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WJC study: Jews in Israel will surpass U.S. community

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 (JTA) – More Jews could be living in Israel than in America in 10 years, according to a new World Jewish Congress study. The annual pre-Rosh Hashanah survey of the world’s 13.5 million Jews found that a growing rate of immigration to Israel and high assimilation rates among Diaspora Jews will cause Israel’s population of about 4.9 million Jews to exceed America’s, which has been the world’s highest since the second World War. At the same time, according to the report, the alarmingly high assimilation rates among Diaspora Jews could cause its population to fall by half in a generation. The study, conducted during the past three months, also found that reported cases of anti-Semitism worldwide are down. Avi Becker, director of the Jerusalem-based Institute of the World Jewish Congress, said what he called Jewish success was “good for Jews, but bad for Judaism” because it can lead to assimilation. Jews are residing in more than 100 countries, but outside of Israel, there has been no natural growth in most of these Jewish communities, the report said. Becker attributed the shrinking population to a rising divorce rate, an increased number of Jews who prefer to remain single and low birth rates. Jewish communities in Canada and Brazil are growing as immigration there rises. Germany also has a large Jewish immigrant community, mostly from the former Soviet Union. More than half of the 71,000 Jews in Germany are immigrants. Rapid growth worldwide has taken place only in the fervently Orthodox community, which has increased more than 20 percent during the past decade. Becker attributes this increase both to a high birth rate and the “return to religion” phenomenon in the West. Some 1 million of the world’s Jews are Orthodox, the report found. America is home to more than 5.6 million Jews. French Jews make up the world’s third-largest Jewish population with 600,000, according to the study. More than 250 people and organizations contributed statistics to the study. Most of the data came from Jewish community records and academic studies.