Jewish ethnic divisions refers to a number of distinct communities within the world's ethnically Jewish population. Although considered one single self-identifying ethnicity, there are distinct ethnic divisions among Jews, most of which are primarily the result of geographic branching from an originating Israelite population, and subsequent independent evolutions.
As long ago as Biblical times, cultural and linguistic differences between Jewish communities, even within the area of Ancient Israel and Judea, are observed both within the Bible itself as well as from archeological remains. In more recent human history, an array of Jewish communities were established by Jewish settlers in various places around the Old World, often at great distances from one another resulting in effective and often long-term isolation from each other. During the millennia of the Jewish diaspora the communities would develop under the influence of their local environments; political, cultural, natural and populational. Today, manifestation of these differences among the Jews can be observed in Jewish cultural expressions of each community, including Jewish linguistic diversity, culinary preferences, liturgical practices, religious interpretations, as well as degrees and sources of genetic admixture.
Ancient Israel and Judah
The full extent of the cultural, linguistic, religious or other differences among the Israelites in antiquity is unknown. Following the defeat of the Kingdom of Israel
and the Kingdom of Judah
, the Jewish people were dispersed throughout the Middle East
, especially in Egypt
, the African Nile Valley
. By the height of the Roman Empire
, Jewish communities could be found in nearly every notable settlement throughout the Empire, as well as scattered communities found in settlements beyond the Empire's borders in northern Europe and in Africa
. In the east, Jewish communities could be found throughout Parthia
and in empires even farther east including India
. Jews could also be found in eastern Europe
and southwestern Asia
In the late Byzantine period the khan of Khazaria in the northern Caucasus and his court converted to Judaism, partly in order to maintain neutrality between Christian Byzantium and the Muslim world. This event forms the framework for Yehuda Halevi's work 'The Kuzari'. How far traces of Judaism among this group survived the collapse of the Khazar empire is a matter of scholarly debate.
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, and especially after the Moorish invasion of Iberia, communications between the communities in various parts of the former Empire became sporadic. With increasing persecution in "Ashkenaz"—that is, the areas that are now northern France and Germany—masses of Jews began to move further to the east, where they were welcomed by the king of Poland. At the same time, as a result of the freer communications within the Muslim world, the communities in Iberia were in more frequent communication with those in North Africa and the Middle East. Meanwhile, communities further afield, in central and south Asia and central Africa, remained isolated and continued to develop their own unique traditions. Following the 1492 Expulsion from Spain, the Sephardim were dispersed to the Americas, the Netherlands, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and in smaller numbers to other areas of the Middle East.
Although the Jewish population was severely reduced by the Jewish-Roman Wars and the hostile policies of the Christian emperors, Jews had always retained a presence in Palestine.
In the 6th century, there were 43 Jewish communities in Palestine.
During the Islam and Crusader periods, there were 50 communities which included Jerusalem, Tiberias, Ramleh, Ashkelon, Caesarea, and Gaza.
During the early Ottoman Period there were 30 communities which included Haifa, Shechem, Hebron, Ramleh, Jaffa, Gaza, Jerusalem, and many in the north, the most dominant one being Safed which reached a population of 30,000 Jews by end of the 16th century.
Over the centuries following the Crusades, Jews from around the world began emigrating in increasing numbers. Upon arrival, these Jews adopted the customs of the Mizrahi and Sephardi communities into which they moved. With Baron von Rothschild's philanthropic land purchases and subsequent efforts to turn Palestine into a verdant Jewish homeland, and the subsequent rise of Zionism, a flood of Ashkenazi immigration brought the Jewish population of the region to several hundred thousand.
Historically, Jews have been identified into two major groups: the Ashkenazim, or "Germanics" ("Ashkenaz" meaning "Germany" in Medieval Hebrew, denoting their Central European base), and the Sephardim, or "Hispanics" ("Sefarad" meaning "Hispania" or "Iberia" in Hebrew, denoting their Spanish and Portuguese base). The Mizrahim, or "Easterners" ("Mizrach" being "East" in Hebrew), that is Middle Eastern and North African Jews, could constitute a third major group.
Smaller Jewish groups include the Georgian Jews and Mountain Jews from the Caucasus; Indian Jews including the Bene Israel, Bnei Menashe, Cochin Jews and Bene Ephraim; the Romaniotes of Greece; the ancient Italian Jewish community; the Teimanim from the Yemen and Oman; various African Jews, including most numerously the Beta Israel of Ethiopia; the Bukharan Jews of Central Asia; and Chinese Jews, most notably the Kaifeng Jews, as well as various other distinct but now extinct communities.
The divisions between all these groups are rough and their boundaries aren’t solid. The Mizrahim for example, are a heterogeneous collection of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish communities which are often as unrelated to each other as they are to any of the earlier mentioned Jewish groups. In modern usage, however, the Mizrahim are also termed Sephardi due to similar styles of liturgy, despite independent evolutions from Sephardim proper. Thus, among Mizrahim there are Iraqi Jews, Egyptian Jews, Berber Jews, Lebanese Jews, Kurdish Jews, Libyan Jews, Syrian Jews, and various others. The Yemenite Jews ("Teimanim") from Yemen and Oman are sometimes included, although their style of liturgy is unique and they differ in respect to the admixture found among them to that found in Mizrahim. Additionally, there is a differentiation made between the pre-existing Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities as distinct from the descendants of those Sephardi migrants who established themselves in the Middle East and North Africa after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492, and a few years later from the expulsion decreed in Portugal.
Despite this diversity, Ashkenazi Jews represent the bulk of modern Jewry, approximately 70% of Jews worldwide (and up to 90% prior to World War II and the Holocaust). As a result of their emigration from Europe during the wartime periods, Ashkenazim also represent the overwhelming majority of Jews in the New World continents and in countries previously without native Jewish communities, such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Africa. In France, Mizrahi immigrants from North Africa and their descendants now outnumber pre-existing European Jews. Only in Israel is the Jewish population representative of all groups, a melting pot independent of each group's proportion within the overall world Jewish population.
Because of the independence of local communities, Jewish ethnicities, even when they circumscribe differences in liturgy, language, cuisine and other cultural accoutrements, are more often a reflection of geographic and historical isolation from other communities. It is for this reason that communities are referred to by referencing the historical region in which the community cohered when discussing their practices, regardless of where those practices are found today.
The smaller groups number in the hundreds to tens of thousands, with the Georgian Jews (also known as Gruzinim or Qartveli Ebraeli) and Beta Israel being most numerous at somewhat over 100,000 each. Many members of these groups have now emigrated from their traditional homelands, largely to Israel. For example, only about 10 percent of the Gruzinim remain in Georgia.
The Jewish communities of the modern world can all be found represented today in Israel, which is as much a melting pot as it is a salad bowl of different Jewish ethnic groups.
A brief description of the extant communities, by the geographic regions with which they are associated, is as follows:
- Ashkenazim are the descendants of Jews who migrated into northern France and Germany around 800-1000 AD, and later into Eastern Europe. Ashkenazim comprise the overwhelming majority of Jews, with approximately 80 percent of the Jewish total (prior to the Holocaust, they were an even greater percentage of world Jewry). Even among the Ashkenazim there are a number of major subgroups:
- Western Jews, stemming from northern France, from the Lowlands, historical Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, originally spoke Western Yiddish, which had less slavic influence than other Yiddish dialects. By the early 20th century, Yiddish was in decline in this population, and assimilation was proceeding rapidly. In Israel, a sometimes derogatory term for these Jews (also applied to Austrian Oberlander Jews), is Yekkes.
- Oberlander, originating in the Oberland region of Hungary and the district surrounding Bratislava in Slovakia, originally spoke western Yiddish. In modern times before the Holocaust, many Oberlander Jews migrated to urban centers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and adopted German or Hungarian as their first language.
- Polish Jews, from Congress Poland.
- Central (Galitzianers) from Hungary, south-western Poland, western Ukraine and northern Serbia
- Lithuanian Jews("Litvak Jews"), (North-eastern Europe)
- Southeastern, predominantly from Ukraine, Moldova and Romania
- Romaniotes are Greek-speaking Jews from the Balkans that lived there from the Hellenistic era until today.
- Sephardim are Jews whose ancestors lived in Spain or Portugal, where they lived for possibly as much as two millennia before being expelled in 1492 (see Alhambra decree); they subsequently migrated to North Africa, Latin America, Italy and the Netherlands. Also a large portion of them migrated to the Ottoman Empire which at the time was considered a safe haven for the Jews of Europe. Here they mostly settled in the European portion of the Empire and mainly in the major cities such as: Constantinople, Thessaloniki and Bursa. Thessaloniki, in modern-day Greece, had a large and flourishing Sephardic community. Others remained in Spain or Portugal or Latin America as anusim (forced converts to Catholicism).
- Bené Roma or Italkim represent many of the Italian Jews, though Italy also has both Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities.
- Chuts were Dutch Jews, observing an amalgam of Ashkenazi and Sephardi customs, living in London, although this community has almost completely been lost to history.
- San Nicandro Jews - A group of mid-20th century converts from Italy.
The Caucasus and the Crimea
- Qartveli Ebraeli, or Gruzinim, are Georgian-speaking Jews from Georgia in the Caucasus.
- Juhurim are mountain Jews mainly from Daghestan and Azerbaijan in the eastern Caucasus.
- Krymchaks and Karaim are Turkic-speaking Jews of the Crimea and Eastern Europe. The Krymchaks practice Rabbinic Judaism, while the Karaim practice Karaite Judaism. Whether they are primarily the descendants of Israelite Jews who adopted Turkic language and culture, or the descendants of Turkic converts to Judaism, is still debated, although the question is irrelevant as far as Jewish law is concerned, according to which they are Jews, regardless of whether by Israelite descent or by conversion.
- The 750 Armenian Jews today comprise a minuscule remnant of an ancient population dating back over 2,500 years, and once numbering as many as 100,000.
- Subbotniks are a dwindling group of Jews from Azerbaijan and Armenia, whose ancestors were Russian peasants who converted to Judaism for unknown reasons in the 19th century.
North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia
Jews originating from Muslim lands are generally called by the catch-all term Mizrahi Jews
, more precise terms for particular groups are:
- Bukharian Jews are Jews from Central Asia. They get their name from the former Central Asian Emirate of Bukhara, which once had a large Jewish population.
- Berber Jews are the Jews from the Maghreb in North Africa. The region coincides with the Atlas Mountains in today's Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. A small pre-Islamic presence of Jews is historically attested, and these are said to have mingled with the indigenous Berber population, converting many powerful tribes.
- Iraqi Jews are descendants of the Jews who have lived in Mesopotamia since the time of the Assyrian conquest of Canaan
- Kurdish Jews from Kurdistan, as distinct from the Persian Jews of central and eastern Persia, as well as from the lowland Iraqi Jews of Mesopotamia.
- Persian Jews from Iran (commonly called Parsim in Israel) have a 2700-year history. One of the oldest Jewish communities of the world, Persian Jews constitute the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel.
- Yemenite Jews (Temanim) are Oriental Jews whose geographic and social isolation from the rest of the Jewish community allowed them to develop a liturgy and set of practices that are significantly distinct from other Oriental Jewish groups; they themselves comprise three distinctly different groups, though the distinction is one of religious law and liturgy rather than of ethnicity.
- Palestinian Jews are Jewish inhabitants of Palestine throughout certain periods of Middle Eastern history. After the modern State of Israel was born, nearly all native Palestinian Jews became citizens of Israel, and the term "Palestinian Jews" largely fell into disuse.
- Egyptian Jews are generally Jews thought to have descended from the great Jewish communities of Hellenistic Alexandria, mixed with many more recent groups of immigrants. These include Babylonian Jews following the Muslim conquest; Jews from Eretz Israel following the Crusades; Sephardim following the expulsion from Spain; Italian Jews settling for trading reasons in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and Jews from Aleppo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
- Lebanese Jews are the Jews that lived around Beirut. After the Lebanese Civil War, the community's emigration appears to have been completed; few remain in Lebanon today.
- Moroccan Jews are Jews from the North African country of Morocco. Today they are largely considered Sephardic Jews, though most are likely the descendants of both the pre-existing Berber Jews and later Spanish and Portuguese Jews (ie. Sephardim) fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.
- Omani Jews are the early Jewish community of Sohar. They are thought to be descendants of Ishaq bin Yahuda, a Sohari merchant around the first millennium. This community is believed to have disappeared by 1900.
- Syrian Jews are generally divided into two groups: those who inhabited Syria from the time of King David (1000 B.C.), and those who fled to Syria after the Spanish Inquisition (1492 A.D), at the invitation of the Ottoman sultan. There were large communities in both Aleppo and Damascus for centuries. In the early 20th century a large percentage of Syrian Jews emigrated to the U.S., South America, and Israel. Today there are almost no Jews left in Syria. The largest Syrian-Jewish community is located in Brooklyn, New York, and is estimated at 40,000.
- Abayudaya of Uganda
- Beta Israel or Falashim of Ethiopia, tens of thousands of whom were brought to Israel during Operation Solomon and Operation Moses. Studies have thus far considered them to be descendants of local Ethiopian conversions which occurred over 600 years ago.
- Descendants of the Jews of the Bilad el-Sudan (West Africa). Jews whose ancestry was derived from the communities that once existed in the Ghana, Mali, and Songhay Empire. Anusim in and around Mali who descend from Jewish migrations from North Africa, East Africa, and Spain.
- The House of Israel, several hundred Sefwi tribesmen in Ghana
- The emergent Igbo Jewish community of Nigeria, perhaps as many as 30,000 strong (although many of them maintain a belief in the Messiahship of Jesus and adhere to basic tenets of Christianity that are mutually exclusive of normative Judaism).
- The Lemba in Malawi which number as many as 40,000. This group claims descent from ancient Israelite tribes that migrated down to southern Africa via southern Arabia. Genetic testing has partially upheld these claims. Many are now moving toward practising normative Judaism.
- The Jews of Rusape, Zimbabwe, also claim descent from ancient Jewish communities. Although they held a belief in Jesus as a prophet, the community is now shifting towards mainstream Judaism and abandoning their belief in Jesus. They are not considered as Jews by most of the Jewish world.
- South African Jews make up the largest community of Jews in Africa. Dutch Sephardic Jews were among the first permanent residents of Cape Town when the city was founded by the VOC in 1652. Today, however, most of South Africa's Jews are Ashkenazi and, in particular, of Lithuanian descent.
Communities also existed in São Tomé e Príncipe.
South Asia and South East Asia
- Bene Israel are the Jews of Mumbai, India, most of whom now reside in Israel.
- Cochin Jews are also Indian Jews from south-western India, most of whom also now reside in Israel. Included among these are the Paradesi Jews.
- Syrian Malabar Nasrani are Christians in south-western India, who can trace their origins to early Nazarene Jews. They are Jews by genealogy and descent and also related to the Cochin Jews and to Ashkenazi Jews as proved recently by DNA studies on the community. Some of them also are reported to carry the Cohen gene marker indicating Aaronite descent for some.
- Baghdadi Jews Those Jews came from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Arab countries and settled in India in 18th century.
- Bnei Menashe. A group of Jews living in Manipur and Mizoram in north-eastern India, claiming descent from the dispersed Biblical Tribe of Menasseh.
- Bene Ephraim, the Telugu-speaking Jews of Kottareddipalem in Andhra Pradesh, India.
- Chinese Jews: most prominent were the Kaifeng Jews, an ancient Jewish community in China, descended from merchants living in China from at least the era of the Tang dynasty. Today functionally extinct, although several hundred descendants have recently begun to explore and reclaim their heritage.
- Pakistani Jews: There was a thriving Jewish community in Pakistan particularly around the city of Karachi but also in other urban areas up north such as in Peshawer and Lahore. The origins of the Jewish community was mixed with some being Bene Israel, Bukharan Jews and Baghdadi Jews. In the late 1980s and 1990s, Jewish refugees from Iran had also came via Pakistan's Balochistan province and reached Karachi until the Iranian government closed down the operation. Most of Pakistan's Jewish community has not relocated to Israel and Pakistan's Jewish population is believed to number around 700.
- Jews in the Philippines
Most Jewish communities in the Americas are descendants of Jews who found their way there at different times of modern history. The great majority of recognized Jews on both the North American
and South American continents
are Ashkenazi, particularly among Jews in the United States
. There are also Sephardi, Mizrahim and other diaspora groups represented (as well as mixes of any or all of these) as mentioned above. Some unique communities associated with the Americas include:
- Hispanic Crypto-Jews are the descendants of Sephardi immigrants to the New World escaping the Spanish Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. Following the establishment of the Inquisition in the Iberian colonies, again they hid their ancestry and beliefs. Their numbers are difficult to ascertain as most are at least nominally Catholic, having been forcefully converted, converted for forms sake, or married into the religion. Collectively, people of Jewish descent in Latin America could surpass the millions. Most would be of mixed ancestry, although a few claim some communities may have been able to maintain a degree of endogamy (marrying only other Crypto-Jews) throughout the centuries. They may or may not consider themselves Jewish, some may continue to preserve some of their Jewish heritage in secrecy, many others may not even be aware of it. The majority would not be halakhically Jewish, but small numbers of various communities have formally returned to Judaism over the past decade, legitimizing their status as Jews. See also Anusim.
- Amazonian Jews are the mixed descendants of Moroccan Jewish communities in Belém, Santarém, Manaus, Iquitos, Tarapoto and many river villages in the Amazon basin in Brazil and Peru.
- Iquitos Jews are the "accidental" descendants of mostly Moroccan Jewish traders and tappers who arrived in the Peruvian Amazon city of Iquitos during the rubber boom of the 1880s. Since their Jewish descent was patrilineal (Jewish traders had been all males who coupled up with local mestizo or Amerindian females), their Jewishness is not recognised according to halakha. An enduring casta system stemming from the colonial period has resulted in virtually no interaction between the Iquitos Jews and the small, mostly Ashkenazi Jewish, population concentrated in Lima (under 3,000) who are integrated into Lima's elite white minority. Thanks to efforts made by Israeli outreach programmes, some have formally returned to Judaism, made aliyah and now live in Israel.
- B'nai Moshe are converts to Judaism originally from Trujillo, Peru. They are also known as Inca Jews, a name derived from the fact that they can trace indigenous Amerindian descent, as most are mestizos (persons of both Spanish and Amerindian descent) though none with any known Jewish ancestors. Again, there is no interaction between Peru's small Ashkenazi population and the Inca Jews. At the neglect of the Ashkenazi community, the conversions were conducted under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Most have made aliyah and now live in Israel, while a few hundred more of the same community are awaiting conversions.
- Veracruz Jews are a recently emergent community of Jews in Veracruz, Mexico. Whether they are gentile converts to Judaism or descendants of anusim returning to Judaism is speculative. Most claim they descend from anusim.
Israel; The Exiles Ingathered
By the time the State of Israel was proclaimed, the majority of Jews in the state and the region were Ashkenazi. Following the declaration of the state, a flood of Jewish migrants and refugees entered Israel from the Arab world and the Muslim world in general. Most were Sephardim and Mizrahim, Jews from the Maghreb, Yemenite Jews, Bukhorim, Persian Jews, Iraqi Jews, Kurdish Jews, and smaller communities, principally from Libya, Egypt and Turkey. More recently, other communities have also arrived including Ethiopian Jews and Indian Jews. Because of the relative homogeneity of Ashkenazic Jewry, especially by comparison to the diversity of the many smaller communities, over time in Israel, all Jews from Europe came to be called "Ashkenazi" in Israel, whether or not they had any connection with Germany, while Jews from Africa and Asia have come to be called "Sephardi", whether or not they had any connection with Spain. One reason is that most African and Asian Jewish communities use the Sephardic prayer ritual and abide by the rulings of Sephardic rabbinic authorities, and therefore consider themselves to be "Sephardim" in the broader sense of "Jews of the Spanish rite", though not in the narrower sense of "Spanish Jews". Similarly "Ashkenazim" has the broader sense of "Jews of the German rite".
The founders of modern Israel, mostly European-descended people, believed themselves superior to these new arrivals. With higher degrees of Western-standard education, they were better positioned to take full advantage of the emerging Western-style liberal democracy and Western mode of living which they themselves had established as the cultural norm in Palestine during the pre-state era.
Cultural and/or "racial" biases against the newcomers were compounded by the fledgling state's lack of financial resources and inadequate housing to handle the massive population influx. Thus, hundreds of thousands of new Sephardic immigrants were sent to live in tent cities in outlying areas. Sephardim (in its wider meaning) were often victims of discrimination, and were sometimes called schwartze (meaning "black" in Yiddish). One immigrant from Iraq recalls being given a tent when first arriving in Israel, while a neighbor from Germany was given an apartment. Those Sephardic Jews lucky enough to get an apartment were placed in inexpensive concrete apartment blocks that were for the most part of a lesser standard than those erected to house Europeans or Westerners.
Worse than housing discrimination was the differential treatment accorded the children of these immigrants, many of whom were tracked by the largely European education establishment into dead-end "vocational" schools, without any real assessment of their intellectual capacities. Mizrahi Jews protested their unfair treatment, and even established the Israeli Black Panthers movement with the mission of working for social justice.
The effects of this early discrimination still linger a half-century later, as documented by the studies of the Adva Center , a highly respected think tank on social equality, and by other Israeli academic research (cf., for example, Tel Aviv University Professor Yehuda Shenhav's article in Hebrew documenting the gross underrepresentation of Sephardic Jewry in Israeli high school history textbooks, . Every Israeli prime minister has been Ashkenazi, although Sephardim and Mizrahim have attained the (ceremonial) presidency and other high positions. The student bodies of Israel's universities remain overwhelmingly European in origin, despite the fact that roughly half the country's population is non-European. And the tent cities of the 1950s morphed into so-called "development towns". Scattered over border areas of the Negev Desert and the Galilee, far from the bright lights of Israel's major cities, most of these towns never had the critical mass or ingredients to succeed as places to live, and they continue to suffer from high unemployment, inferior schools, and chronic brain drain.
While the Israeli Black Panthers no longer exist, Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow] and many other NGOs carry on the struggle for equal access and opportunity in housing, education, and employment for the country's underprivileged populace - still largely composed of Sephardim and Mizrahim, joined now by newer immigrants from Ethiopia and the Caucasus Mountains.
Intermarriage of all these regathered Jewish ethnic groups was initially uncommon, due in part to distances of each group's settlement in Israel, and cultural and/or "racial" biases. In recent generations, however, the barriers were lowered by state sponsored assimilation of all the Jewish ethnic groups into a common Sabra (native-born Israeli) identity which facilitated extensive "mixed-marriages".
The last time CBS Israel released data on ethnic divisions among Jewish Israelis was in 1996. Out of the 4,593,000 Jews in Israel at that time, 2,422,000 were classified as Ashkenazim
(52.7%) and 2,171,000 were classified as Mizrachim
(47.3%). But this classification was based on country of birth rather than on proper ethnic orientation. All Jews who were born (or whose fathers were born) in Europe, the FSU, the Americas or in Oceania were classified as Ashkenazim while those from Africa and Asia were classified as Mizrachim. The errors occurring due to these calculations were:
- There was no distinction made between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. (If the Sephardim, Mountain Jews and other non-Ashkenazi groups are included in Mizrachim, then Mizrachim will outnumber Ashkenazim by a margin of 52 to 48).
- Many Sephardim from Turkey were counted as Mizrachim.
- Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews and Bukharan Jews who together constitute ~15% of FSU Jews counted as Ashkenazim until 1996 (until 1996, Central Asia and the Caucasian Republics were counted as part of Europe. After 1996, from 1997 onwards they were counted as part of Asia).
- The Harbin Jews (~1,000) from China counted as Mizrachim, although they were Russian speaking Ashkenazim.
- After 1996, Russian speaking Ashkenazim from Kazakhstan, Kyrghizia and Armenia counted as Mizrachim.
- Close to 20,000 South African Jews were classified as Mizrachim, although almost all of them are Ashkenazim (Lithuanian, English and Afrikaans speaking).
- A few hundred Black Hebrews from USA were classified as Ashkenazim.
- All Jews from Latin America were classified as Ashkenazim, although significant numbers are Sephardim (15-20% in Argentina and Mexico, 20%+ in Brazil, similar percentages in other countries). Close to three fifths of the Latin American Jews in Israel are Argentine, with one tenth each from Uruguay and Brazil.
- 86,000 Bulgarian/Greek Jews are classified as Ashkenazim, although the majority are Sephardim/Romaniotes.
- Jews whose Jewishness was not recognized were not counted; almost all of them were Ashkenazim (~275,000 in 2007).
The ethnic division as of 1996 is as follows (population in thousands):
At the end of 2006, there were 5,391,800 Jews in Israel. The increase in the 1997–2006 period was 799,000. During the same period there were 300,813 immigrants to Israel, but a significant percentage of them were Halachically not recognized as Jews. Of these immigrants, 239,661 were from America/Europe/FSU/Oceana constituting 79.67% of all immigrants (of which 200,939 were from the European USSR). 60,536 were from Africa/Asia constituting 20.12% of all immigrants (of which 34,365 were from the Asian republics of the USSR). 16,441 were from Ethiopia, almost all recognized as Jews.
Considering the higher fertility rate for Mizrachim (3.17 for those born abroad and 2.69 for those born in Israel, as of 1996) compared to Ashkenazim (2.09 for those born abroad and 2.67 for those born in Israel) the larger share of Ashkenazim in the immigrant population is unlikely to cause any major change in the demographic makeup. Therefore for some time now the Ashkenazi/Mizrachi ratio is likely to remain at 53% & 47% respectively. The Ashkenazi fertility rate was fast approaching the Mizrachi fertility rate in late 1980s. In 1990 fertility rates for both groups were virtually the same. So it was predicted that Ashkenazi birth rate would overtake that of Mizrachi in 1991 (a vast majority of Haredi Jews in Israel are Ashkenazi, mostly belonging to the Satmar, Chabad, Belz, Ger and Breslov branches. The number of Mizrachi Haredi Jews are relatively small, although a very significant percentage of Modern Orthodox Jews in Israel are Yemenite. The fertility rate among Ashkenazi Hared is higher than that of Mizrachi Haredi (8.51 versus 6.57)). But in 1990 a vast inflow began of Ashkenazi Jews from the former USSR who had a very low birth rate (fertility rate 1.7 to 1.8 for Jews and 1.3 for non-Jews). This reversed the trend and by 1996, the Mizrachi fertility rate (2.89) was higher than that of the Ashkenazis (2.39) by a huge margin of 21%. But again the two rates will be converging due to a number of facts (Ethiopian aaliyah is almost complete, only a few thousand more Falash Mura remain in Ethiopia. FSU immigrants still comprise the largest chunk of olim. Fertility rates for Haredi Jews are increasing. There is an increasing aaliyah from USA, UK, Australia, Germany, France and Argentina. There is a lowering of birth rate among Mizrachim.