Does anyone have reliable statistics (and barring that, reasonable anectdotal evidence) of the fraction of Kohanim, Levi'im, and Yisraelim in various Jewish communities today? By "communities" I don't necessarily mean geographic, but minhagic, like Chabad/Syrian/Litvak, etc.


3 Answers 3


Answer: Levites: 4%, Priests: 4%.

A scientific article which deals with the genetics of priests and Levites quotes a book from 1999 (not available for reading online) which estimates Levites and priests each at 4% of the general Jewish population. Source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000292970763626X#bbib6 Referenced book: "The genetic origins of Old Testament priests", CE Renfrew, Editor, Population specific polymorphisms, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom (1999), pp. 31–44


The Persian community (mostly Shirazi) absorbed by Baltimore contains a high fraction of Cohanim and very few Leviim.

  • What could explain this strange distribution?
    – WAF
    Nov 11, 2010 at 4:09
  • I had heard similar stats about the Syrian community in the US. One explanation (although I am personal skeptical) is that under the various persecutions in Syria in the past century or so, the community focused on getting the Cohanim safely out. Maybe some Leviim impersonated Cohanim in order to be safe too.
    – Jeremy
    Nov 11, 2010 at 14:52
  • There's some discussion about how most of the Cohanim returned from Babylon to Israel with Ezra and Nechemiah, but very few Leviim did. I always wondered if that was related ...
    – Shalom
    Nov 12, 2010 at 13:46
  • @WAF Perhaps they are largely from the same ancestral family.
    – Daniel
    Aug 1, 2012 at 3:34
  • @WAF Of course I mean much more recently than Aharon haCohen :)
    – Daniel
    Aug 1, 2012 at 3:35

Djerba has almost all kohanim.

  • @ShmuelBrill, true, but I knew it independently. I don't remember from where, though.
    – msh210
    Dec 22, 2011 at 15:47
  • 3
    Hebrew Wikipedia points to a recent article in the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon - אליהו בירנבוים, אי הנפלאות 1 באוגוסט 2008 מקור ראשון There were two primary centers of Jewish life, Kohanim founded דיגת, Israelites founded חארה כבירה. According to legend, the Israelites were from Zevulun since they maintained seafaring trade with nearby Phoenicians in Carthage. Also acc. to legend, because the inhabitants didn't return for the building of the Second Temple, Ezra cursed the Leviim on the island and they died off. To this day, Leviim aren't permitted to permanently reside for more than a year.
    – ChaimKut
    Jan 12, 2012 at 1:32
  • 2
    There's also an interesting article from the journal מחניים: daat.ac.il/daat/history/nidhey/rabinovitsh.htm
    – ChaimKut
    Jan 12, 2012 at 1:42
  • The article from Makor Rishon can be found here: musaf-shabbat.com/2011/01/18/…
    – ChaimKut
    Jan 22, 2012 at 22:09

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