Thursday, February 07, 2008


The Magic Jew in the Village

So, I was watching If The World Were A Village last week and when they got to the discussion of religion they said there would be one Jew in the village and then cut to an image of a Jewish man lighting a menorah. The animated film If The World Were A Village is an adaptation of an illustrated children's book of the same title by David J. Smith. The conceit of both is a village of 100 people proportionately representing the world's population.

Now, I don't look for these things but learning about the plight of Palestinians has sensitized me to lies and distortions about Jews and Judaism. And, thus, the bullshit alarm went off when I saw the segment with the Jew in the village. So, I wondered where did this misinformation come from? I checked out the book and found that it was not an invention of the film makers--it came from the 2002 book by Smith.

In the book Smith claims (p. 12) that "Whenever possible, the most current statistics have been used." One of Smith's sources was the CIA World Factbook. The problem is that source estimates that only 0.23% of the world's population is Jewish. This is consistent with the Jewish and world population estimates by the quasi-governmental (Israeli government, that is) Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (2006) and the UN (2005), respectively. Their estimates are 13,085,000 Jews and 6,514,751,000 people, which works out to 0.20%. From another of Smith's sources,, we can calculate a 1990 estimate of 0.34%.

All of which means that the Jew in Smith's village is a magic Jew--the real number being multiplied by three to five to make sure we have at least one Jew in the village. Why is that?

Update: Left out of the village are, among others, practitioners of Chinese traditional religion (394 million) and Sikhs (23 million).

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I think it's very telling that your angry about a jew in a village. One jew is just to much, thats to funny.
No, I'm not really angry about the magic Jew but such dishonesty, esp. in the likely service of racism and violence is troublesome. Mostly, though, I'm curious. That magic Jew is no accident. I have hunch about how he got there but I'd really like to know what Smith was thinking when he created him and have, in fact, contacted Smith.
Upon further reflection, one obvious explanation is that the "magic Jew" was created to fend off the endless kvetching and angry howls of "anti-Semitism" that would likely have resulted if Smith had simply stuck to the truth.
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