Study: Jewish population growth flat

Jewish nursery students in New Jersey. (Johanna Resnick Rosen)

Jewish nursery students in New Jersey. (Johanna Resnick Rosen)

TEL AVIV, Israel, June 28 (JTA) — For many Jews, the results of a new report on world Jewry represent a case of good news and bad news. On the one hand, the number of Jews in the Diaspora is on the decline, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is emboldening anti-Semites worldwide, and Jewish and Israeli morale is down. On the other, Jews worldwide are relatively affluent, educated and politically involved. The findings are among many in a report on the state of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad, which was presented to the Israeli government Sunday by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. The institute is a think tank chaired by former U.S. Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross and funded in part by the Jewish Agency for Israel. Worldwide Jewish population is approaching zero population growth at 13 million people, according to the report. The report found that between 1970 and 2003, the world’s total population increased by more than 70 percent; in contrast, the total Jewish population increased by 2 percent. The bulk of Jewish growth is in Israel. “The survival of the Jewish people is not assured, though there are great opportunities for a thriving future,” the report states. “Therefore, determined and large-scale efforts are needed to maximize the opportunities and ward off the dangers.” Jewish population figures in the Diaspora are declining because of low birth rates, a rise in interfaith marriages and an aging population, according to the 60-page report, which was coordinated by well-know demographer Sergio DellaPergola. The report recommended that Jews take a long-term approach to the future, improving Jewish institutions, leadership and decision-making processes on issues affecting world Jewry. It also said that improving the security and Jewish uniqueness of Israel should be done in part by encouraging immigration to Israel, spending money from Diaspora Jews on long-term projects aimed at building Jewish identity, and demanding that Israel step up religious pluralism by normalizing the status of non-Orthodox movements in the country. To counteract the demographic decline in the Diaspora, the study recommended making Jewish education more financially accessible. Among key findings in the report: • At the beginning of the 21st century, 92 percent of the world’s Jewish population lived in the top 20 percent of countries ranked by standard of living. • Turmoil in the Middle East tarnishes Israel’s image in the world. • The United States’ pro-Israel leanings antagonize other countries and generates hostility against Jewish communities. • Anti-Semitic motifs, including the denial of Israel’s right to exist, are gaining currency, particularly in the Muslim world. • The new anti-Semitism demoralizes Diaspora Jews. • In the last 20 years, enrollment in Jewish day schools in the Diaspora has grown. The report is the first one released by the institute, which said it intends to release the report annually.

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