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Brazilian Jewish Population Less Than Had Been Believed

The number of Jews living in Brazil has been officially listed at 118,991 — far short of the 180,000 figure generally assumed to represent Brazil’s Jewish population.

The preliminary official figures, published in the recent issue of the Brazilian Institute for Statistics, a government agency, indicate 27,547 Jewish residents in Rio de Janeiro; 72,530 in Soo Paulo; 7,939 in Porto Alegre and 2,436 in rural areas of the country.

The former president of the Brazilian Institute for Statistics, Dr. Isaac Kerstenetzky, told Jewish community leaders that the final figures of the census will undoubtedly reveal a larger number of Jews. However, he expressed pessimism about prospects for the growth of Brazil’s Jewish population, which has been put at one percent a year, with a tendency to decrease.

Community leaders have suggested two reasons for the difference between the official and non-official figures. One reason offered is possible inefficiency by the census takers. Many Jewish families claimed they were never visited. It was also suggested that the large number of youth who consider themselves atheists might have contributed to the low figures.

Previous censuses — taken in 1970, 1960 and 1950 — had no columns for Jewish religion or ethnic groups. About 59,000 respondents to the census of 1940 said their religion was Jewish, in contrast to the 110,000 figure given by Jewish community leaders at the time. In the following years, the community was enlarged by over 25,000 Israelis and about 20,000 refugees from Egypt.

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