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2 Tammuz 5760 - July 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Decline in Worldwide Jewish Population

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

The Jewish population of the entire world exclusive of Israel is steadily declining. Only in Israel is there real growth. However, contrary to previous projections which spoke of a constant decrease in the population of the Jewish people, the past two years have actually seen a small increase of about 100,000, from 13.1 to 13.2 million Jews in the world, according to Professor Sergio Della Pergola, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. However the increase is largely statistical and does not indicate a real reversal of the overall trend which reflects the natural and voluntary forces for deaths and births that are operating on the Jewish people.

Prof. Della Pergola spoke at the first meeting of a new lobby for diaspora affairs headed by MK Itzhak Gagula (Shas).

In a conversation with Ha'aretz, Prof. Della Pergola said the rise was due primarily to developments in the former Soviet Union, where many individuals who were not recognized as Jews are now asserting their true identity.

However, in the rest of the world (apart from Israel), the Jewish population is declining steadily as deaths exceed births by some 30,000 a year. Assimilation also continues to rise sharply, reaching a peak of 75 percent in Germany and the Ukraine.

The overall Jewish world, the demographic expert said, is rapidly approaching a situation of zero natural growth (an identical number of births and deaths), and a negative natural growth even now is only averted by the natural growth of the Jewish population in Israel.

In Israel the natural growth rate of the Jewish population is two percent a year, as compared with an average annual "growth" of minus 0.3 percent in the diaspora. In certain countries, again mainly in the former Soviet Union, the rate is minus one or even minus two percent a year.

In addition the situation is even worse, Prof. Della Pergola said, since only 25 percent of the children of mixed marriages in the United States define themselves as Jews, and the situation is no different in many other countries.

Of the 13.2 million Jews worldwide, 8.3 million (63 percent) reside in the diaspora and 4.9 million (37 percent) in Israel.

In the former Soviet Union there are fewer than half a million Jews (about 468,000), due mainly to the large-scale emigration of Jews to Israel as well as to the United States and Germany.

There are actually more Jews today in France (521,000) than in all the countries of the former Soviet Union.

According to Prof. Della Pergola, if the current trends continue within less than 30 years there will be an identical number of Jews in Israel and in the diaspora.

In any event, he noted, even today more than half the Jewish children in the world aged 15 years or less live in Israel, and this will rise to two-thirds by 2020.

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