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The other important Jewish population statistic

By ReligionSeptember, 2019January 18th, 20243 min read

The Jewish Agency have released their world Jewish population survey, and the results are hardly surprising, when you look at the raw figures. There are no prizes for guessing the “top ten“, and the top (Diaspora) countries remain USA, France, Canada, and UK by a long margin. There have been some small changes, but no significant movement over the last few years.

The mathematicians among us look deeper than raw figures, and it’s far more interesting to look at the relative Jewish population in various countries, and rank them that way. The proportion of Jews in a country can correlate with things like profile, influence and safety within that country.

As a starting point, consider that there are 7.5 billion people in the world, and Jews represent  0.2% of that vast total. If we exclude Asia and Africa, which have very low Jewish populations, the Jewish percentage jumps to 0.8%. So we might consider that figure a more meaningful global rate.

In that context, it’s no surprise that the US and Canada still dominate, with 1.5% and 1.0% respectively. But some of the others high on the list will surprise you:

CountryJewish PopulationTotal Population% Jewish
South Africa69,00056,720,0000.12%

This is clearly a far more interesting story. I’m proud to see my home country of Australia up there, given it was a key destination for Jews following the Holocaust, and for South Africans over the last few decades. I’m puzzled by the ranking of Hungary (but I’m sure some locals will be able to provide the answer). Put a million or so Jews back into Russia, and it would have close to 1%.

There is so much more we can do with the figures when we look at them more creatively, such as quantifying large global immigration trends (e.g. aliya from Russia & Europe, exodus from South Africa), and the changes in relative Jewish and Muslim populations in these countries over the last decade or so.

Numbers can tell whatever story we want them to – it all comes down to how we look at them. At a given point in time, Jews are among the smallest of all peoples. But if we look back over thousands of years, we have lasted the longest.

This was also posted at [The Times of Israel].

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