Rise is down to natural growth, mainly in Israel, and a rise in Americans with a single Jewish parent deciding to call themselves Jews.
The world’s Jewish population has grown to be nearly as large as it was before the Holocaust, according to an Israeli think tank.
The Jewish People Policy Institute said there were currently 14.2 million Jews in the world. When factoring in individuals with one Jewish parent and others who identify as part Jewish, the figure approaches 16.5 million – the Jewish population on the eve of the Second World War. 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 per cent of adult children in the US 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 was more “respectable” to be Jewish in the US than it was years ago. He also said Birth right Israel, which organises educational trips to Israel for young Jewish people, was probably 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 3rd with about 475,000 Jews, followed by Canada.
The report, which was presented to the Israeli Cabinet, describes itself an “annual stocktaking of the Jewish world”.