Researchers say North America's Jewish population could drop by a third

Posted: Friday, September 15, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) -- If present trends continue, by the year 2080 North America's Jewish population will drop by a third, to 4 million, according to projections in the new ''American Jewish Year Book.''

The annual also estimates that by mid-century Israel will have a majority of the world's Jews. Israel has gained through past immigration from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Future numbers will swell due to the nation's higher birth rate, younger average age, stronger Jewish identity and lower intermarriage rate compared with Jewish communities elsewhere.

The article says that outside Israel there has been ''unprecedented erosion'' in the Jewish family due to lower birth rates and such factors as delayed marriages, couples cohabiting out of wedlock and rising divorce.

Accelerating intermarriage drives much of the decline in the West, the report says. ''Children of intermarriage have shown comparatively weak Jewish identification,'' and fewer non-Jewish spouses in these marriages are converting to Judaism.

By 2020 Jews in Israel may outnumber those in North America and by 2080, 10.6 million of the world's 15.6 million Jews may be Israelis, report authors Sergio DellaPergola, Uzi Rebhun and Mark Tolts, who are demographers at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

Such numbers are inevitably rough estimates subject to unpredictable factors, they note, but the overall picture of Israel's rise and a decline elsewhere appears permanent.

The article says that with this shift, Israel will assume the chief role in world Jewish education and cultural continuity.

North America, long the major funder of the world Jewish community, may focus more on internal problems and be less able to help others, the authors warn, and declines could endanger Jewish organizations in some countries.

The annual, published by the American Jewish Committee, reports there are currently 5.7 million Jews in the United States, 362,000 in Canada, and 13,191,500 worldwide.


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