Within the last hundred years the Jewish population of the world has increased from three million to nearly sixteen million, Jakob Lestschinsky, Berlin statistician, declares in “The Menorah Journal.” Almost a third of the entire Jewish people today, he says, live in the fifteen largest cities of the world.
“What may properly be called World-Jewry arose only during the last century,” Mr. Lestschinsky asserts. “Out of a small people of some three millions, the great majority living in Southeastern Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa, and strewn about in innumerable villages and small towns, forming tiny unimportant islands, the Jews have developed, within a period of but a hundred years, into a people of close to sixteen millions and have expanded over the entire world, settling in the countries most advanced industrially, and concentrating in the largest cities.”
The “phenomenal” increase in numbers is the result not of an increased birth rate, Mr. Lestchinsky points out, but of an extraordinary reduced death rate.
“In the fifty-five years from 1825 to 1880, the Jewish numbers grew from 3,280,000 to 7,660,000, and in that half century from 1880 to 1930 their numbers grew again to 15,800,000,” he says. “In each of these periods they more than doubled. This unprecedented increase seems all the more remarkable when we recall that during the last half century the East European Jews were engulfed by three large pogrom-waves, in 1881-2, 1903-5, and 1918-21, with 2,000 massacres in which approximately 100,000 Jews were murdered and from 200,000 to 300,000 prematurely died of epidemics.
“In the course of the 105 years, while the Jewish people quintupled, Europe, together with the immigration countries; America, South Africa and Australia, increased its population only three and a half times. The Jews show everywhere a relatively smaller number of births than do Gentiles because the Jews were urbanized earlier, and also because they included a higher percentage of the middle class and the intellectuals.
“Nevertheless, because of a decrease in mortality far greater than among the other peoples of the world, the Jews have increased both absolutely and proportionally in almost all countries, except in a few smaller ones of Western Europe.”
“During the fifty-five years following 1825, the average yearly increase of Jews throughout the world amounted to about 80,000; during the last fifty years, to more than 160,000 yearly. Today the increase must be figured at 180,000 at least. “The 5,000,000 Jews on the American continent, including the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America, have a natural increase of 75,000 yearly. And apart from the 1,500,000 West European Jews who do not increase, there still remain 2,000,000 with a yearly increase of from 15 to 16 per thousand.”
A survey of Jewish occupations and geographical distribution through the past century reveals changes as striking as those in population, according to Lestschinsky. 83 percent of the world’s Jews lived in Europe in 1825; in 1930, only 62.5 percent were residents of the continent. America, which had 3/10 of 1 percent of the Jewish population of the world in 1825, has 30 percent today; Australia, which had none, has 2/10 of one percent today. Jews, have decreased in percentage in Asia and Africa, 4 percent of the race living in Asia in 1930 as compared with nine percent one hundred and five years before, and 3 percent living in Africa, as compared with 7 percent in 1825.
“Perhaps the most striking change has come about in America, which now contains about a third of World Jewry, a hundred-fold multiplication of its percentage of 1825,” Mr. Lestschinsky states.
“Simultaneous with these huge migrations has been the other prime development in Jewish life in the nineteenth century, namely, its concentration in the large metropolitan centers, especially in the immigration countries. In the fourteen largest cultural centers in Europe and America of more than a million inhabitants each, there are now 4,500,000 Jews â€” almost 30 percent of the entire Jewish people.
In the five American cities, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and Cleveland, 2,750,000 Jews live today, or more than 60 percent of the entire Jewish population of the United States.
The rapid development of a Jewish proletariat has been another development of the last century, Mr. Lestschinsky reveals. Almost 2/5 of the members of the Jewish earning classes today or about 2,200,000, are engaged in industry or handicraft, he asserts.