According to new research conducted by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), by the year 2040 20% of all of the Jews in the world – 1 in 5 – will be ultra-orthodox, also called Haredi in Hebrew.
This news should come as little surprise for anyone who has been following Jewish demographic trends in recent decades. The orthodox Jewish community had by far the highest birth rate among all of the Jews in the world. And the ultra-orthodox lose few, if any, of their youth to assimilation and intermarriage.
At the same time, the vast majority of Jews around the world who are either not affiliated with any synagogue or who identify with one of the progressive groups, see a high rate of people choosing not to identify as Jews. And many who do marry non-Jews and do not raise their children as Jewish. So even if we use the most liberal definition of who is a Jew – at least one Jewish grandparent even when it is a paternal grandparent – the share of Haredim among world Jewry is clearly rising.
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And this is causing social and political problems in Israel today where the various Haredi groups have their own political parties. The secular share of Israel’s population has been on the decline mainly because of the high birth rate among Haredim. And the latter community uses its political parties to get Israel’s various coalition governments what they need in return for support in forming a government.
For example, Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent governments all depended on the support of the ultra-orthodox parties as did those led by Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak. The Haredim demand more money appropriated for social programs that benefit the poor since their communities in Israel tend to be more impoverished. And they also push for funding for their Tora academies where their men study instead of serving in the military as a price for their political support.
While Israel’s current coalition government was formed with the ultra-orthodox, it is not exp3cted to last very long and there are already rumors of a new government being formed with the Haredim and without the need for new elections.
But the question for the rest of the Jews around the world is are they bothered by the growing Haredi population and are they bothered by their own children choosing to renounce a Jewish identity.
According to JPR’s most recent demographic report, the global Haredi population is estimated at 2,100,000, constituting about 14% of the total Jewish population in the world. Together, Israel and the USA account for about 92% of all Haredi Jews. Europe hosts 5% of the global Haredi population, while the rest live mainly in Latin America, South Africa, Canada and Australia.
Outside of Israel and the USA, the three largest Haredi populations are located in the UK (about 75,000, or 25% of all British Jews), Canada (30,000, 8%) and France (12,000, 3%).
While the world Jewish population has been growing by approximately 0.7% per year over the past decade, the Haredi population is currently growing by about 3.5%-4.0% annually. A large part of the growth of the global Jewish population as a whole is due to the Haredi population: perhaps as much as 70%-80% of the total growth worldwide.
Haredi rates of growth are very high not simply due to high fertility, but rather to the combined effects of very high fertility and very low mortality.
JPR is the only independent institute in Britain that specializes in researching the state of contemporary Jewish communities in the UK and elsewhere. Its research aims to provide a better understanding of who Jews are and what they feel, think, and do, in order to help Jewish organizations plan more efficiently and effectively for the future.
It collects and analyzes data to ensure that Jewish community organizations have the statistics and information they need.
JPR is also a Jewish think-tank specializing in contemporary Jewish affairs. It regularly convenes groups of policy-makers to help them develop their own thinking about some of the most important and challenging issues facing the Jewish communities today.