Report: World Jewish population nears pre-Holocaust level

AP News
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Posted: Jun 28, 2015 3:16 PM
Report: World Jewish population nears pre-Holocaust level

JERUSALEM (AP) — 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 killed 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 percent of adult children in the U.S. 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 U.S. than it was years ago. He also said Birthright-Israel, which organizes educational trips to Israel for young Jewish people, is likely having an impact.

The tally combines the number of Jews worldwide, but it also includes at least one million secular Jews who are less likely to be connected to Jewish life or institutions. And it includes some 350,000 Israelis who emigrated from the former Soviet Union and are not considered Jewish in Israel. The Pew Research Center, whose count only includes Jews who self-identify as Jewish, projects that Jews will reach 16 million by 2050.

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."