More than 70 years after the Holocaust, the worldwide Jewish population has yet to be fully restored. What could those missing Jews have contributed to the world had the Nazis been defeated earlier?
By: Henry Roth
According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the world’s Jewish population reached 14.5 million at the end of 2017. That is approximately 2 million below the level prior to World War II.
In the aftermath of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is heartbreaking to reflect on our community’s decimation, and how, more than 70 years later, our community has yet to be fully restored. We must pay homage to those we lost, but we should also contemplate what our world would look like had there been no Holocaust.
How large would our families be today? What would those Jews have accomplished given our community’s significant (and disproportionate) contributions to society? Would Israel be far more secure with a Jewish population exponentially higher than it is today ?
According to Prof. Sergio Della Pergola, a preeminent demographer and expert on Jewish population issues, there would now be anywhere from 26 to 32 million Jews worldwide had we not lost the 6 million in World War II.
That would mean 12 to 18 million more Jews with mothers and fathers pushing them to acquire knowledge, to excel, to be productive members of society, to give charity (“tzedakah”), and to live their lives fulfilling the Jewish obligation to “repair the world,” a commandment called “tikun olam.”
There can be no doubt that among those millions would have been individuals who found cures for numerous diseases plaguing mankind, invented and commercialized a wide variety of products and technologies and contributed important works to the arts and literature.
This is not ethnocentric vanity; 22 percent of all Nobel Prize winners have been Jewish. It is not beyond the realm of probability that the Jewish prioritization of education and community improvement would have led to a better, healthier standard of living for all.
We Jews were cheated out of grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and not a day should pass without remembrance and melancholy. But the world at large has also paid a monumental price for the lost Jewish generations, something they would be wise to reflect upon before prioritizing short-term interests over the imperative of safeguarding the Jews and their homeland.
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