: The world's Jewish population has grown to be nearly as large as it was before the Holocaust, an Israeli think tank said in its annual report Sunday.

The Jewish People Policy Institute said there are currently 14.2 million Jews in the world. When factoring in individuals with one Jewish parent and others who identify as partially Jewish, the figure approaches 16.5 million– the Jewish population on the eve of World War II. The Nazis and their collaborators murdered about 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

The report said the rise has been due in part to natural growth, mainly in Israel, which has about 6.1 million Jews and one of the Western world's highest fertility rates.

But it also linked the growth to “changing patterns of Jewish identification.” It said that 59 per cent of adult children in the US who have just one Jewish parent now identify as Jewish, a majority "for the first time in memory."

Avinoam Bar-Yosef, the institute's president, said more of those Jews were probably identifying as Jewish because it is more “respectable” to be Jewish in the US than it was years ago. He also said Birthright-Israel, which organises educational trips to Israel for young Jewish people, is likely having an impact.

Still, the report said that the number of Jewish Americans who are not Orthodox, yet who have strong Jewish identities and are integrated into American society, is shrinking. It attributed that decrease to a rise in intermarriage and low birth rates.

The United States has the world's second largest Jewish population, at 5.7 million. France is a distant third with about 475,000 Jews, followed by Canada.

The report, which was presented to the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, dubs itself an “annual stocktaking of the Jewish world.” It offered policy recommendations to strengthen Jewish identity and foster links between Israel and the Jewish diaspora.

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