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2019 Annual Assessment

At the beginning of 2019, the world Jewish population numbered 14.7 million,1 representing a hundred-thousand increase over the previous year. This figure takes into account a 111,0002 increase in Israel’s Jewish population, minus a drop in the number of Diaspora Jews, most of which is explained by emigration to Israel, along with a certain surplus of deaths over births (in the Diaspora only). Since 2015, the world Jewish population has grown consistently by about a hundred thousand per year, for a total of 392,200 (or 2.7 percent) (Graph 1).

The Jewish population data for residents of Israel is based on the definition of Jewishness as specified in halacha (Jewish religious law). For those living outside of Israel, the data is based on self-definition, so long as no non-Jewish religious identity is claimed. It should be noted that, alongside this latter group, a sizeable number of individuals in the US were found to have no religious affiliation but to consider themselves, nevertheless, to be part-Jewish; most of these people are children of intermarriage.3 We do not know whether this phenomenon is specific to the US, or whether it also characterizes other Diaspora countries. Also, at the beginning of 2019 there were 427 thousand olim (immigrants to Israel) and offspring of olim whose right to Israeli citizenship is anchored in the Law of Return, but who are not Jews according to Halacha; many of these individuals had integrated socially and culturally into the Israeli-Jewish mainstream (this group grew from 357 thousand in 2015 to its current number, a twenty-percent increase).4 Researchers and community leaders are divided over whether part-Jews and Law-of-Return Israelis (who have no non-Jewish religious affiliation) should be counted as part of the Jewish population; if they are counted as Jews, then world Jewish population numbers slightly over 16 million.

A little more than half of the world’s Jews live in the Diaspora (54.7 percent), rather than in Israel (45.3 percent) (Graph 2). We estimate that, within a decade, the Jewish population of Israel and that of the Diaspora will be equal. Israelis living abroad (600 thousand) are counted as part of the Diaspora-Jewish population.

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