Dear Rabbi Simon,
Isn’t it possible that Jews have assimilated into other religions such as Buddhism in China? Therefore, could there be more than a million Jewish people in the country of China alone?
TY for your speculative question.
Inevitably, Jews have indeed assimilated over the centuries. Rather, it is remarkable that any have remained at all, after more than 3,000 years, mostly in exile as a small minority group in every land of their dispersal. This cannot be said for any other ancient People.
It is therefore not surprising to learn of families all over the world with traditions of Jewish ancestry (particularly common among Latinos). Much more recently, DNA testing has also suggested Jewish “percentages” in the ancestry of many Caucasians (and others). However, to have Jewish antecedents centuries ago does not make someone Jewish, unless it can be reliably established that this descent is entirely on the maternal side. Such a possibility is very remote, when speaking about an antecedent from the Middle Ages (for example).
For these reasons, the biblical assertion that “you are the fewest of all the peoples” (Deut. 7:7) remains a valid characterisation. (Today Jews make up only about 0.2% of the World Population. In antiquity the figure was probably much higher [see SW Baron, Soc. and Relig Hist of the Jews, vol 1, p. 132].)
Rabbi Rashi Simon