The world's Jewish population is nearly as large as it was before the Holocaust, Israeli think tank Jewish People Policy Institute said in its annual report yesterday, putting that number at 14.2 million Jews. When factoring in individuals with one Jewish parent and others who identify as partially Jewish, the figure approaches 16.5 million—the Jewish population on the eve of World War II. The Nazis killed about 6 million Jews. The report says the rise is due in part to natural growth, mainly in Israel, which has about 6.1 million Jews and one of the West's highest fertility rates. But it also links growth to "changing patterns of Jewish identification." It says that 59% of adult children in the US who have one Jewish parent now identify as Jewish, a majority "for the first time in memory."
Avinoam Bar-Yosef, the institute's president, says more of those Jews were probably identifying as Jewish because it's more "respectable" to be Jewish in the US than it was years ago. He also says Birthright Israel, which organizes educational trips to Israel for young Jewish people, is likely having an impact. The tally combines the number of Jews worldwide, but it also includes at least 1 million secular Jews who are less likely to be connected to Jewish life or institutions. And it includes some 350,000 Israelis who emigrated from the former Soviet Union and are not considered Jewish in Israel. The Pew Research Center, whose count only includes Jews who self-identify as Jewish, projects that Jews will reach 16 million by 2050. (Read more Jewish stories.)