Where are the World’s Jews?

I often hear wild estimates about the number of Jews in the world, so I decided to get to some reliable facts about how many Jews there are in the world and reveal where they live.  Below is some demographic information about the world’s Jewish population that is very interesting. 

Data as of 2002

Global Jewish Population
Country Population
Israel       5,025,000
United States       5,700,000
France          519,000
Canada          364,000
United Kingdom          273,500
Russia          265,000
Argentina          195,000
Germany          103,000
Ukraine          100,000
Australia            99,000
All Other          652,600
Global Total     13,296,100

Source: The Jewish Agency for Israel www.jafi.org.il

To the extent that the number of Jews in Israel has increased since 2002, I believe that this would be largely attributable to immigration from the former Soviet Union (principally Russia and the Ukraine) and, more recently, from Argentina.  I do not believe that there has been a major change in the absolute number of Jews in the world, so we can consider this data to be pretty accurate.

With the exception of the countries listed above, there are far fewer than 100,000 Jews in every other country in the world.

For example, Spain, the former booming Iberian center of Jewish intellectual and commercial activity until all of the Jews were expelled in August 1492– currently hosts approximately 12,000 Jews out of a total population of 40 million people.  When I was in Spain last summer, I was told by a Jewish guide in Cordoba that, if you ask random Spaniards how many Jews live in the country, estimates will range from 100,000 to 1 million.

When I arrived in Argentina last December, our driver who met us at the airport, as part of his guided driving commentary on the way to our hotel, informed us matter of factly that, of course, the Jews of Buenos Aires control the country’s economy.  There are only 195,000 of these dominant Jews out of 37 million Argentinians. Sadly, a prominent Jewish businessman that I visited in Argentina regretted that he and his buddies do not control the country.  This blew my driver’s credibility– we didn’t use him again.

And, of course, there are 1,500 Jews in Puerto Rico out of 3.9 million people living on the island.

By these 2002 statistics, 77% of all Israeli citizens are Jews, with the balance breaking down into roughly 20% Arabs (both Muslim and Christian), and about 3% other faiths. 

Not only are there more Jews in the United States than in Israel, but 79% of American Jews are found in the following cities:

U.S. City Jewish Population
New York City            2,051,000
Los Angeles               668,000
SE Florida               498,000
Philadelphia               285,000
Chicago               265,000
Boston               254,000
San Francisco               218,000
Washington               166,000
Baltimore               106,000
Total            4,511,000

Now that we have a handle on exactly how many Jews there are in the world, more information will follow on the religious affiliations of these American Jews to get some insight into the percentages of Jews that are orthodox, reform, conservative, reconstructionist, and, of course, non-observant and unaffiliated, or, as they say in Tel Aviv, secular.

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