29 Kislev, 5763
Jewish Agency Think Tanks Present Research Findings at Third Herzliya Conference: The Jewish Population is Shrinking, Due to Low Birthrate and Intermarriage. Israel and USA Comprise 81% of World Jewry. The Central Challenge Facing the Jewish People is How to Prevent Young Jews From Dropping Out.
Four position papers, by teams of experts coordinated through the Jewish Agency reveal existential threats facing the Jewish People. The research will be presented this evening, (4 December, ) at the Herzliya Conference taking place at the Dan Akkadia Hotel. Dr. Irit Keynan, the Jewish Agency's Director of Research and Strategic Planning, was responsible for coordinating this research project.
The Jewish People is shrinking, says Hebrew University Professor Sergio DellaPergola in a paper entitled "Jewish Demography: Current Trends and their policy Implications." Since the Holocaust, world Jewish population has grown by only 1.9 million and today numbers 12.9 million. Jewish population grew by only 2% over the past 30 years. In contrast the general population grew by 60% over that period. Rising assimilation and high rates of intermarriage are are threatening the Jewish People. Two centers of Judaism have emerged : Israel (5.1 million Jews) and the USA (5.3 million Jews) which contain 81% of the World Jewish Population. Israel is the only country with a positive Jewish birthrate and with an overall growth rate. The Jewish population in Israel has grown eightfold and has almost doubled in the past thirty years. The challenge for Israel will be preserving its clearly defined Jewish majority. The Jewish Population in the USA has decreased due to low birthrate and a high rate of intermarriage (50% according to DellaPergola and 41 % according to Steve Cohen).
During the 1990s unprecedented numbers of Jews in North America outmarried. Prof. Steven Cohen analyzing American Jewry agrees that Jewish ethnicity has declined, and that the overall Jewish population is shrinking however he argues that there have been gains in the religious, political and educational spheres and the committed core of Jews will retain or expand its numbers. Dr. Vladimir Khanin, analyzing Ukraine Jewry predicts that, despite large-scale emigration to Israel during the first two decades of the 21st Century, there will remain 300,000 people eligible to immigrate under the Law of Return of these 120,000 Halachic Jews) and will need religious and cultural services. Dr. Valery Chervyakon, Prof. Zvi Gitelan and Prof. Vladimir Shapiro, analyzing national consciousness of Russian Jewry reveal that Jewish national pride is more pronounced in interviewees of full Jewish descent. For those under 30 (among whom the percent of partial Jewish percent is highest), to "feel part of the Jewish People" is more important than biological affinity. According to different scenarios the Jewish might increase or decrease by 2050. The most problematic issues facing Jewish leadership in the 21st Century is maintaining Jewish identity and continuity. For additional information contact
the Office of the Spokesman:
Liaison to Foreign Press and Media
Jewish Agency for Israel