Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has reported that the country’s population has reached 9.391 million. Meanwhile, the world’s total Jewish population is now estimated to be 15.2 million, this according to statistics released by the Jewish Agency.
6.943 million (74%) of Israel’s citizens are Jewish, 1.982 million (21%) Arabs and 466,000 (5%) others including Russian-speaking immigrants who are not Jewish.
In Israel, it is easy to get an accurate count of the local population, as well as its breakdown by different religions and ethnic groups. But this is not so easy when it comes to determining the world Jewish population.
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The 15.2 million statistic released by the Jewish Agency refers specifically to people who self-identify as Jews. But there are many who may be technically Jewish, but do not affiliate. Under Jewish law, someone is a Jew if his mother was a Jew. But not all of such people wish to be counted as Jews.
This is the case with comedian Bill Maher. He was born to a catholic father and a Jewish mother, but was raised catholic. Maher is adamant that he does not consider himself to be a Jew in any way.
Reform Judaism, however, acknowledges patrilineal descent. So a person with a Jewish father, but not mother, is considered to be a Jew according to their rules.
Under Israeli law, anyone with just one Jewish grandparent is considered to be a Jew under the nation’s law of return. So if someone’s father’s father was a Jew, but none of his other grandparents, then he is entitled to move to Israel and become a citizen. Under this standard, there are a total of 25.3 million Jews in the world, of whom 18 million live outside Israel.
Almost half of the world’s recognized Jews, 6.9 million, live in Israel. This is one hundred thousand more than last year. There are 8.3 million Jews living throughout the world in the Jewish Diaspora. So, 45.3 percent of the world’s Jews live in Israel. This is an increase of half a percent over the previous year.
America, as always, has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel with 6 million self-identified Jews. This is way down from previous years. France comes in second with 446,000. This number is down due to increased Aliyah to Israel of French Jews who are fleeing higher anti-Semitism in that country.
Canada comes in third with 393,000 Jews and the UK has 292,000, mostly in England.