World Jewish Population
(compiled by Ner LeElef)

The State of Orthodoxy
Assimilation and Birthrate
Analysis by Continent and Country
Analysis by City

1.                    OVERVIEW   (top)


      The worldwide Jewish population is 13.3 million Jews.  Jewish population growth worldwide is close to zero percent. From 2000 to 2001 it rose 0.3%, compared to worldwide population growth of 1.4%.

      In 2001, 8.3 million Jews lived in the Diaspora and 4.9 million lived in Israel. Just about half of the world’s Jews reside in the Americas, with about 46 percent in North America.   (top)

      Approximately 37% of worldwide Jewry lives in Israel. Israel's Jewish population rose by 1.6% the past year, while the Diaspora population dropped by 0.5%.

      Europe, including the Asian territories of the Russian Republic and Turkey, accounts for about 12 percent of the total. Fewer than 2 percent of the world’s Jews live in Africa and Oceania. 

      Metropolitan Tel Aviv, with 2.5 million Jews, is the world's largest Jewish city. It is followed by New York, with 1.9 million, Haifa 655,000, Los Angeles 621,000, Jerusalem 570,000, and southeast Florida 514,000.

      In 2001, 8 countries had a Jewish population of 100,000 or more; another 5 countries had 50,000 or more. There is not a single Diaspora country where Jews amounted to 2.5 percent of the total population. Only 3 Diaspora countries had more than 1 percent. Gibraltar (24.0 per 1000), United States (20.1), Canada (11.9), France (8.8), Uruguay (6.7), Argentina (5.3), Hungary (5.2), and Australia (5.1)[1] had the highest ratios.




(Figures rounded of to the nearest 100,000)


World Population

13.3 million




8.35 million





4.95 million



N. America


6.5 million





1.6 million




S. America, Africa,

Asia, Australia




The top twelve Jewish populations in the world are:

1.            USA                                                       6,500,000

2.            Israel                                                       4,950,000          

3.            France                                                        600,000           (750,000)

4.            Canada                              (5)                    364,000

5.            Britain                                (6)                    275,000

6.            Russia                    (3/4)                 275,000           (650,000)

7.            Argentina                                       197,000           (250,000)

8.            Ukraine                                                      112,000                      

9.            Germany                                        98,000            (115,000)

10.          Brazil                                  (11)                  97,500           

11.          South Africa                       (12)                  88,000            (65,000)

12.          Hungary                 (10)                  55,000            (100,000)


The placement ratings in parentheses reflect alternative population estimates.

Divided by language, the figures look like this:

Rank  Language                                                 % In the World         % In Diaspora

1.   English (US, U.K, Canada, S.A., Australia)                   50.0                          75.3

2.   Hebrew (Israel)                                                             34.8  

3.   Spanish (South America[2], Mexico, Spain)                       2.7                            3.3

4.   Russian (Russia)                                                              2.8                            2.8

5.   Ukrainian (Ukraine)                                                         1.4                            4.0

6.   French (France)                                                              4.0                            6.2

7.   German (Germany)                                                         0.5                            0.7

8.   Hungarian (Hungary                                                        4.0                            0.6



Largest Populations

The largest Jewish populations, by country, outside of the USA and Israel are:

Country with the highest number of Jews per 1000 population:

Canada (11.8)

(The USA by contrast, has a ratio of 20.1)

Country with the highest Jewish Day School attendance:

Mexico (90%)

Country with over 30,000 Jews with the least amount of kiruv relative to the   population:



What this means is that 90% of world Jewry is contained in only 6 countries. Even if we exclude Israel from these figures, it takes only eight countries to reach that figure. Of those eight, three (USA, Canada and the U.K) are English speaking. South Africa and Australia, also English speaking, are also reckoned in the first 14 countries. North American Anglo Jewry (The United States and Canada) comprises 71% of the Diaspora and 46.4% of total world Jewry.  The total Jewish Anglo-Saxon population comprises 76.8% of the Diaspora. The other major language groupings are Hebrew, Russian, French and Spanish. Considered in isolation, without reference to the kiruv potential or finances of different places, demographics would require that these are the countries on which the lions share of outreach efforts ought to be focused.


Historical Perspective


In 1939, there were 17 million Jews in the world, and by 1945 only 11 million.  While in the 13 years following the Holocaust the Jewish population grew by one million, it took another 38 years for it to grow another million. These sobering figures reflect how severely Jewish population growth has slowed down over the past 40 years.  Even a fertility increase of 0.4% will add millions of Jews over the next 50 years. But this is not happening right now.

As we know, the distribution of the Jewish population now is completely different from before WW II. Europe was decimated of its Jewish population and Israel and America became the new major centers of Jewry. France, the Soviet Union and Hungary were the three Holocaust-hit countries left with reasonable populations. The war left 250,000 displaced Jews who were mainly supported by the Joint Distribution Committee until they could relocate.

But there were further changes after the war. The Moslem countries emptied out, and the world Jewish population has continued to consolidate over time in fewer countries with large urban Jewish populations over time. The main counter trend in Europe has been Germany, with a large Russian immigrant influx of over 100,000 Jews.

The Jews from Arab Moslem countries went in the main to Israel, but not always. The Algerian Jews, and also considerable numbers of Moroccans (75,000) and Tunisians (80,000), especially the more wealthy ones, went to France, doubling the French community from 300,000 to 600,000 overnight and creating a large Sephardic presence. (The Algerian Jews had French citizenship already in Algeria and had automatic rights of immigration to France.) The vitality of Orthodoxy in France today is largely a result of these immigrants, giving France a high kiruv potential to this day.

Many people do not realize how large and vital the Jewish populations of these Moslem-Arab countries were, with our historical consciousness swamped by Holocaust and pre-Holocaust literature.  A number of these countries would make it to the top ten in numbers, were they to exist today. Morocco had 285,000 Jews, Iraq 140,000, Algeria 135,000, Iran 120,000 and Tunisia an estimated 105,000. Several others would be in the next ten. Libya, which was down to 20 Jews in 1974, had a population of 48,000  in 1948. Egypt had 75,000. Of these, possibly the most tragic was Iraq, for the community there had a direct lineage back to the original exile in Babylonia.

      Some 150 Iraqi Jews have managed to leave the country in the past five years, leaving just 38 Jews in Baghdad, and a handful in the Kurdish-controlled northern areas of the country. There are  just two or three young people left. Whereas Baghdad once had 53 active synagogues, only one remains open.  Amazingly, Saddam Hussein's regime has in recent years shown reasonable tolerance toward the Jewish community, even refurbishing the tombs of Yechezkiel Hanavi and Ezra HaSofer (also considered sacred by Muslims), as well as that of Yonah.   


Current Demographic Shifts


Countries with growing populations:

(Mainly due to immigration)




Hong Kong


Germany  is the fastest growing community of any size due to mass emigration from USSR. The non-Russian population of Germany is quite small, about 15,000 out of approximately115,000 Jews today.


Countries with Decreasing Jewish Populations

·             South Africa -  now between 88,000 and 65,000, down from a peak of 120,000 or possibly more. Immigration primarily to: Sydney, Melbourne, Atlanta, Toronto, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Israel and to a lesser degree London, Manchester, Perth and New Zealand.

·             Argentina – Leaving for Mexico City, Miami, Spain and Israel. However, the vast majority of Argentineans are staying put.

·             Russia – Population beginning to stabilize due to a developing economy and the Israeli security situation. However, together with all CIS countries, still experiencing emigration. Largest current exodus is to Germany, followed by Israel and the USA.

·             Ukraine – Represents the biggest immigrant group to the USA over the last 10 years.

·             Mexico – Steady immigration to the States. However, replenished by immigration from other Latin American countries to Mexico. Those leaving are much wealthier than those coming, though immigration to Mexico has positively impacted on its Judaism. Most Klei Kodesh in Mexico today are from Argentina.


Projections for the Future 

One study predicted that in the next 80 years America's Jewish population would decline by one-third to 3.8 million if current fertility rates and migration patterns continue[3]. In the same period, according to the study, the number of Jews in Israel would likely double, swelling to 10 million. The study also anticipated a severe decline in the number of Jews in the former Soviet Union. By 2080, the data suggested, the Jewish community there would be virtually non-existent.

Among the study's conclusions was that Israel would be home to the world's largest Jewish community as early as 2020, and the majority of the world's Jews by 2050. Between the years 2030 to 2040 the majority of Jews will be living in Israel rather than in the Diaspora, where communities are aging.

In 2000, 48.35% of Jewish children 14 and under lived in Israel. By 2020, that number is expected to reach 59.20%.

The study noted in particular the rapidly aging Diaspora community, saying that by the year 2080, more than 40 percent of Diaspora Jews would be 65 and older.

Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami, a principal architect of the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey, which is currently under way, called the recent projections "a great starting point for discussion."  But, he added: "Think if this were the year 1900, what could we have predicted? The Holocaust? The State of Israel? The very concept" of projections "is a difficult one."


2.                    The State of Orthodoxy   (top)

The present estimate for Orthodox Jews in Eretz Yisrael is between 900 thousand and one million; in North America, between 550-650 thousand; and in the rest of the world between 120-150 thousand, making for a total of between 1.67-1.8 million[4]

In virtually every city in the world, institutional Orthodoxy is on the rise. As an example, in 1975 there were 480 Chabad institutions worldwide. By the year 2000, there were 2,600. Or take the number of Yeshivas and Kollelim that have been established outside of North America and Israel in the last ten years. Cities that can be counted here include Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Caracas, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Moscow, Saratov, Tula, Kiev, Budapest, Berlin and Manchester amongst others.

 In Russia and other former Soviet countries, Orthodoxy is the overwhelming presence. Claims by Reform in Russia are widely exaggerated, with many of the Reform communities barely existing or not at all. Orthodox shuls are the majority in Germany too, though other streams of Judaism remain well represented. (Below we will discuss Russia and Germany in greater depth.)

In South Africa, there is no Conservative, with almost no Reform to speak of. Becoming frum in South Africa is as legitimate a choice as becoming a lawyer or a doctor. Like England, Australia and many Southern towns in the USA, a good deal of the South African Orthodox are mechalelei Shabbos, but would fire the Rabbi if they caught him breaking Shabbos. South Africa has the most successful outreach movement of any country outside of Israel. Australia has the largest Lakewood Kollel in the world (Melborne), though in kiruv terms it is still waiting to take off.

South America is also dominated by the Orthodox in the main. Buenos Aires has 50 Orthodox synagogues, five Conservative, and one Reform. In Uruguay, there are 14 Orthodox synagogues and a Conservative one. There are some 15 synagogues in Venezuela, all but one considered Orthodox.

Yet, not everywhere is Orthodoxy already at the forefront. In Hungary, Orthodoxy can boast only one Orthodox shul and another two minyanim. Most Synagogues are Neolog, which as  a movement is more observant than Conservative, and at least two Neolog Shuls are fully halachik. However, despite the painful tragedy of Hungarian Jewry, there is now a little kollel of locals and an initiative is underway to open a yeshiva.  Alternatives to Orthodoxy remain strong in Brazil as well. Until 1930 the main religious stream was Orthodox.  Today most synagogues are Conservative or Reform. However, there too the direction is definitely towards Orthodoxy.

In some countries, notably France and Argentina, there is a notable distinction between Sephardim who are quite involved with their Judaism, and Ashkenazim, who are overall more well to do and much more assimilated. In Argentina, 80% of the Jews are Ashkenazi, but 80% of the frum Jews are Sephardic. Moreover, the religious population is highly ghettoized, and in one area, Villa Crespo, there is one Shul left to service a population that may be as high as 50,000 Jews. The Israeli baal teshuva movement also attracts few Ashkenazim, though efforts by Shorashim and others are showing that this need not be the case.


Orthodoxy in Israel

      Last year, the AviChai foundation put out the results of a study it commissioned on the relationship of Israelis with Judaism in 2000. The results were in the main very encouraging. While 43% of the population described itself as non-religious, only 5% of the population described itself as anti-religious. A majority described themselves as traditional or more (35% traditional, 12% religious, 5% haredi), and even the secular population keeps quite a few Mitzvot as we shall see. The Israeli population still overwhelmingly identifies itself with their Jewish identity. 98% put up Mezuzahs, and a large majority fast on Yom Kippur, don’t eat chometz on Pesach, have a Seder and light Menorahs on Chanukah.

      Yet, in a much smaller way, Israelis are beginning to mimic the trends of personalized religion we wrote about Americans in our last edition. On the one hand belief in G-d is slightly up from the 1990 survey (from 63% - 65%). Belief in reward and punishment, that the Torah is G-d given, and that we are the Chosen Nation is all up. Yet, the number of people defining themselves as traditional has dropped from 42% to 35% while the number who define themselves as non-religious has risen from 38% to 43%. This reflects a greater polarization of Israeli society, and it means that future kiruv efforts towards the secular Israeli population are likely to become more challenging.



3.                    Assimilation and Birthrate   (top)


Established (approximate) assimilation figures for the year 2000:


·             Over 70% of Jews in Russia, Ukraine and some Western countries, with small Jewish communities. (Moscow may be as high as 90%)

·             55% for Europe overall.

·             54% for South America overall.

·             53% for former CIS countries overall.

·             50-52 % among Jews of America and France.

·             Close to 40% among British Jews.

·             Over 30% among Jews in Canada and Australia.

4.                    Analysis by Continent and Country   (top)

                                     Worldwide Jewish Birth Rates



      It is difficult to come up with exact population figures on a country by country basis, let alone city by city around the world. Figures for Russia and other CIS countries are but educated guesses. Chabad and the Jewish Agency tends to give the highest figures, although the Jewish Agency is talking about Zakaeh Aliyah (Right of Return), making no pretense that most of those are not Jewish. In addition, some countries have large numbers of missing Jews, those who do not identify with being Jewish in any way. For example, the official figures for Buenos Aires show a Jewish population of 200,000 Jews. However, all leading communal figures believe that the figure could be as much as twice that. France is given a population of 600,000 Jews. In the field, a figure of 750,000 is used. We have generally put the official figure down first, with a second ‘field’ estimate in parentheses.



On eve of 5761, (2000/01) Israel’s population reached 6.3 million[5]. During 5760, the country's population grew by 2.5%, or 165,000, slightly less than in the  previous year.

Jews and immigrants arriving under the Law of Return constituted 82% of the population, growing 2.5% to 4.95 million, a growth rate that is still high by world standards, where the average rate is 1.3%. Registered Jews were 78.57% of the total population.
      There are some 200,000 non-Jewish immigrants and their families living here, of which 180,000 are Christian and 20,000 unclassified.

The Arab population reached 1.15 million, 18% of the total. This includes Moslems, Druse, and Christians and has remained constant for the past few years.
Net immigration constituted 34% of the rise in the Jewish population, compared to the previous year's 36%. Some 63,000 immigrants arrived, down from the previous year's 73,000. Almost 90% of the immigrants came from the former Soviet Union, 36% from the Russian Federation. 




Rate of natural increase (percent)



Life expectancy at birth (years)



Total fertility rate (per woman)




Israeli populations abroad:

      Israelis are included in the figures for Israel and not the host country. However, this is misleading, since most Israelis are de facto permanent residents of the host country. Current figures are


US                 350,000         (500,000)

Canada             40,000

France               40,000

UK                   30,000

South Africa      10,000           (15,000)

Germany             8,000

Australia              5,000

      In 2001, the Indian embassy in Israel noted a 50% increase on applications for immigration of Israelis to India. The British embassy recorded a 25% increase and the American embassy a 10% increase.  (These figures may include Israeli Arabs and West Bank Arabs.)


Demographic Balance with Israeli Arabs

      The overall fertility rate of the Moslems is 4.6%, while that of Israeli Jews is 2.6%. The 110,000 Bedouins of the Negev have the highest fertility rate, with a 5.9% growth rate. Half the Bedouins are below the age of 13. The population doubles every 12 years. Excluding the Bedouins, the Moslem growth rate is 3.2%, still way above the 2.6% of the Jews. Put differently, there are 2.6 births per Jewish woman, against 4.6 births per Moslem woman. (In 1970, there were 9 births per Moslem woman.)

      Within the Jewish population, the Hareidim as well as the Ethiopians have a growth rate of 3.5%. The annual growth rate of the rest of Israeli Jews is about 0.8%, somewhat higher than the average in Western countries[6].

      Since independence, the Arab population has risen more than sixfold, from 160,000 in 1949 to 1.1 million today[7].

      The immigration policy of Israel also favors a demographic shift away from a Jewish population. It is generally believed that 60% of those who have made aliyah in the last ten years are not Jewish.

      Total immigration to Israel has in any case fallen significantly. In 2001 it was down to 33,858 and by September of 2002 there were 25,296 immigrants. Only 13,792 came from Eastern Europe this year, meaning probably less than 6,000 Jews.  (This is compared to close to 26,000 the previous year and close to 38,000 for 2000.)[8] 

      There are an additional 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and a further 1 million in Gaza.


North and South America

Estimated Jewish Population distribution in the Americas 1/1/2001:


Country                       Jewish Population                  Jews Per 1,000 Population

Canada                                    364,000                                   11.8

United States                                                                   2.01

Mexico                                40,500 (60,000)                       0.4

Argentina                         197,000 (250,000)                   5.3

Brazil                            97,500                                     0.6

Uruguay                       22,000 (30,000)                      

Venezuela                     16,000


      Canada. The 1996 Canadian census reported 351,705 Canadians of a Jewish ethnic origin, and due in part to immigration from South Africa, this is now estimated at 364,000 making the Canadian Jewish population the world’s fourth largest. A further 50,000 or so Canadians report being Jewish by ethnic origin but identified with another religion.

      Toronto is today a major Torah city, with lots of outreach as well. Montreal is vibrant, and possibly the easiest city in North America in which to do kiruv, even as the population sees continued losses to Toronto. Vancouver, the third largest Jewish population, is still struggling to take off, though tens of baalei teshuva have already emerged from there. New initiatives are taking place in Victoria Island, Hamilton and elsewhere.

Mexico            : Mexico City metropolitan area pointed to a community less affected than others in the Diaspora by the common trends of low fertility, intermarriage, and aging. Almost everyone in Mexico is Orthodox affiliated, although a relatively recent Conservative Shul is growing. An astonishing 90% of Jewish children attend Jewish day schools.  Mexico has about 40,000 Jews today, though many say the real figure is close to 65,000.

      Argentina: The Jewish population of Argentina, the largest in Latin America and the sixth largest in the world. The population peaked in  the early 1960’s when the Jewish population was estimated at 310,000.  Most Jews lived in the Greater Buenos Aires, with about 25,000-50,000 left in provincial cities, mainly Cordova, Tucuman and Rosario. There are approximately 190,000 Jews left in Buenos Aires, with local community leaders putting the figure much higher.

      Argentina has many Orthodox (and non-Orthodox) schools, shuls, kollelim and yeshivas. Outreach began in earnest when Rabbi Eliezer Ben David, a Persian Jew and Talmid of the Chazon Ish arrived there in the sixties and built up a huge and vibrant community from scratch. Argentina has since then been the main source of Klei Kodesh for all of Latin America. The religious population is mainly Sephardi and quite concentrated, while the majority of Jews, Ashkenazim, remain quite assimilated.

      The financial collapse of Argentina has created unprecedented challenges for the local community, while it has also created a new wave of Jewish children entering Orthodox schools and outreach programs wherever tuition breaks and hot meals are provided. The expectations of a mass exodus of Argentinean Jews is not taking place, though there is a steady immigration to Mexico, Miami, Spain and Israel.    

      Brazil: Brazil has an official Jewish population of 100,000, with about 45,000 in Sao Paulo, 26,000 in Rio and the rest mainly in Porto Alegre and Belem. However, some local community leaders put the figures as high as 60,00-80,000 for Sao Paulo, 30,000-40,000 for Rio and 15,000 for Porto Alegre.

      Sao Paulo is today a Torah City, with the Sephardim in the lead. Sao Paulo has four Orthodox schools and four traditional ones. Rio has had a reputation amongst Bnei Torah as the ‘forbidden city’ of pritzus though here too Judaism is going forward with two Orthodox run schools, a mini-kollel, a Bnei Akiva and a branch of Binyan Olam and a huge Chabad community complex. Unlike Sao Paulo, however, the primary Klei Kodesh are all imported, mainly as Shelichim from Israel. Porto Alegre has, for the first time, allowed an Orthodox rabbi to teach in its school, a major breakthrough.   

      Other:  Montevideo, Uruguay, despite its impoverishment (it suffered a greater financial collapse than Argentina) recently opened up an Orthodox high school and has a dynamic complex (Yavneh) which includes a school, mini-kollel, adult outreach and community. However, mature Orthodoxy is still a distance away, and the community remains heavily dependent on Shelichim from Israel. Chile has about 21,000 Jews, Panama 5,000, Costa Rica 2,500. Santiago, Chile has a new deluxe Orthodox school, and a kollel and is relatively stable. Panama also has a strong Orthodox base today. The Hillel movement recently opened up in Sao Paulo, Rio, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. All of these are being Orthodox run.



      About 1.6 million Jews lived in Europe at the beginning of 2001; 66 percent lived in Western Europe and 34 percent in Eastern Europe and Balkan countries- including the Asian territories of the Russian Republic and Turkey. The European Union (EU) had an estimated combined Jewish population of 1,032,100.     

      France: With the breakup of the USSR, France had the third largest Jewish population in the world, after the United States and Israel. Paris is the largest Jewish city outside of America and Israel, with a total of 27 Jewish day schools. Although there has been a huge outbreak of Anti-Semitism since the beginning of the new Intafada, French Jewry is fairly stable. Overall, the political clout of the community has been growing over the last 30 years (although this is balanced out by the presence in France of 5 million Moslems), and there has been a slow but steady growth of Judaism. However, there is a strong polarization between the Sephardim, who are highly mekarevable, and the original Ashkenazi population, who are very assimilated. There is also a steady aliyah to Israel, though the vast majority of French Jewry are staying put.      

      Britain[9]: Britain’s Jewish population has been dropping at least since 1970, and was estimated at 285,000 for 1995. This is due to low birth rates[10] and high intermarriage[11], with some aliyah to Israel[12]. The estimate for 2001 is 275,000, the fifth largest worldwide.

      Germany. When Hitler came to power, Germany had 500,000 Jews. 350,000 managed to relocate. 16 – 17,000 remained after the war, half of whom were intermarried with most of the children of these being brought up as non-Jews[13]. In 1990, Germany was politically reunited, with an approximate Jewish population of 32,000 people estimated to have dropped to 28,000 by now.  Since then over 100,000 immigrants, including non-Jewish family members, have come to Germany from former Soviet countries. This is due to Germany’s extremely liberal refugee policy.  The American Year Book’s estimation of ‘core’ Jews is 98,000 making Germany the ninth largest Jewish community worldwide. The Jewish population is very spread out, the largest community being Berlin, which has 25,000 Jews and a Lauder Foundation funded Yeshiva.

      In Germany, anyone who declares a religion has to pay a 9% tax which flows back to the local religious bodies. Because of this, the community buildings, built from the sixties onwards, are modern and attractive. But they are controlled by laymen who are usually only partially observant, making outreach by the Rabbinate quite challenging. In addition, there are only two Orthodox run schools in the entire country and Germany has failed to attract the type of outside interest which Russia has. The tax also means that it is very difficult to fundraise in Germany for any new project. Nevertheless, things are definitely moving in a positive direction overall.

      Former Soviet Countries: During the Soviet era, there was a steady decline in the official Jewish population from 2,267,800 in 1959 to 1,450,500 Jews in 1989. Then, from 1990-2000 period, a further 980,000 Jews (1.4 million by the Law of Return definition of a Jew[14]) emigrated from the FSU (Former Soviet Union).  Meanwhile, in Russia, there were then about 2.8 Jewish births and 30.0 deaths per 1,000 Jewish population[15]. Intermarriage was about 70 percent. and close to 80 percent in Ukraine and Latvia in 1996; furthermore a non-Jewish nationality was generally preferred for the children of outmarried.

      The total Jewish population for the FSU was estimated at 462,000 at the beginning of 2001, though some organizations like Chabad claim that the figures are much higher; a million or more for Russia alone. Russia, with 275,000[16] is currently the fifth largest Jewish community in the world.  (Ner LeElef estimates the Russian population at about 650,000.) Jews in the Ukraine were estimated at 112,000[17], making the Jewish community the eighth largest worldwide. There are 25,000 Jews in Belarus and 16,000 for the three Baltic states,   Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia combined[18].

      The American Jewish Year Book, from which most of these figures come, claims that some of the larger figures attributed in recent years to the size of Soviet Jewry did not relate to the core but to various (unspecified) measures of an enlarged Jewish population.

      These FSU countries have seen an enormous influx of manpower and financial resources in the attempt to rebuild Russian Jewry. An astonishing number of Jewish organizations, religious and secular, have participated in this effort and continue to do so.   Some organizations, like Chabad (Feori) and Keroor (the umbrella body for non-Chabad communities), have engaged in local community building, while others, like Migdal Ohr, have until recently engaged in interesting Russians in their Judaism and then getting them to schools and yeshivas elsewhere as quickly as possible. As of 2001, Keroor, the umbrella of communities related to REK (the Russian Jewish Congress), registered 71 communities, while FJC (FEOR of Chabad) registered 73 communities. The Reform registered 30 communities. (However, some of these communities are registered more than once). In Moscow alone, there are 2 Jewish universities, 3 yeshivas, 2 girls seminaries and 2 kollelim. Besides Moscow and St Petersburg, there are several cities which, together with their satellite towns, number Jewish populations between 5 and 20 thousand. Amongst these are Yekaternburg, Saratov, Samara, Novosibirsk, Rostov and Tchelabinsk.

      The Hillel organization has, for the past four years, trained hundreds of Jewish students in the FSU to lead Pesach seders in far-flung communities, often in partnership with visiting Hillel students from North America and Israel. The Conservative movement has virtually no presence in Russia.

      The Reform movement has a training program to train para-professional leaders to work in Reform congregations throughout the FSU, as does Migdal Ohr, an Orthodox organization together with the Joint.  (These succinct comments are not intended to give an overview of the scope of activities in Russia, which are quite large and complex.)

      Hungary: Hungary has an enlarged Jewish population of about 150,000-200,000 persons. On the other hand a detailed assessment of Jewish migrations and vital statistics based on an end-1945 estimate of about 144,000 Holocaust survivors produced a total of 50,000-55,000 for end-2000, with a significant excess of deaths over births. Many communal figures put the population at about 100,000, with 80,000 of those living in Budapest.

      Spain: Spain ended WW II with less than 1000 Jews, nearly all Ashkenzaim. The original Sephardic population had almost completely disappeared. Since then, there has been a steady increase in the population, reaching 10,000 Jews, many from Morocco, by 1976. Since 1945, Jews were allowed to pray, but only in a private building, and surrounded by Franco-anti-Semitism. In 1965 the first public Jewish prayer service since the Inquisition was held on the island of Majorca. In 1967, public prayer service was legalized for non-Catholics and in 1968, Spain finally revoked the 1492 expulsion edict of Ferdinand and Isabella. Franco died in 1975 and since then Jews have been arriving from Argentina, Chile and Israel, as the population continues its steady growth. Figures are difficult to come by, but the population is approaching the 30,000 mark, making it larger than most European Jewish populations[19].

      Other European Countries: Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands each have Jewish population ranging around 30,000. (The 15,000 Jews who live in Rome belong to the oldest Jewish community in the Western world, dating back 22 centuries.) Turkey has 19, 000 Jews, Switzerland 17,577, Sweden and Spain, 15,000 and 12,000 respectively. Romania has about 11,000. The Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria all have between 1,000 and 3,500 Jews.



Estimated Jewish population distribution  in Asia 1/1/2001



Azerbaijan                                    7,500

Georgia                                         5,500

Kazakhstan                                   5,200

Uzbekistan                                    7,000

Iran                                          11,500[20]


      The total Jewish population in the Asian republics of the former USSR was estimated at 28,000. The largest community remained in Azerbaijan (7,500 in 2001 versus 30,800 in 1989), followed by Uzbekistan (7,000 in 2001 vs. 94,900), Georgia (5,500 vs. 24,800), Kazakhstan (6,800 according to the 1999 census and 5,200 in 2001 vs. 19,900 in 1989).

In other Asian countries with small, old communities the Jewish population tended to decline, even to the point of disappearance. The recent reduction was more notable in Syria and Yemen after Jews were officially allowed to emigrate.



      South Africa: Of the 88,000 Jews in Africa,  90% lived in the Republic of South Africa. The official estimate for South Africa is 79,000 in 2001, though this means that the original population was much larger than the 120,000 traditionally estimated. According to the latter figure, there are no more than 65,000 Jews left in South Africa. Many tens of cities no longer have communities at all, and more than half of South African Jews are concentrated in a relatively small area of Johannesburg. Within this area, however, Judaism is thriving. Cape Town is the only other vibrant community, with an Ohr Somayach, a kollel and a new Orthodox Shul all opening up in the last three years.  

      Ethiopia: In 1991 the Jewish community - about 20,000 people – were brought to Israel, most of them in a dramatic one-day airlift. Between 1992 and 2000, 17,700 immigrants from Ethiopia arrived in Israel.

      Morocco and Tunisia: The remnant of Moroccan and Tunisian Jewry tended to shrink slowly through emigration, mostly to Israel, France and Canada. The 2001 estimate was 5,700 or Morocco and 1,500 for Tunisia.

5.                    Analysis by City   (top)


Metropolitan areas with the largest Jewish populations:



Metro area


Jewish Population

Share of World’s Jews

Cumulative %

1            Tel Aviv                 Israel              2,560,000                     19.3                  19.3

2            New York              U.S.                1,970,000                     14.9                  34.2

3            Haifa                      Israel                 655,000                       4.9                  39.1

4            Los Angeles            U.S.                  621,000                       4.7                  43.8

5            Jerusalem               Israel                 570,000                       4.3                  48.1

6            Southeast Florida     U.S.                  514,000                       3.9                  52.0

7            Paris                       France               310,000                       2.3                  54.3

8            Philadelphia             U.S.                  276,000                       2.1                  56.4

9            Chicago                  U.S.                  261,000                       2.0                  58.4

10          Boston                    U.S.                  227,000                       1.7                  60.1

11          San Francisco         U.S.                  210,000                       1.6                  61.7

12          London                   U.K.                 195,000                       1.5                  63.1

13          Buenos Aires          Argentina          175,000                       1.3                  64.5

14          Toronto                   Canada              175,000                       1.3                  65.8

15          Washington             U.S.                  165,000                       1.2                  67.0

16          Be’er Sheva            Israel                 165,000                       1.2                  68.3

17          Moscow                 Russia               108,000                       0.8                  69.1

18          Baltimore                U.S.                    95,000                       0.7                  69.8

19          Montreal                 Canada               95,000                       0.7                  70.5

20          Detroit                    U.S.                    94,000                       0.7                  71.2            

Counted on a country by country basis, these twenty cities break down as follows:

1.         United States            10

2.         Israel                          4

3.         Canada                      2

4.         France                        1

5.         England                      1

6.         Russia                        1                                                           

7.         Argentina                    1

If, however, we exclude the USA and Israel, then the top ten cities are


1.            Paris

2.            London

3.            Buenos Aires

4.            Toronto

5.            Moscow

6.            Montreal

7.            St. Petersburg

8.            Kiev

9.            Budapest

10.          Sao Paulo

3 of these are English speaking, 3 are Russian speaking, and the remaining four are each different languages.

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[1] Information from Hebrew University demographer, Prof. Sergio De La Pergola as well as the American Jewish Year Book

[2] With the exception of Brazil, which is Portuguese speaking. Surinam, which is English speaking, has a negligible Jewish population.

[3] The findings are of a team of scholars from Hebrew University, published  by the American Jewish Committee in the American Jewish Year Book 2000. The article, "Prospecting the Jewish Future: Population Projections, 2000-2080" offers demographic projections for Jewish communities throughout the world in the years 2020 and 2050, as well as 2080. It also offers adjusted scenarios based on changes in fertility rates. Sergio Della Pergola, chairman of the Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry of Hebrew University headed the study.

[4] Menachem Berger, letter to the editor, The Jewish Observer (February 2000)


[5] According to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

[6] The above paragraphs are all from the Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya

[7] Figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics

[8] Figures from the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption

[9] A significant revision of the size of Jewish population in the United Kingdom was released in 1998 by Community Research Unit (CRU) of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

[10] There are an excess of deaths over births in the range of about 1,000-1,500 a year

[11] 50% for married men under 30

[12] Over 7,000 emigrants to Israel in 1980-1989 and about 6,000 in 1990-2000

[13] Diaspora, Howard M Sachar, pgs. 13- 15

[14] Of these, nearly 900,000 went to Israel, about 300,000 to the United States, and over 200,000 chose other countries, mainly Germany.

[15] Aging in the countries of origin was exacerbated by the significantly younger age composition of Jewish emigrants. In Ukraine, the respective figures were 4.2 and 35.9 per 1,000.

[16] In 2001, the 275,000 core Jews and their 245,000 non-Jewish household members produced an enlarged population of 520,000.

[17] Down from 487,300 in 1989.

[18] Versus 39,900 in 1989.

[19] Diaspora, Howard Sachar

[20] It is difficult to estimate the Jewish population on Iran, last counted in 1986 national census. Based on evidence of continuing decline, the 2001 estimate was reduced to 11,500.

World Jewish Population - Judaism Online