A full 70 years since the end of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, the total number of Jews in the world, including the offspring of mixed marriages, has reached 16 million – nearly the 16.6 million of 1939 before the Nazi genocide began.
The encouraging picture of population recovery emerges from a new annual report by the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) published on Friday morning in Yedioth Aharonoth, which is to be discussed on Sunday in a weekly governmental meeting.
The report indicates that since 1945, when there were 11 million Jews in the world, the Jewish population has steadily grown. Between 2005 and 2015, the Jewish population grew by more than 8%, the highest growth percentage of any decade since the end of World War II.
In compiling the statistics the report based itself on halakhic (Jewish legal) definitions of who is a Jew for those living in Israel, and self-definition for those living abroad.
Those seeking to be more lenient with the Jewish definition of Jewish status could include the non-Jewish offspring of Jews, a group comprising of 350,000 people in Israel, as well as "partial Jews" who largely come from mixed marriages – in America alone one million such people exist.
Adding these groups to the global Jewish population, which is a subjective decision, raises the number to nearly 16 million – without the addition of these groups the total number stands at 14.2 million in 2015.
Focusing in on Israel, the proportion of the Jewish population rose from 82% of the total population at the founding of the modern state in 1948 to 89% in 1958. However, there has since been a gradual decline, with the percentage hitting 75% at the start of 2015. While that figure indicates an overall decline, it also indicates the Jewish population has remained largely stable.
The largest single Jewish population in the world is still in the US as it has been since the end of World War II, although Israel's Jewish population has nearly surpassed it.
While nearly five million Jews lived in the US in 1957, that number rose to 5.7 million in 2013, a relatively stable number that has been balanced between the conflicting forces of a low birth rate on the one side and a positive increase in conversions on the other side, although as noted the Jewish population in the US was figured based on self-definition rather than on the Jewish legal definition.