What if a born Christian who has never undergone any type of formal conversion asserts an identification with the victims of the Holocaust or in some way claims to have joined the Jewish people?
What about the very common situation of a Gentile not married to but living in the same household with a Jew?
On the basis of the consensus figure of 5.5 million, the Jewish population of the United States has, at best, remained static for the past 50 years, despite the influx during that same period of at least a half-million Jewish immigrants. Entitled ewish Distinctiveness in America: A Statistical Portrait, it marshals considerable evidence for the relatively advanced age of the American Jewish population.
If there is debate over absolute numbers, there is far wider agreement on the patterns of behavior within the Jewish population ― behavior confirmed by dozens of community studies and separate opinion polls. First, in terms of median age, Jews are seven years older than other Americans. Among religious groups, only liberal Protestants exceed Jews in this regard; among ethnic groups, only Americans of British ancestry do.
By the year 2006, according to a policy institute in Israel, the American Jewish community, hitherto the world's largest, will for the first time fall behind the Jewish community of Israel in size. Last spring saw a series of private meetings, including one called by the president of the state of Israel, to discuss the demographic situation and what to do about it.
Thus far, the result has been much hand-wringing and little action.
The fertility gap is especially enormous among Jewish women under the age of thirty-five; even though the gap narrows considerably over the course of the next ten years, at no point do Jewish women attain the fertility levels of their non-Jewish peers or bear children in numbers sufficient to offset population losses from natural causes.
Demographic Vitality How many Jews are there in the United States? Indeed, the very process of counting has become wrapped in controversy.
For one thing, as the 2000-01 NJPS confirms, Jews marry later than other Americans, with the greatest disparities occurring in the age group between twenty-five and thirty-four.