NEW YORK (Sep. 15)
An explanation of the more than 600 per cent increase in the official census population figures for the Jews of Mexico in the ten-year period 1950-1960 that has puzzled the Jewish community of Mexico and census officials was given here today by Dr. Raphael Patai, noted social anthropologist, who spent the summer in Mexico delving into this question.
As there was practically no Jewish immigration to Mexico during the ten-year period, and the natural increase of Jews is known to be lower than the 35 per cent increase in the total Mexican population, the mystery of the population increase of “Israelites” from 17,574 to 100,750 was inexplicable until Dr. Patai concluded his research. His explanation today of the increase is that an Evangelical Christian sect, which is not Jewish, listed themselves as Israelites for census roll-call and thereby caused the confusion.
Dr. Patai, director of Research of the Jewish Agency’s Theodor Herzl Institute, has done research in Mexico since 1948 when he went there to study the Indian Jews of Mexico. At that time, Dr. Patai located a small Sabbatarian sect which called itself Iglesia de Dios Universal Israelita (Universal Church of God, Israelite), On his recent trip, he re-established contact with leaders of this sect and his inquiries revealed that the membership of the Iglesia de Dios had grown in the ten-year period of the census from a few hundred to 20,000 families, and that preparatory to the 1960 census, the leadership of the Church had instructed their members to list their religion as “Israelita.”
After ascertaining that the membership of the Church in 1960 was 15,000 families, or about 60,000 persons. Dr. Patai concluded that the census figures indicating a phenomenal increase of population for the Jews in Mexico resulted from the incorrect listing of this small Christian sect as Israelites or Jews. After discussion with Dr. Albino Zertuche, Mexica: Director-General of Statistics, Dr, Patai estimated that the actual Jewish population of Mexico, as of 1960, was approximately 40, 000. Dr. Patai’s research in Mexico was jointly sponsored by the Theodor Herzl Institute and the American Friends of Tel Aviv University, of which he is president.