Many continue to mourn the loss of Hudson Institute co-founder Max Singer, who passed away earlier this year. Mosaic Magazine recently reprinted a 1987 column written by Max for Moment Magazine that reflects Max’s optimistic outlook on the Jewish state and a legacy of forward-thinking analysis that Hudson continues to uphold.
Generally, when we think of the future of Judaism, we think of growing to as many as five to ten million Jews in Israel, another five to ten million Jews in the United States, and maybe another five to ten million in Russia, Europe, and South America. But at the outside this would be less than a third of 1 percent of the world population a century from now.
Contrary to the way we are accustomed to thinking, I believe the future number of Jews—and the future of Judaism—depends not so much on Jewish birthrates as it does on how attractive Judaism and the Jewish people will be. Will the Jewish way of life be one that people wish to adopt? Only if Judaism doesn’t have much to offer, if Jews and Judaism aren’t appealing to people, will the number of Jews be limited by Jewish birthrates to a few tens of millions.
Everyone knows that world population is growing rapidly. In fact, it will probably double to about ten billion people before it more or less stabilizes in a century or so. But the bigger and less appreciated change will be in the character of the future population. The fraction of people who are literate and wealthy by historical standards will increase at least twice as much as the total population—it will grow from a small minority to the vast majority of people of the world. This means that in about a century, the civilized, modern population within which Judaism will be living will be about ten times as large as it is today.
Three other striking characteristics of this world of tomorrow can be identified…