The Study of Man: How Many Jews in America?
Closer to the art of divination than to science is the study of the American Jewish population today. The truth is that—popular belief notwithstanding—we have no reliable knowledge of such elementary facts as how many Jews are born in America in a year, how many die, what their age distribution is, how many go to school. Indeed, we are perhaps most in the dark about that most elementary of all questions: how many Jews are there—True enough, persons who consider themselves well informed will say with little hesitation that there are about five million Jews in the United States—and that their number is increasing. Yet this good, round, concrete figure is based on a shaky structure of guesswork, ranging from the ingenious to the simple.
The crucial fact about the study of American Jewish population is that the United States Census, the statistical basis for a vast amount of sociological study and speculation about all sorts of questions, includes no questions on religious affiliation. There is no official count of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews in the United States, as there is in Canada, most European countries, Palestine, and elsewhere. Without this basic count, and the supplementary information on births and deaths, on immigration and emigration, and on age distribution, it is impossible to state with definiteness how many Jews there are in the United States and whether their number is increasing or decreasing.
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