Some notes on Jewish demography

Reading Michael Brenner’s A Short History of the Jews, I learned a lot more about the changes in where Jewish communities have been over the years. For example, Russia only acquired a large number of Jewish residents when it received pieces of Poland in the partitions of the late 1700s. The “Pale of Settlement,” the territory where most Russian-ruled Jews had to live, was either entirely or mostly limited to the old Polish kingdom (Brenner says entirely, another map I have seen suggests mostly) and territories near the Black Sea (pages pp. 225-226).

In 1898, 5.7 million Jews lived in the Russian Empire, 1.86 million in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1 million in the U.S, 568,000 in Germany, and 466,000 in the Ottoman Empire. These were the five countries with the largest Jewish populations. In 1930, 564,000 Jews lived in Germany, but close to 260,000 left in the 1930s under Nazi rule (pp. 332, 389).

The independence of Poland after WWI meant that a large number of Jews again lived in Poland (2.98 million in 1930), but many remained under the control of the USSR (2.673 million). But the United States had by far the largest Jewish population by this point (at 4.228 million), and New York (1.765 million Jewish residents) had nearly six times as many Jews as the next city, Warsaw. As of 2006, the only European countries with more than 200,000 Jews are France (492,000), Great Britain (297,000), and Russia (228,000). In 2006, Israel and the United States both had roughly 5.3 million Jews, with Israel having slightly more. A look at the top eight cities with the largest Jewish populations shows that they alternate between an Israeli city and then an American city, with Tel Aviv (2.751 million) and New York (1.75 million) far outpacing the others, which are, in order, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Haifa, Miami, Beersheva, and Philly. Paris and Chicago are next (pp. 390-391). I don’t know if these are strictly within city limits or if they include metropolitan areas. 80 percent of all Jews live in either Israel or the U.S. (p. 386).


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