You may have heard that the global Jewish population has nearly returned to its pre-Holocaust level. Unfortunately, even if we accept the questionable premise that “nearly” is worth celebrating, there’s no cause for a party here. The stories aren’t true.
The report came from the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem, which started with a figure of 14.2 million Jews in the world, led by 6.1 million in Israel and 5.7 million in the United States. That number is neither surprising nor dramatic. According to Ynet, which had the story first, the JPPI said the figure represents growth of 8 percent in a decade, the fastest growth since the end of World War II.
That “fast” growth is slightly more than half the growth rate of the overall population, so Jews continue to become a smaller minority in the world.
Still, we’re almost back to where we were before the Nazis slaughtered us. That’s a glimmer of good news, even if it took 70 years, right?
Wrong. The estimated Jewish population before the Holocaust was 16.5 million, 16 percent greater than 14.2 million. That’s nearly two more decades of growth at the 2005-2015 rate. So the global Jewish population is not close to its pre-Holocaust level.
The JPPI pushed the total past 16 million by adding “those who identify as partially Jewish and immigrants to the state of Israel who are not halachically Jewish but have qualified under the Law of Return.”
So if we take only those who were Jewish in 1933 and compare their total with everyone alive today who is Jewish plus everyone else who acknowledges some Jewish ancestry, we almost get the same number. Almost. Whoopee.
We can argue over who is Jewish, but let’s not count people who don’t count themselves. The math is simple: 14.2 million does not equal 16.5 million.