How Many American Jews?
The American Jewish Year Book, the annual story of us that the American Jewish Committee published annually until 2008, is back with a new publisher for a 2012 edition and a fresh controversy over how many Jews live in the United States.
That would be easier, of course, if we could all agree on who is a Jew, but leave aside that eternal debate for the moment.
As detailed in the Forward, the new yearbook concludes there are more than 6.7 million American Jews, declares that total almost certainly too high because of double-counted college students and snowbirds, settles for a number between 6 million and 6.4 million, then runs an opposing opinion favoring a count of 5.4 million.
The real fun comes in exploring where those different estimates come from and how messed up national estimates of the Jewish population have been since at least 1990.
I’m not sure I agree with the Forward’s conclusions about the motivations for differing counts, but it’s an article well worth reading and thinking about.
To some extent, the debate is academic because people aren’t arguing that the American Jewish population is dying out. That’s a big change from ancient times when I was a child and it was a matter of faith that we weren’t more than three generations from seeing the last American Jew.
And I’m much more concerned about the populations of my family and my synagogue than the nation as a whole or even metro Atlanta.
The flip side is the fear that as we become an ever-smaller percentage of the total U.S. population, we’ll lose our relevance and even face discrimination. Changing U.S. demographics are also a long-term concern for Israel, which needs American support in the world, but that’s an issue addressed in a study by Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.
In the end, it’s the quality of the American Jewish population, not its quantity, that protects us, and we’re just fine on that count.
Elsewhere around the web:
• The Jewish community’s shortfalls in accommodating people with disabilities came up recently, so the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Ruderman Prize in Disability is timely. Five organizations working to include people with disabilities will win $50,000 each, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports. Applications are available at the foundation’s website and are due March 18.
• Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, is unhappy with a report on Sunday night’s “60 Minutes” about Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, The Algemeiner reports. A largely glowing report on Iron Dome’s capabilities turned negative when reporter Bob Simon tried to link American support for Iron Dome and Israeli-American differences on West Bank settlements. Ronn Torossian of 5W Public Relations joins in the criticism of Simon and “60 Minutes” at The Times of Israel.
• President Barack Obama will become the first sitting American president to receive Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction during his trip to the Middle East next month, CNN reports.
• If international talks with Iran over its nuclear program fail as expected at the end of the month in Kazakhstan, Israel will expect the United States to bring a clear military option to the table, Al-Monitor says.
• I’m long past ready for the Senate to confirm Chuck Hagel as defense secretary just to stop people like Bill Maher from spreading the damaging lie that Israel controls U.S. foreign policy.
• If you haven’t gotten enough of the Prisoner X case, Al-Monitor puts together a few more pieces that point to Ben Zygier’s having held a British passport in addition to his Israeli and Australian citizenship. Israel Hayom updates the overall story, including the claim that Zygier killed himself out of shame. Noam Sheizaf at +972 magazine sees the case as an example of a security establishment run amok.
• Purim is Saturday night. Warm up with an Open Zion commentary from the Pardes Institute’s Rabbi Daniel Landes on the Megillah’s mix of comedy and seriousness, excess and restraint.
• Jewish organic farmer Daron “Farmer D” Joffe shares his pride about Obama’s Thursday visit to College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center, which has a Farmer D garden, at Decatur-Avondale Estates Patch.
• Yair Lapid laid out his vision for a new central political bargain in Israeli life between the religious and the secular during a speech in 2011 in which the Yesh Atid leader declared victory for his Orthodox foes. Elli Fischer analyzes that speech and the revamped social contract it envisions at Jewish Ideas Daily.
• The Elder of Ziyon takes a walking video tour of the Temple Mount, which is interesting by itself, then captures some footage of Arabs playing soccer on the ground they consider too holy for Jews to walk on.
• Israel apparently isn’t letting personal feelings get in the way of business, selling Turkey $200 million in electronic warfare systems for four Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft, The Jerusalem Post says.
Share your thoughts on these or other stories from the Jewish world in the comments, or send items for the daily roundup to firstname.lastname@example.org.