Among the conclusions of an independent review of the
National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, which was
conducted by the United Jewish Communities federation
umbrella group, was that it may undercount the number of Jews
and overestimate their Jewish activity.
While the NJPS said the U.S. Jewish population declined 5
percent to 5.2 million since the last NJPS in 1990, a period
when the overall U.S. population grew by 11 percent, that
number is "slightly lower" than those found in similar
studies, says Mark Schulman, founding partner of Schulman,
Ronca & Bucuvalas, a prominent polling firm.
The NJPS, a $6 million, five-year project, has been beset by
Most demographers say there is little dispute over the fact
that the U.S. Jewish population, depending on how you define
a Jew, has remained relatively stable.
Egon Mayer, who co-authored a 2001 study called the American
Jewish Identity Survey, found 5.3 million people born or
raised Jewish, down 200,000 from 1990.
The real problem is not numerical, said Steven Bayme,
national director of the American Jewish Committee's
contemporary Jewish life department. For half a century,
Bayme said, most social scientists have agreed that the
Jewish population has been relatively stable, between 5 and
5.5 million. The problem, he said, is that the majority of
Jews have "no connection" to actual Judaism.
From a chareidi perspective, all the numbers are much too
high. Millions of those counted in all surveys are not Jewish
by any standards. Even ten years ago, only about 4 million
Jews said that their mothers were Jewish or that they
underwent any kind of conversion. While the underlying
criteria for all those who work in the study was to identify
people who are considered the client base of traditional
secular Jewish organizations, the number of Jews who can be
considered part of the Am Hashem, even using the
broadest criteria, is less than 2.5 million.