WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 (JTA) — Migration to Israel is expected to almost double the country’s Jewish population to 10 million by 2080.
Meanwhile, the number of Jews living in the United States is expected to drop by a third — to just 3.8 million. Worldwide, the number of Jews is estimated to rise slightly during the next 80 years — eventually hitting 15 million.
These projections are at the core of a new demographic study of world Jewish population trends that was published this week in the American Jewish Yearbook 2000, produced by the American Jewish Committee.
The article, “Prospecting the Jewish Future: Population Projections, 2000-2080,” predicts future Jewish population trends in the United States and Israel, as well as in the former Soviet Union, Europe, Latin America and other Jewish population centers throughout the world.
Based on existing data from studies commissioned independently by world Jewish communities, the report was authored by a trio of leading demographers from Hebrew University in Jerusalem: Sergio DellaPergola, Uzi Rebhun and Mark Tolts.
The study portrays change over the next 80 years, as the composition of world Jewry surges in Israel and dwindles elsewhere in the world. As early as 2010, Israel and the United States — which currently is home to the largest number of Jews — are expected to be equal.
By the middle of the century, Israel will be home to the majority of the world’s Jews, particularly Jewish youth. An estimated 77 to 86 percent of all Jews under the age of 15 will live in Israel by the year 2080.
Meanwhile, the percentage of elderly Jews in the Diaspora will continue to increase, especially as baby boomers hit 65 during the next 20 years. By 2080, more than 40 percent of all Diaspora Jews will be 65 and over. This trend, coupled with low fertility rates, will likely extinct communities such as those the former Soviet Union.
The study’s findings, which carry with them enormous political implications for the United States and Israel, may surprise the American Jewish community in particular.
“It’s going to be a wake-up call,” said Lawrence Grossman, editor of the American Jewish Year Book. “American Jews are in a Golden Age. We’ve never had it so good. But there is a cloud on the horizon.”
According to the study, the decline in numbers of Jews in North America is expected to accelerate after the 2030s.
North America Jewry will make up an even larger share of the Diaspora Jewish population than it does today, as Jewish populations around the world outside of Israel will decrease.
Longer life expectancy, low fertility rates and diminished Jewish identification will likely be the chief causes of the plunge.
“The future demographic development of North American Jewry will depend on the present generation’s ability to transmit a Jewish identity to the next,” concluded the demographers in the study. “This will depend on ongoing patterns of marriage and child-rearing.”
Results of the population study imply a major alteration in the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora is under way, the report said.
As the number of Israeli Jews grow, the country will have to provide for its own economic well-being with less help from the Diaspora.
Israel will also take the lead in fostering Jewish educational and cultural continuity worldwide, as Diaspora Jews put their increasingly limited finances toward caring for their local communities.
Among the study’s other projections:
• Jewish population worldwide is expected to grow from 13.1 million in 2000 to 15 million in 2080;
• Israel’s Jewish population is expected to double over the next 80 years, increasing to more than 10 million;
• Diaspora Jewry will drop from 8.3 million in 2000 to 5.3 million in 2080;
• In the United States, the Jewish population will fall from 5.7 million in 2000 to 3.8 million in 2080; and
• The percentage of children under 15 is expected to range between 21 and 26 percent of the Jewish population in Israel — and between 11 and 16 percent of all Diaspora communities — by 2020. The elderly population aged 65 and over will range between 14 and 16 percent in Israel and between 24 and 27 percent in the Diaspora.
• In the former Soviet Union, assuming current fertility and emigration rates continue, the Jewish population will continue to plummet to between 2,000 and 3,000 in 2050 – and virtually none by 2080.