Prof. Dellapergula at the Jewish People Policy Institute- May 2011

On May 19 Prof. Sergio DellaPergola presented in the Jewish People Policy Institute his new book – “Jewish Demographic Policies. Population Trends and Options in Israel and in the Diaspora” published by the JPPI in May 2011.   In his foreword the President of the JPPI Stuart E. Eizenstat characterized Prof. DellaPergola as “a most prominent, prescient, and respected demographer of Jewish people”.

We are familiar with DellaPergola’s active position on the implication of the results of academic research into practical steps by the relevant government and international institutions for the further progress of Jewish People. Indeed in his forward DellaPergola makes a very clear and strong statement:

“Depending on what happens in the 21st century, demography is going to be one of the crucial factors determining the future of the Jews. A responsible Jewish leadership cannot avoid coming to term with the reality that serving Jewish People involves, among other things, fully understanding, monitoring, and steering its demographic trends.”

Here we would like to show you some of figures illustrating the main demographic tendencies of the Jewish population during the last 70 years.

Fig 01.jpg

As we can see in the second decade of the 21st century the total Jewish population is getting close to 14 million (before the World War II it was estimated as 16,5 million). In principle the tendency of the growth of the Jewish population reflects the tendency of growth of general population.  On the other hand,  it is quite clear from the Figure 1, that while the Jewish population in Israel demonstrates a steady trend of growth, the number of Jews in the Diaspora is gradually declining.

Nevertheless, as we can see from the figure 2, despite these contemporary demographic trends, the majority of Jews still live in the Diaspora.

Fig 02.jpg

While discussing the contemporary demographic situation in the Jewish world we should take into consideration that the migration of Jews is very dynamic, as shown on the Figure 7.

Fig 03.jpg

According to this diagram there are actually more Israelis who immigrated to Western countries (698,000) then Jews from the Western countries who made aliya during 1948 – 2008. Thus we can predict with assurance that in the foreseeable future there will State of Israel and considerably large Jewish Diaspora.

Therefore from DellaPergola’s point of view the overall challenge for World Jewry in our times is:

“How to generate a better and more meaningful interaction between its constituent parts, Israel and the Diaspora, where the core state constitutes a source of meaning, pride and strength for the Jewish community outside of it, and Jewish communities worldwide are a source of support, wisdom and strength for the Jewish state”.

From the very beginning of his book Prof. DellaPergola declares twelve main goals that should be adopted by contemporary Jewish policy makers.  Here we would like to quote several of these goals:

1. Along with continuing emphasis on the importance of Jewish immigration to Israel (aliya) in the framework of the Law of return, encourage new patterns of Jewish migration and absorption into the country through innovative concepts and tools.

4. Reduce obstacles that interfere with Jewish marriage and family formation.

8. Facilitate cultural absorption of non-Jewish members of Jewish household into a Jewish context and promote a friendlier approach to conversion to Judaism (giyur).

9. Continue to improve health standards, life duration and life quality, with special attention to health conditions that are peculiar to Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora.

Needless to say, that it is impossible in a short review to show all the aspects of this outstanding research, and we suggest to order a copy of the publication from the Jewish People Policy Institute.

Those who are interested in Jewish demography can also find on the site of the JPPI very interesting results of survey conducted by the Steinhardt Institute in The Brandeis University -  Number of Jews in the world with emphasis on the United States and Israel.