2015 marks seven decades since the end of World War II. The destruction of European Jewry and the extermination of six million Jews at once diminished the size of the Jewish population, its demographic composition, and the spatial map of Jewish life. Only three years later the State of Israel was founded and a Jewish sovereignty created, which became a major alternative for settlement and a nexus for the many heterogeneous parts of world Jewry. Since then, other demographic changes have shaped the profile of the world’s Jews. Any assessment of recent demographic patterns ought to stand against the backdrop of historical perspective – continuity or change of long-term processes as well as those of short-effect that operate among the Jewish people.
Jewish demographic patterns are sensitive to different factors on three complementary levels. The ‘macro’ level comprises the general society – especially the nature of local political regimes in which Jews operate, economic development, and the role of group identity. The second, ‘meso’ level, is that of religious-ethnic community of belonging, which, among other things, includes the population density of community members, institutional infrastructure, and economic resources. Third, the “micro” level is that of the Jewish individual and includes personal background, socio-economic status, and his/her stage in the life cycle. These broad factors, “the three Ms,” are dynamic and may change over time. Hence, one cannot assume a determinism of the demographic patterns; rather, the patterns should be traced, routinely assessed, and be clarified as to their influence on the size and characteristics of the Jewish population.
Obviously, the changes will be greater the longer the time interval under examination. Nevertheless, there may be meaningful trends discernable in short spans of time, whether the result of big events or the consequence of policy. Likewise, a given point of time may provide a new source of empirical information that will reveal significant changes that took place since data were culled in a given time in the past.