Only 103,591 Jews were counted in the 2001 census, which was
released in late December 2002. Before the census, estimates
were that 250,000 to 500,000 Jews live in Ukraine.
According to some, many respondents were afraid to say that
they are Jews. They say that their experience under communist
dictators makes them wary about admitting to their Jewish
Ukraine's last census, conducted in 1989 when it was still
part of the Soviet Union, counted 487,300 Jews among about 52
Now the total population is slightly less than 48.5 million.
Emigration and a low birth rate contributed to the
Thousands of Ukrainian Jews have moved to Israel or to
Germany or the United States. Many observers say that cannot
account for the sharp drop of 380,000 in 12 years. In the
last census, people were officially identified in their
Soviet documents by nationality. Today any identification is
According to surveys by the Jewish Agency for Israel, there
are 215,000 to 220,000 Jews in Ukraine, said Alex Katz, head
of Jewish Agency operations in Ukraine and Moldova.
The chief rabbi of Ukraine, Rabbi Ya'akov Bleich, said the
real number is closer to half a million Jews, or five times
the census figure.
Josef Zissels, chairman of the Va'ad umbrella group of Jewish
organizations in Ukraine, said that at least 150,000
Ukrainians are Jewish according to Jewish law, meaning that
they have a Jewish mother. Including those with a Jewish
spouse or at least one Jewish grandparent, some 400,000
individuals would qualify to immigrate to Israel under the
Jewish state's Law of Return, he said. The census figure
makes sense only if it counts only those people with two
Jewish parents, he said.
The 2001 census also saw a decrease in the number of people
identifying themselves as ethnic Russians and an increase in
the number of ethnic Ukrainians, who now make up nearly 78
percent of the population.