Judaism (joo`dz’m, joo`d), the religious beliefs and practices and the way of life of the JewsJews [from Judah], traditionally, descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe, with that of his half-brother Benjamin, made up the kingdom of Judah; historically, members of the worldwide community of adherents to Judaism. ….. Click the link for more information. . The term itself was first used by Hellenized Jews to describe their religious practice, but it is of predominantly modern usage; it is not used in the Bible or in Rabbinic literature and only rarely in the literature of the medieval period. The word TorahTorah [Heb.,=teachings or learning], Hebrew name for the five books of Mosesthe Law of Moses or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. The Torah is believed by Orthodox Jews to have been handed down to Moses on Mt. Sinai and transmitted by him to the Jews. ….. Click the link for more information. is employed when referring to the divinely revealed teachings of Jewish law and belief. Judaism is used more broadly, including also the totality of human interpretation and practice. Thus, one may speak of “secular Judaism,” referring to an adherence to values expressed by Judaism but removed from any religious context. The most important holy days in Judaism are the weekly SabbathSabbath [Heb.,=repose], in Judaism, last day of the week (Saturday), observed as a rest day for the twenty-five hours commencing with sundown on Friday. In the biblical account of creation (Gen. 1) the seventh day is set as a Sabbath to mark God’s rest after his work. ….. Click the link for more information. , the major holidays of Rosh ha-ShanahRosh ha-Shanah [Heb.,=head of the year], the Jewish New Year, also known as the Feast of the Trumpets. It is observed on the first day of the seventh month, Tishri, occurring usually in September. ….. Click the link for more information. , Yom KippurYom Kippur [Heb.,=day of atonement], in Judaism, the most sacred holy day, falling on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishri (usually late September or early October). It is a day of fasting and prayer for forgiveness for sins committed during the year. ….. Click the link for more information. , Sukkoth (see Tabernacles, Feast ofTabernacles, Feast of, one of the oldest and most joyous of Jewish holidays, called in the Bible the Feast of Ingathering and today often called by its Hebrew name, Sukkoth [Heb.,=booth]. ….. Click the link for more information. ), Simhat Torah, PassoverPassover, in Judaism, one of the most important and elaborate of religious festivals. Its celebration begins on the evening of the 14th of Nisan (first month of the religious calendar, corresponding to MarchApril) and lasts seven days in Israel, eight days in the Diaspora ….. Click the link for more information. , and ShavuotShavuot [Heb.,=weeks], Jewish feast celebrated on the 6th of the month of Sivan (usually some time in May) in Israel and on the sixth and seventh days in the Diaspora. Originally an agricultural festival celebrating the end of the winter grain harvest (which began at Passover), ….. Click the link for more information. , and the minor holidays of HanukkahHanukkah , in Judaism, the Festival of Lights, the Feast of Consecration, or the Feast of the Maccabees; also transliterated Chanukah. According to tradition, it was instituted by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers in 165 B.C. ….. Click the link for more information. , PurimPurim [Heb.,=lots], Jewish festival celebrated on the 14th of Adar, the twelfth month in the Jewish calendar (Feb.March). During leap years it is celebrated in Adar II. According to the book of Esther (Esther 3.7; 9. ….. Click the link for more information. , and Tisha B’Av. The Early Period

The history of Judaism predates the period to which the term itself actually refers, in that Judaism formally applies to the post-Second Temple period, while its antecedents are to be found in the biblical “religion of Israel.” The Bible is no longer considered a homogeneous work; the many traditions represented in it demonstrate variance and growth. While the historicity of the patriarchs’ existence and of MosesMoses , Hebrew lawgiver, probably b. Egypt. The prototype of the prophets, he led his people in the 13th cent. B.C. out of bondage in Egypt to the edge of Canaan. The narrative in the Bible is the chief source of information on his life. ….. Click the link for more information. as the giver of all laws is under question, certain dominant themes can be seen developing in this early period that have importance for later Judaism.

Central to these themes is the notion of monotheism, which most scholars believe to have been the outgrowth of a process that began with polytheism, progressed to henotheism (the worship of one god without denying the existence of others), and ended in the belief in a single Lord of the universe, uniquely different from all His creatures. He is compassionate toward His creation, and in turn humans are to love and fear (i.e., stand in awe of) Him. Because God is holy, He demands that His people be holy, righteous, and just, a kingdom of priests to assist in the fulfillment of His designs for humankind and the world.

Israel’s chosenness consists of this special designation and the task that accompanies it. God promises the land of Canaan to Israel as their homeland, the place in which the Temple will be built and sacrificial worship of God carried out. The holy days were the Sabbath, Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkoth; and circumcision, dietary laws, and laws pertaining to dress, agriculture, and social justice characterized the structure of the biblical religion. Three types of leaders existed during this period: the priest (kohen), who officiated in the Temple and executed the laws; the prophet (navi), to whom was revealed God’s messages to His people; and the sage (hacham), who taught practical wisdom and proper behavior. There was developing already in this early period a belief in the ultimate coming of God’s kingdom on earth, a time of peace and justice. To this was added, after the destruction (586 B.C.) of the First Temple and the Babylonian captivity (which many saw as the consequence of idolatry and which may have been responsible for the final stage of the development from polytheism to monotheism), the expectation of national restoration under the leadership of a descendant of the Davidic house, the MessiahMessiah or Messias [Heb.,=anointed], in Judaism, a man who would be sent by God to restore Israel and reign righteously for all humanity. The idea developed among the Jews especially in their adversity, and such a conception is clearly indicated in Isaiah 9. ….. Click the link for more information. .

It was after the Babylonian captivity (not later than the 5th cent. B.C.) that a compilation of earlier texts and oral traditions was made, forming the canon of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. Subsequently 34 other books were added to form the Hebrew Bible or Old TestamentOld Testament, Christian name for the Hebrew Bible, which serves as the first division of the Christian Bible (see New Testament). The designations “Old” and “New” seem to have been adopted after c.A.D. ….. Click the link for more information. , though the canon was not finalized until perhaps as late as the 2d cent. A.D. The Torah was traditionally attributed to Moses, and study of the Torah was accompanied by expositions and explanations in which the Oral Law, as distinct from the Written Law (the Torah text), is rooted. While it is widely held that the PhariseesPharisees , one of the two great Jewish religious and political parties of the second commonwealth. Their opponents were the Sadducees, and it appears that the Sadducees gave them their name, perushim, Hebrew for “separatists” or “deviants. ….. Click the link for more information. further developed the Oral Law, in opposition to the literalness of the SadduceesSadducees , sect of Jews formed around the time of the Hasmonean revolt (c.200 B.C.). Little is known concerning their beliefs, but according to Josephus Flavius, they upheld only the authority of the written law, and not the oral tradition held by the Pharisees. ….. Click the link for more information. , it is inconceivable that the latter group could have administered the biblical laws without reinterpreting them in accordance with a changing world, or in the face of a lack of specificity in the text.

The Babylonian exile had exposed the Israelites to new ideas, and it is to that period that the notions of identifiable angels (such as Michael and Raphael), of the personification of evil (Satan), and of the resurrection of the dead can probably be traced. The conquests of Alexander the Great once again brought the Jews into contact with new ideas, most significantly that of the immortality of the soul. Conflict arose within the community of Israel concerning the level of Hellenization acceptable, out of which came the revolt of the MaccabeesMaccabees or Machabees , Jewish family of the 2d and 1st cent. B.C. that brought about a restoration of Jewish political and religious life. They are also called Hasmoneans or Asmoneans after their ancestor, Hashmon. ….. Click the link for more information. against the Seleucid rulers of Syria and their Judean sympathizers. The resulting martyrdom of many gave added impetus to the belief in collective resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul after the body’s death. These concepts were wed in such a way that while the body awaited its resurrection, the soul was seen as living on in another realm. This new development in no way supplanted the earlier notion of earthly reward; life on earth, however, was viewed by many as preparatory for the next.

As the conditions of life deteriorated, apocalyptic beliefs grewnational catastrophe and the messianic kingdom were seen as imminent events. Some groups (see EssenesEssenes , members of a small Jewish religious order, originating in the 2d cent. B.C. The chief sources of information about the Essenes are Pliny the Elder, Philo’s Quod omnius probus liber, Josephus’ Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews, ….. Click the link for more information. ; QumranQumran , ancient village on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, in what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It is famous for its caves, in some of which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Archaeological work at Qumran has yielded a profile of its history. ….. Click the link for more information. ) fled into the desert to lead righteous lives in anticipation, while others followed claimants to the mantle of Messiah (most notably Jesus). Out of these numerous ingredients came both Christianity and classical, or rabbinic, Judaism.

Developing over a period of five centuries (until c.A.D. 500), rabbinic Judaism completed the process already underway, which saw the replacement of the Temple by the synagoguesynagogue [Gr.,=assembly], in Judaism, a place of assembly for worship, education, and communal affairs. The origins of the institution are unclear. One tradition dates it to the Babylonian exile of the 6th cent. B.C. ….. Click the link for more information. (the Second Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70), of the priest by the rabbirabbi [Heb.,=my master; my teacher], the title of a Jewish spiritual leader. The role of the rabbi has undergone a number of transformations. In the Talmudic period, rabbis were primarily teachers and interpreters of the Torah. ….. Click the link for more information. , and of the sacrificial ceremony by the prayer service and study. Basic to these changes was the redaction and codification of the Oral Law (see MishnaMishna , in Judaism, codified collection of Oral Lawlegal interpretations of portions of the biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and other legal material. Together with the Gemara, or Amoraic commentary on the Mishna, it comprises the Talmud. ….. Click the link for more information. ; TalmudTalmud [Aramaic from Heb.,=learning], in Judaism, vast compilation of the Oral Law with rabbinical elucidations, elaborations, and commentaries, in contradistinction to the Scriptures or Written Laws. The Talmud is the accepted authority for Orthodox Jews everywhere. ….. Click the link for more information. ) and the MidrashMidrash [Heb.,=to examine, to investigate], verse by verse interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures, consisting of homily and exegesis, by Jewish teachers since about 400 B.C. ….. Click the link for more information. , which, as outgrowths of the biblical religion, centered on the relationships between God, His Torah, and His people, Israel. Emphasis was placed upon study of the Torah (in its broadest sense) as the most important religious act, leading to an understanding of the proper way of life; upon the growing need for national restoration in the face of continued Exile from the Promised Land; and upon the function of this world as preparatory for the World to Come (Olam ha-Bah), while not devaluing the importance of life in this world.

Daily life was sanctified by the emphasis in Jewish law (halakahhalakah or halacha [Heb.,=law], in Judaism, the body of law regulating all aspects of life, including religious ritual, familial and personal status, civil relations, criminal law, and relations with non-Jews. ….. Click the link for more information. ) on the ritual fitness of foods (kashrut), the recitation of blessings for a variety of mundane acts, and the daily, weekly, monthly and annual cycles of prayer. Rites for the personal life cycle came to include circumcision of male infants at the age of eight days, signifying their induction into the covenant between God and Israel; the recognition of thirteen years as the age of majority for religious responsibilities (see Bar MitzvahBar Mitzvah [Aramaic,=son of the Commandment], Jewish ceremony in which the young male is initiated into the religious community, according to tradition at the age of 13 years and a day. ….. Click the link for more information. ); marriage; and funeral rites. During the medieval period, these trends continued and were basic to the several important codifications of the legal material and to the many biblical and Talmudic commentaries that were composed at this time (most notably by RashiRashi , 10401105, Jewish exegete, grammarian, and legal authority, b. Troyes, France. The name he is known by is an acronym of Rabbi Solomon bar Isaac. He studied in Worms and Mainz, returning to Troyes c.1065. ….. Click the link for more information. and MaimonidesMaimonides or Moses ben Maimon , 11351204, Jewish scholar, physician, and philosopher, the most influential Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages, b. Crdoba, Spain, d. Cairo. ….. Click the link for more information. ).

The kabbalahkabbalah or cabala [Heb.,=reception], esoteric system of interpretation of the Scriptures based upon a tradition claimed to have been handed down orally from Abraham. ….. Click the link for more information. flowered during the Middle Ages, combining older trends in Jewish mysticism with Neoplatonism and other ideas. The kabbalists retained the idea that the totality of God’s nature is ultimately beyond human grasp (“Ein Sof” [Heb., literally,=without end] as the “Nothing”), yet, in keeping with tradition, held to a vision of a personal God who exists as the active, creative, and sustaining force within the cosmos (“Ein Sof” as the “Everything”). Spain was a major center of kabbalistic thought, which after the expulsions and forced conversion in 1492, spread and became more central to Jewish life in the Mediterranean world. Palestine then became the center of kabbalism, especially as it was developed by Isaac LuriaLuria or Loria, Isaac ben Solomon , 153472, Jewish kabbalist, surnamed Ashkenazi, called Ari [lion] by his followers, b. Jerusalem. In his 20s he spent seven years in seclusion, intensely studying the kabbalah. ….. Click the link for more information. and others.

A Jewish philosophy developed in answer to the questions raised by the exposure to Greek thought as distilled through the Islamic natural philosophy and metaphysics. Central to these issues was the conflict between reason and revelation: whether revelation was necessary if all could be ascertained through reason, or whether reason was imperfect and revelation was God’s assisting humans to know the truth. Maimonides argued that one can say nothing positive about the personal nature of God, which is beyond human comprehension; one can only indicate what He is not (thus, the statement that God is wise says only that God is not ignorant, not how wise He actually is).

While the Jewish Middle Ages is usually defined by scholars as extending at least into the 18th cent., there was a Jewish counterpart to the general European Renaissance of the 15th and 16th cent., and figures such as Judah AbravanelAbravanel or Abarbanel, Judah, c.1460c.1523, Jewish philosopher, physician, and poet, son of Isaac Abravanel, b. Lisbon; he is also known as Leone Ebreo. ….. Click the link for more information. were influenced by contemporary European philosophic currents. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 led to the Jews of N Italy, S France, and the Levant coming under Sephardic influence (see SephardimSephardim , one of the two major geographic divisions of the Jewish people, consisting of those Jews whose forebears in the Middle Ages resided in the Iberian Peninsula, as distinguished from those who lived in Germanic lands, who came to be known as the Ashkenazim (see ….. Click the link for more information. ), and these events provoked much messianic and kabbalist speculation, culminating in the spectacular career of the self-proclaimed Messiah, Sabbatai ZeviSabbatai Zevi , 162676, Jewish mystic and pseudo-Messiah, founder of the Sabbatean sect, b. Smyrna. After a period of study of Lurianic kabbalah (see Luria, Isaac ben Solomon), he became deeply influenced by its ideas of imminent national redemption. ….. Click the link for more information. .

The Amsterdam community of Marranos (those Jews forced by the Inquisition to adopt Christianity, but who continued to practice Judaism in secret, and many of whom later emigrated and returned to the Jewish fold) often provided a liberalizing influence on Orthodox Judaism, most significantly in the person of Baruch SpinozaSpinoza, Baruch or Benedict , 163277, Dutch philosopher, b. Amsterdam. Spinoza’s Life

He belonged to the community of Jews from Spain and Portugal who had fled the Inquisition. ….. Click the link for more information. , a Jew excommunicated for his unsparing critique of Rabbinic Judaism. The reaction to Sabbatianism and philosophical liberalism caused a hardening of rabbinic orthodoxy, but the Jewish world of the 18th cent. remained turbulent. It produced both the great traditionalist rabbinic figure Elijah ben SolomonElijah ben Solomon, 172097, Jewish scholar, called the Gaon of Vilna, b. Lithuania. A leading Jewish scholar of his time, he opposed the spread of Hasidism in Lithuania and Poland because he feared that the creation of these new groups would weaken the Jewish community. ….. Click the link for more information. and the untraditional figures of Baal-Shem-TovBaal-Shem-Tov , c.16981760, Jewish founder of modern Hasidism, b. Ukraine. His life is the subject of many tales that circulated even before his death. Originally named Israel ben Eliezer, he is said to have been born of elderly, poor parents and to have been orphaned at ….. Click the link for more information. , the founder of HasidismHasidism or Chassidism [Heb.,=the pious], Jewish religious movement founded in Poland in the 18th cent. by Baal-Shem-Tov. Its name derives from Hasidim. Hasidism, which stressed the mercy of God and encouraged joyous religious expression through music and dance, spread ….. Click the link for more information. (which Elijah himself fought against), and Moses MendelssohnMendelssohn, Moses , 172986, German-Jewish philosopher; grandfather of Felix Mendelssohn. He was a leader in the movement for cultural assimilation. In 1743 he went to Berlin, where he studied and worked, becoming (1750) a partner in a silk merchant’s firm. ….. Click the link for more information. , the spiritual progenitor of later reformers whom Elijah’s spiritual descendants repeatedly condemned.

The emancipation of European Jews in the early decades of the 19th cent. brought with it the problem of maintaining claims of distinctiveness, of being “chosen,” and at the same time wishing to participate in the general society. First dealt with by the Reform leaders of Germany (most notably Abraham GeigerGeiger, Abraham , 181074, German rabbi, Semitic scholar and Orientalist, theologian, and foremost exponent of the Reform movement in Judaism. When he received his doctorate (1833) from the Univ. of Bonn, he was already a rabbi in Wiesbaden. ….. Click the link for more information. ), this problem was met directly in Eastern Europe, giving rise to the HaskalahHaskalah , [Heb.,=enlightenment] Jewish movement in Europe active from the 1770s to the 1880s. Beginning in Germany in the circle of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and spreading to Galicia and Russia, the Haskalah called for increased secularization of Jewish ….. Click the link for more information. movement, whose members (e.g., Nachman KrochmalKrochmal, Nachman , 17851840, Jewish secular historian and writer, b. Galicia. He was a leader in the movement of the Jewish enlightenment and a pioneer of modern Jewish scholarship. ….. Click the link for more information. ) sought to revitalize Jewish life by recreating it along the lines of the best in European culture.

In the late 19th cent., ZionismZionism, modern political movement for reconstituting a Jewish national state in Palestine. Early Years

The rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th cent. ….. Click the link for more information. promised a return to the Holy Land. This again created problems for the traditionalists whose religious ideas were rooted in the Diaspora, and many of whom opposed any movement to build a secular Jewish state in the Holy Land. Eventually, an Orthodox wing of Zionism did emerge. For many Jews still unanswered is the question of whether a full Jewish life is possible in exile, or whether residing in Zion is essential. Theologically, Zionism posed the problem of whether Jews can work for the messianic return or whether this would be counter to another traditional belief that saw humanity awaiting the divine intervention.

Ultimately, it was the halakah (the law) that divided Judaism in the 19th cent. The Orthodox hold both the written law (Scriptures) and the oral laws (commentaries on the legal portions of the Scriptures) as authoritative, derived from God, while the Reform do not see them as authoritative in any absolute sense, but binding only in their ethical content. While Orthodox Jews maintain the traditional practices, Reform Jews perform only those rituals that they believe can promote and enhance a Jewish, God-oriented life. In 1999, however, leaders of American Reform Judaism reversed century-old teachings by encouraging but not enforcing the observance of many traditional rituals. The “historical school,” or Conservative movement, attempts to formulate a middle position between Orthodox and Reform, maintaining most of the traditional rituals but recognizing the need to make changes in accordance with overriding contemporary considerations. Conservative Jews believe that the history of Judaism proves their basic assumptions: that tradition and change have always gone hand in hand and that what is central to Judaism and has remained constant throughout the centuries is the people of Israel (and their needs), not the fundamentalism of Orthodoxy nor what they consider the abandonment of traditions by Reform. The related Reconstructionist movement of Mordechai M. KaplanKaplan, Mordecai Menahem , 18811983, American rabbi, educator, and philosopher, b. Lithuania, grad. College of the City of New York, 1900, M.A. Columbia Univ., 1902. He came to the United States when he was eight years old. ….. Click the link for more information. holds Judaism to be a human-centered rather than a God-centered religious civilization.

Also part of contemporary Judaism are the several Sephardic traditions maintained in Israel, France, Canada, and the United States by immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa and by European Sephardim in Europe and the Americas; the several Hasidic groups in Israel and the United States; the religious and secular Zionists in Israel and the Diaspora; the unorganized secular Jews, who maintain an atheist’s or agnostic’s adherence to Jewish values and culture; and those unorganized Jews who seek a religious life outside the synagogue. These many positions represent the most recent attempts at defining the “essence of Judaism,” a process that has been continuous throughout the ages, variously emphasizing one of the three major components of Judaism (God, Torah, Israel) over the remaining two.

See J. L. Blau, Modern Varieties of Judaism (1966); M. M. Kaplan, Judaism as a Civilization (2d ed. 1957, repr. 1967); J. Neusner, There We Sat Down (1972); R. Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought (1980); A. Eisen, The Chosen People in America (1983); M. A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement (1988); G. Robinson, Essential Judaism (2000); J. R. Baskin and K. Seeskin, ed., The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture (2010); M. Brenner, A Short History of the Jews (tr. 2010).

1.the religion of the Jews, based on the Old Testament and the Talmud and having as its central point a belief in the one God as transcendent creator of all things and the source of all righteousness

2.the religious and cultural traditions, customs, attitudes, and way of life of the Jews http://jewfaq.org/ http://judaism.about.com/

Theodore Herzls imaginative description of the future Zionist settlement in Palestine. [Jewish Hist.: Colliers, XIX, 79]

chooses Judaism even when renunciation would save him from execution. [Ger. Lit.: Feuchtwanger Power; Magill I, 773]

a religion that arose in Palestine during the first millennium B.C.; it is practiced among Jews. (There are no reliable statistical data on the number of practicing Jews; the majority live in Israel and the USA.)

According to biblical legend, certain Western Semitic (Hebrew) nomadic tribes fled from the Egyptian pharaoh into the desert in the 13th century B.C. At the time of their invasion of Palestine they were united by the common worship of Yahweh, a god of the tribal federation. The tribal federation, which took the name of Israel (god strives), took final shape by the 11th century B.C. The worship of Yahweh (the pronunciation of his name later became taboo and was replaced by the word Lord) did not exclude the worship of other deities, both of the Hebrews own tribes and of the local Canaanites. There were no images made of Yahweh and no temples built to him; a tabernacle, or tent, with a coffer, or ark, inside, devoted to Yahweh, was considered the earthly dwelling-place of the god, who was invisibly present throughout the world. The official rites were performed by a special tribal group, or caste, called Levites. After the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah in the late 11th century B.C., King Solomon (King Davids son) built a temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem. The worship of Yahweh thus became the basis of the official ideology of the state, which defended the interests of the slaveholders. When the kingdom was divided in the tenth century B.C. into the northern Kingdom of Israel proper and the southern Kingdom of Judah, centered on Jerusalem, the Temple retained its importance primarily for the southern kingdom; the northern kingdom had temples of its own. But even the southern kingdom officially retained other places of worship, both of Yahweh and of other gods.

The prophetic movement, which arose in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C., played the most important role in the gradual development of Judaism into a dogmatic religion. Sermons of the prophets were recorded beginning in the eighth century B.C. In the beginning the prophets did not insist on the universality of Yahweh but declared him a jealous god who did not permit his chosen people to worship other gods. There arose the concept of the covenant, or testament, between the tribes of Israel and Yahweh, according to which the former allegedly pledged not to worship other gods and to carry out Yahwehs wishes while Yahweh promised to give them authority over Palestine. Circumcision was declared the external sign of the covenant; actually circumcision was a rite practiced by many other peoples of the ancient East and a survival of the initiation rite that accepted a boy into the community of warriors. Some prophets protested against various manifestations of social injustice while continuing to defend the slaveholder ideology, which was universal at the time.

The destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. and the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege in 700 B.C. were used by the prophets to spread their ideas among the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah.

The books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, which were ascribed to Moses, who, according to legend, led the Israelites during their nomadic period, were essentially composed in the ninth, eighth, and seventh centuries B.C. These books expounded the mythical past of the Israelites, in addition to their legal and ethical norms, in the spirit of the concepts of the covenant and the jealous god; the rituals and many elements of the mythological world view were taken from earlier religious traditions. The books interpreting the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah from the point of view of the fulfillment or nonfulfillment of Yahwehs conditions by the kings and the population also date from the eigthth, seventh, and sixth centuries B.C. By the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. the prophets already began to deny the existence of other gods except Yahweh, but there is evidence that the population continued to worship other gods as late as the fifth century B.C. A manuscript of Deuteronomy, which sums up the teachings of the prophets, was discovered when King Josiah rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem in 622 B.C. In the early fourth century B.C., Deuteronomy, together with the other four books of Moses, became known as the Pentateuch, or Torah (Law), the part of the Holy Scripture, or Bible, most revered in Judaism. Subsequently all social ills that befell the ethnic groups practicing the Judaic religion were explained by deviations from the letter of the Torah. This made for the dogmatic character of Judaism and the great importance attached to the literally exact fulfillment of the rituals prescribed by the Torah.

In 587 B.C. the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II resettled a large part of the Judahites in Babylonia and the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. Among the resettled Judahites the prophet Ezekiel preached the restoration of Israel, but this time as a theocratic state with a new Temple in Jerusalem as its center. The state was to be founded by a descendant of King David, or the Messiah. The Iranian religion influenced the development of Judaism during the period of Babylonian captivity.

Under the Persian dynasty of the Achaemenids the Judahites were returned to Jerusalem, which had become a self-governing Temple city (sixth and fifth centuries B.C.), and a new Second Temple of Yahweh was built. But the leaders of the new religious community, Ezra and Nehemiah, did not accept into this community the Judahites who had not gone into captivity and the Israelites who had remained in Palestine, under the pretext that they had mixed with people who worshipped other gods. The rejected groups created a separate community, the Samaritans, who live in Palestine to this day. After Ezra, the isolation of the practicing Jewsunder the pretext that they are the chosen peoplebecame one of the most important dogmas of Judaism; later, however, circumcision and the fulfillment of the demands of the Torah were recognized as sufficient conditions for entering into the covenant with god, regardless of the converts origin.

In the third and second centuries B.C., a large number of Judahites were resettled by their Hellenic conquerors in Egypt, Syria, and Armenia. Judah itself, the site of a bitter class struggle, saw the rise of various currents within Judaismfor example, the Essenes, who condemned the official orientation of Judaism (the Pharisees) and preached asceticism and primitive social equality. Christianity too was originally a Judaic sect and only later became a separate religion, distinct from Judaism. However, the Christian Bible incorporated the Judaic holy books in their entirety (the Old Testament, or the ancient covenant, as distinct from the New Testament, or the Gospel).

The canon of the Holy Scriptures of Judaism was definitively established in about 100 B.C. The canon included the Torah, the Prophets (written records of religious and political speeches and historical books of a prophetic nature), and the Writings (books of a different nature recognized as conforming to the dogmas of Judaism, including the books of Ruth, Esther, and Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs). When the written canon was introduced, literacy became mandatory for all males of the Judaic religious community; this rule was retained throughout the Middle Ages.

After two uprisings against Roman rule (the Jewish War of A.D. 6673 and the Bar Kochba uprising of A.D. 132135), the Jews were banished from Jerusalem.

The most important ritual innovation of the Diaspora was the replacement of worship in the Temple, which, according to dogma, could be done only in Jerusalem, by prayer assemblies in synagogues under the leadership of rabbis, or teachers of the religious law, instead of priests; the rabbis also usually governed the civil and legal life of the members of the religious community. The religious teachings of Judaism were further elaborated by commentaries on the Bible (the Mishnah; completed by the third century A.D.) and the Gemara, a collection of legal (halakah) and folkloric (agadah) interpretations of biblical texts, often incredibly lapidary, nebulous in form, subjective, and contradictory; the Gemara and the Mishnah together form the Talmud (completed by the fifth century A.D.). The development of the religious and philosophical foundation of Judaism (especially monotheism) was influenced by Hellenistic idealist philosophy and early medieval (including Arabic) Neoplatonism and Aris-totelianism. In the 12th century Maimonides generalized the teachings of early medieval Judaism: the unity of an incorporeal and eternal god who is the creator of all things and who has revealed to man through Moses and the prophets the eternity of the Torah, the expectation of the Messiah, retribution after death for ones deeds, and resurrection of the dead.

Jews who lived in areas dominated by other dogmatic religions were subjected to legal restrictions and sometimes even to the cruelest persecution; this was true especially in the Christian countries, since Christianity blamed the Jewish religious community of the first century A.D. for the death of Jesus. At the same time the dogma of Judaism, which called for isolation of the Jews from those of other religions, made it easier for the authorities of the Christian states to create Jewish ghettos. Despite the artificial seclusion of adherents of Judaism, several medieval kingdoms, in an attempt to escape the political influence of the great Christian powers, adopted the religion (for example, the Khazar kingdom in the Volga region in the late eighth and early ninth centuries). The Karaite sect, which arose during the eighth century in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine, rejected the rabbinate and all rabbinical commentaries on the Bible. Mystical teachings spread among Jews, such as cabala, of which the most important work was the Zohar of Moses de Lon in the 13th century. The cabala also influenced later religious and philosophical Judaic literature, such as Joseph Caros Shulkhan Arukh in the 16th century, a code of ethics that regulated the life of believers down to the smallest detail.

In the 17th century a movement arose around the mystic and adventurer Sabbatai Zebi of Turkey, who had declared himself the Messiah; his movement found numerous followers among Jews of many countries, who mistakenly sought in Zebis teachings salvation from social oppression. The collapse of this movement and deterioration in the conditions of the Jews both in the ghettos of Europe and in Asia and Africa produced, on the one hand, still greater isolation from other peoples, and, on the other hand, Hasidism, a movement founded by the Baal Shem Tov in the middle of the 18th century that rejected the authority of the rabbis and preached the personal communion of the believer with god through the most pious, or zaddikim. Both movements contributed to the deprivation of civil rights of the Jews and their alienation from general democratic movements.

In the second half of the 19th century a movement for the reform of Judaism arose among Jews in Germany, the USA, and other countries. The reformers wanted to bring Judaism closer to Protestantism, in an attempt to adapt Judaism to the established bourgeois system and to place it in the service of capitalism. According to the reformers, messianism, the expectation of the restoration of the Temple, and the creation of a theocratic state in Jerusalem should be understood figuratively, as a future realization of the ethical ideals of mankind that are supposedly contained in Judaism. However, orthodox Judaism remained the dominant current among Jews, especially in the USA and in Eastern Europe.

Judaism does not recognize temples and has no ecclesiastical hierarchy; synagogues are maintained by contributions from believers (capitalists make large contributions to their maintenance). The Synagogue Council of America in the USA manages several educational institutions.

Judaism is the official religion of the state of Israel. The synagogues, like the organizations of other religions, are financed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs; the rabbinate has judicial functions in family matters, marriage, and other affairs concerning Jews.

The major holidays of Judaism are the Sabbath, when all work is prohibited, including the cooking of food and traveling; the tenth day after the lunar New Year (the day of purification, or Yom Kippur), a time of fasting and atonement; Pesach, or Passover, in the spring; Pentecost; the Festival of Booths in the fall, followed in seven or eight days by a holiday of rejoicing in the Torah. At the age of 13 a boy professing Judaism passes through the rite of bar mitzvah, which introduces him into the community of believers; at that time he must show his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and make an appropriate speech in Hebrew. The life of people practicing Judaism is burdened by a multiplicity of archaic restrictions, rituals, and dietary taboos.

Judaism, as a religion, as well as Talmudic ritualism, prevents the Jewish working masses from understanding the true causes of social oppression. Judaism, like other religions, has always been a tool in the hands of the ruling and exploiting classes for the spiritual oppression of the working masses. Judaism has been taken over by Zionism, which is at present the official ideology of the state of Israel. Attempting to win over the masses of working Jews and to divert them from the world revolutionary labor and national liberation movements as well as to justify Israels expansionist policies, Zionism began to use the tenets of Judaism for its political aims (for example, messianism, which proposes the creation of a new, ideal Israel, with Jerusalem as its center, that would include the whole of Palestine). Since the second quarter of the 20th century Zionism has found support among the most reactionary Jews, especially in the USA. In its chauvinist and annexationist policy Zionism makes use of the Judaic dogma that the Jews are gods chosen people and employs Judaism to substantiate the concept of a worldwide Jewish nation and other reactionary positions.

The rest is here:
Judaism | Article about Judaism by The Free Dictionary


From Academic Kids

Judaism is the religious culture of the Jewish people. It is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The tenets and history of Judaism are the major part of the foundation of other Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. For all of these reasons, Judaism has been a major force in shaping the world.

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Judaism does not easily fit into common Western categories, such as religion, race, ethnicity, or culture. This is because Jews understand Judaism in terms of its 4,000-year history. During this time, Jews have experienced slavery, anarchic self-government, theocratic self-government, conquest, occupation, and exile; they have been in contact, and have been influenced by ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, and Hellenic cultures, as well as modern movements such as the Enlightenment and the rise of nationalism. Thus, Daniel Boyarin has argued that “Jewishness disrupts the very categories of identity, because it is not national, not genealogical, not religious, but all of these, in dialectical tension.”

According to both traditional Jews and critical historical scholars, a number of qualities distinguish Judaism from the other religions that existed when it first emerged. The first characteristic is monotheism. This notion is derived directly from the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) where God makes it part of the Ten Commandments: “…I am the Lord your God. Do not have any other gods before Me. Do not represent [such] gods by any carved statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to [such gods] or worship them. I am God your Lord, a God who demands exclusive worship”. [1](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments#Exodus_20.2FDeuteronomy_5)

The Jewish understanding of this is that:

The significance of this idea lies in that Judaism holds that an omniscient and omnipotent God created humankind as recorded in the Book of Genesis, in the Creation according to Genesis starting with the very first verse of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” While in polytheistic religions, the gods are limited by the preoccupation of personal desires irrelevant to humankind, by limited powers, and by the interference of other powers, in Judaism, God is unlimited and fully available to care for Creation.

Second, the Torah (i.e., The Hebrew Bible) specifies a number of laws, known as the 613 mitzvot, to be followed by the Children of Israel. Other religions at the time were characterized by temples in which priests would worship their gods through sacrifice. The Children of Israel similarly had a Temple in Jerusalem, priests, and made sacrifices but these were not the sole means of worshiping God.

As a matter of practical worship (in comparison to other religions) Judaism seeks to elevate everyday life to the level of the ancient Temples’ worship by worshipping God through the spectrum of daily activites and actions. It has traditionally maintained that this is how the individual would merit rewards in the afterlife, called gan eden (Hebrew: “Garden of Eden”) or olam haba (“World to Come”).

According to Orthodox Judaism and most religious Jews, the Biblical patriarch Abraham was the first Jew. Rabbinic literature records that he was the first to reject idolatry and preach monotheism. As a result, God promised he would have children. His first child was Ishmael and then he had Isaac, who God said would carry on his work and inherit the Land of Israel (then called Canaan), after having been exiled and redeemed. God sent the patriarch Jacob and his children to Egypt; after they eventually became enslaved, God sent Moses to redeem the Israelites from slavery. After the Exodus from Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai and gave them the Torah, and eventually brought them to the land of Israel.

God set the descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother, to be a priestly class within the Israelite community. They first officiated in the tabernacle (a portable house of worship), and later their descendants were in charge of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Once the Jews had settled in the land of Israel, the tabernacle was planted in the city of Shiloh for over 300 years during which time God provided great men, and occasionally women, to rally the nation against attacking enemies, some of which were sent by God as a punishment for the sins of the people. This is described in the Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges. As time went on, the spiritual level of the nation declined to the point that God allowed the Philistines to capture the tabernacle in Shiloh.

The people of Israel then told Samuel the prophet that they had reached the point where they needed a permanent king like other nations had, and described in the Books of Samuel. God knew this was not best for the Jews, but acceded to this request and had Samuel appoint Saul, a great but very humble man, to be their king. When the people pressured Saul into going against a command conveyed to him by Samuel, God told Samuel to appoint David in his stead.

Once David was established as king, he told the prophet Nathan that he would like to build a permanent temple. As a reward for his actions, God promised David that he would allow his son to build the temple and the throne would never depart from his children. David himself was not allowed to build the temple because he had been involved in many wars, making it inappropriate for him to build a temple representing peace. As a result, it was David’s son Solomon who built the first permanent temple according to God’s will, in Jerusalem. This era is described in the Books of Kings.

After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was split into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Israel had a number of kings, but after a few hundred years God allowed Assyria to conquer Israel and exile its people because of the rampant idolatry in the kingdom. The southern kingdom of Judah, whose capital was Jerusalem, home of the Temple, remained under the rulership of the house of David. However, as in the north, idolatry increased to the point that God allowed Babylonia to conquer it, destroy the Temple which had stood for 410 years and exile its people to Babylonia, with the promise that they would be redeemed after seventy years. These events are recorded in the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Jeremiah.

After seventy years the Jews were allowed back into Israel under the leadership of Ezra, and the Temple was rebuilt, as recorded in the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah. The Second Temple stood for 420 years after which it was destroyed by the Roman general (later emperor) Titus. This is the state in which it is to remain until a descendant of David arises to restore the glory of Israel (the current existence of the Islamic Dome of the Rock is not relevent to the rabbinical view.)

The Torah given on Mount Sinai was summarized in the five books of Moses. Together with the books of the prophets it is called the Written Torah. The details and interpretation of the law, which are called the Oral Torah or oral law were originally unwritten. However as the persecutions of the Jews increased and the details were in danger of being forgotten, rabbinic tradition holds that these oral laws were recorded in the Mishnah, and the Talmud, as well as other holy books.

Although monotheism is fundamental to Rabbinic Judaism, according to many critical Bible scholars the Torah often implies that the early Israelites accepted the existence of other gods. However, they viewed their God as the Creator and the one that mankind was morally bound to worship alone. But by the Hellenic period most Jews had come to believe that their God was the only God (and thus, the God of everyone), and that the record of His revelation (the Torah) contained within it universal truths. This attitude may reflect growing Gentile interest in Judaism (some Greeks and Romans considered the Jews a most “philosophical” people because of their belief in a God that cannot be represented visually), and growing Jewish interest in Greek philosophy, which sought to establish universal truths.

Jews began to grapple with the tension between the particularism of their claim that only Jews were required to obey the Torah, and the universalism of their claim that the Torah contained universal truths. The result is a set of beliefs and practices concerning both identity, ethics, one’s relation to nature, and one’s relation to God, that privilege “difference” the difference between Jews and non-Jews; the differences between locally variable ways of practicing Judaism; a close attention to different meanings of words when interpreting texts; attempts to encode different points of view within texts, and a relative indifference to creed and dogma.

The subject of the Hebrew Bible is an account of the Israelites’ (also called Hebrews) relationship with God as reflected in their history from the beginning of time until the building of the Second Temple (ca. 350 BCE). This relationship is generally portrayed as contentious, as Jews struggle between their faith in God and their attraction for other gods, and as some Jews (most notably and directly, Abraham, Jacob — later known as Israeland Moses) struggle with God. Modern scholars also suggest that the Torah consists of a variety of inconsistent texts that were edited together in a way that calls attention to divergent accounts (see Documentary hypothesis).

While Judaism has always affirmed a number of Jewish principles of faith, it has never developed a fully binding “catechism”. It is difficult to generalize about Jewish theology because Judaism is non-creedal; that is, there is no agreed-upon dogma (set of orthodox beliefs) that most Jews believed were required of Jews. While individual Jewish rabbis, or sometimes entire groups, at times agreed upon a firm dogma, other rabbis and groups disagreed. With no central agreed-upon authority, no one formulation of Jewish principles of faith could take precedence over any other.

This approach to religious doctrine dates back at least two thousand years. For example, the ancient historian Josephus emphasized practices and traditions rather than beliefs when he describes the characteristics of an apostate (a Jew who does not follow traditional customs) and the requirements for conversion to Judaism (circumcision, and adherence to traditional customs). Despite the above, in Orthodox Judaism some principles (e.g., the Divine origin of the Torah) are considered important enough that public rebellion against them can put one in the category of “apikoros” (heretic).

Over the centuries, a number of clear formulations of Jewish principles of faith have appeared; most of them have much in common, yet they differ in certain details. A comparison of them demonstrates a wide array of tolerance for varying theological perspectives. Generally, however, the thirteen principles of faith expressed by Maimonides are considered authorative descriptions of Jewish beliefs:

Jews are often called the “People of the Book,” and Judaism has an age-old intellectual tradition focusing on text-based Torah study. The following is a basic, structured list of the central works of Jewish practice and thought. For more detail, see Rabbinic literature.

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The basis of Jewish law and tradition (“halakha”) is the Torah (the five books of Moses). According to rabbinic tradition there are 613 commandments in the Torah. Some of these laws are directed only to men or to women, some only to the ancient priestly groups, the Kohanim and Leviyim (members of the tribe of Levi), some only to those who practice farming within the land of Israel. Many laws were only applicable when the Temple in Jerusalem existed, and fewer than 300 of these commandments are still applicable today.

While there have been Jewish groups which claimed to be based on the written text of the Torah alone (e.g., the Sadducees, and the Karaites), most Jews believed in what they call the oral law. These oral traditions were transmitted by the Pharisee sect of ancient Judaism, and were latter recorded in written form and expanded upon by the rabbis.

Rabbinic Judaism has always held that the books of the Tanakh (called the written law) have always been transmitted in parallel with an oral tradition. To justify this viewpoint, Jews point to the text of the Torah, where many words are left undefined, and many procedures mentioned without explanation or instructions; this, they argue, means that the reader is assumed to be familiar with the details from other, i.e., oral, sources. This parallel set of material was originally transmitted orally, and came to be known as “the oral law”.

By the time of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi (200 CE), after the destruction of Jerusalem, much of this material was edited together into the Mishnah. Over the next four centuries this law underwent discussion and debate in both of the world’s major Jewish communities (in Israel and Babylon), and the commentaries on the Mishnah from each of these communities eventually came to be edited together into compilations known as the two Talmuds. These have been expounded by commentaries of various Torah scholars during the ages.

Halakha, the rabbinic Jewish way of life, then, is based on a combined reading of the Torah, and the oral tradition – the Mishnah, the halakhic Midrash, the Talmud and its commentaries. The Halakha has developed slowly, through a precedent-based system. The literature of questions to rabbis, and their considered answers, is referred to as responsa (in Hebrew, Sheelot U-Teshuvot.) Over time, as practices develop, codes of Jewish law are written that are based on the responsa; the most important code, the Shulkhan Arukh, largely determines Jewish religious practice up to today.

According to Jewish law, someone is considered to be a Jew if he or she was born of a Jewish mother or converted in accord with Jewish Law. (Recently, the American Reform and Reconstructionist movements have included those born of Jewish fathers and gentile mothers, if the children are raised practicing Judaism only.) All mainstream forms of Judaism today are open to sincere converts.

A Jew who ceases to practice Judaism is still considered a Jew, as is a Jew who does not accept Jewish principles of faith and becomes an agnostic or an atheist; so too with a Jew who converts to another religion. However, in the latter case, the person loses standing as a member of the Jewish community and becomes known as an apostate. In the past, family and friends were said to often formally mourn for the person, though this is rarely done today.

The question of what determines Jewish identity was given new impetus when, in the 1950s, David ben Gurion requested opinions on mihu Yehudi (“who is a Jew”) from Jewish religious authorities and intellectuals worldwide. The question is far from settled and occasionally resurfaces in Israeli politics.

Jewish philosophy refers to the conjunction between serious study of philosophy and Jewish theology. Early Jewish philosophy was influenced by the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, and Islamic philosophy. Major Jewish philosophers include Solomon ibn Gabirol, Saadia Gaon, Maimonides, and Gersonides. Major changes occurred in response to the enlightenment (late 1700s to early 1800s) leading to the post-Enlightenment Jewish philosophers, and then modern Jewish philosophers such as Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Mordecai Kaplan, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Will Herberg, Emmanuel Levinas, Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fackenheim, and Joseph Soloveitchik.

Over the past two centuries the Jewish community has divided into a number of Jewish denominations; each has a different understanding of what principles of belief a Jew should hold, and how one should live as a Jew. Unlike Christian denominations, these doctrinal differences have not fundamentally split Jewish denominations, which continue to overlap on many issues. It would not be unusual for a Conservative Jew to attend either an Orthodox or Reform synagogue, for example.

Many religious Jews do not look at one’s denomination as a valid way of designating Jews; instead they view Jews by the level of their religious observance. According to most Orthodox Jews, Jewish people who do not keep the laws of Shabbat and Yom Tov (the holidays), Kashrut, and family purity are considered non-religious. Any Jew who keeps at least those laws would be considered observant and religious).

Even though all of these denominations exist in Israel, Israelis tend to classify Jewish identity in ways that are different than diaspora Jewry. Most Jewish Israelis classify themselves as “secular” (hiloni), “traditional” (masorti), “religious” (dati) or Haredi. The term “secular” is more popular as a self-description among Israeli families of western (European) origin, whose Jewish identity may be a very powerful force in their lives, but who see it as largely independent of traditional religious belief and practice. This portion of the population largely ignores organized religious life, be it of the official Israeli rabbinate (Orthodox) or of the liberal movements common to diaspora Judaism (Reform, Conservative).

The term “traditional” (masorti) is most common as a self-description among Israeli families of “eastern” origin (i.e., the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa). This term, as commonly used, has nothing to do with the official Masorti (Conservative) movement.

There is a great deal of ambiguity in the ways “secular” and “traditional” are used in Israel. They often overlap, and they cover an extremely wide range in terms of ideology and religious observance.

The term “Orthodox” (Ortodoxi) is unpopular in Israeli discourse (among both “secular” and “religious” alike). Nevertheless, the spectrum covered by “Orthodox” in the diaspora exists in Israel, again with some important variations. The “Orthodox” spectrum in Israel is a far greater percentage of the Jewish population in Israel than in the diaspora, though how much greater is hotly debated. Various ways of measuring this percentage, each with its pros and cons, include the proportion of religiously observant Knesset members, the proportion of Jewish children enrolled in religious schools, and statistical studies on “identity”.

What would be called “Orthodox” in the diaspora includes what is commonly called dati (religious) or haredi (ultra-Orthodox) in Israel. The former term includes what is called “Religious Zionism” or the “National Religious” community, as well as what has become known over the past decade or so as haredi-leumi (nationalist haredi), which combines a largely haredi lifestyle with nationalist ideology.

Haredi applies to a populace that can be roughly divided into three separate groups along both ethnic and ideological lines: (1) “Lithuanian” (non-hasidic) haredim of Ashkenazic origin; (2) Hasidic haredim of Ashkenazic origin; and (3) Sephardic haredim. The third group is the largest, and has been the most politically active since the early 1990s.

Unlike the above denominations, which were ideological reactions that resulted from the exposure of traditional rabbinic Judaism to the radical changes of modern times, Karaite Judaism did not begin as a modern Jewish movement. The followers of Karaism believe they are the remnants of the non-Rabbinic Jewish sects of the Second Temple period, such as the Saducees, though others contend they are a sect started in the 8th and 9th centuries. The Karaites, or “Scripturalists,” accept only the Hebrew Bible and what they view as the Peshat: “Plain or Simple Meaning”; and do not accept non-biblical writings as authoritative. Some European Karaites do not see themselves as part of the Jewish community, while most do. It is interesting to note that the Nazis did not consider Karaites as Jews, and therefore Karaite communities were spared in WWII and exist to this day even in places such as Lithuania where Jewish communities were completely deveastated.

The main article Jewish views of religious pluralism describes how Judaism views other religions; it also describes how members of each of the Jewish religious denominations view the other denominations.

There are three main daily prayer services, named Shacharit, Mincha (literally: “flour-offering”) and Maariv or Arvit. All services include a number of benedictions called the Amidah or the Shemonah Esrei (“eighteen”), which on weekdays consists of nineteen blessings (one was added in the time of the Mishna, but the name remains). Another key prayer in many services is the declaration of faith, the Shema which is recited at shacharit and maariv. Most of the prayers in a traditional Jewish service can be said in solitary prayer, but Kaddish and Kedusha require a group of ten adult men (or men and women in some branches of Judaism) called a minyan (prayer quorum). There are also prayers and benedictions recited throughout the day, such as those before eating or drinking.

There are a number of common Jewish religious objects used in prayer. The tallit is a Jewish prayer shawl. A kippah or yarmulke (skullcap) is a head covering worn during prayer by most Jews, and at all times by more orthodox Jews especially Ashkenazim. Phylacteries or tefillin, boxes containing the portions of the Torah mandating them, are also worn by religious Jews during weekday morning services.

The Jewish approach to prayer differs slightly between the various branches of Judaism, although all use the same set of prayers and texts, the frequency of prayer, the number of prayers recited at various religious events, and whether one prays in a particular liturgical language or the vernacular differs from denomination to denomination, with Conservative and Orthodox congregations using more traditional services, while Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues are more likely to incorporate translations, contemporary writings, and abbreviated services.

Shabbat, the weekly day of rest lasting from Friday night to Saturday night, celebrates God’s creation as a day of rest that commemorates God’s day of rest upon the completion of creation. It plays an important role in Jewish practice and is the subject of a large body of religious law. Some consider it the most important Jewish holiday.

The Jewish holy days celebrate central themes in the relationship between God and the world, such as creation, revelation, and redemption. Some holidays are also linked to the agricultural cycle.

Three holidays celebrate revelation by commemorating different events in the passage of the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to their return to the land of Canaan. They are also timed to coincide with important agricultural seasons. They are also pilgramage holidays, for which the Children of Israel would journey to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God in His Temple.

There are many minor holidays as well, including Purim, which celebrates the events told in the Biblical book of Esther, and Chanukkah, which is not established in the Bible but which celebrates the successful rebellion by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire.

The core of festival and Sabbath prayer services is the public reading of the Torah, along with connected readings from the other books of the Jewish Bible, called Haftarah. During the course of a year, the full Torah is read, and the cycle begins again every autumn during Simhat Torah (?rejoicing in the Torah?).

The laws of kashrut (“keeping kosher”) are the Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with Jewish law is termed kosher, and food not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah or treif. From the context of the laws in the book of Leviticus, the purpose of kashrut is related to ritual purity and holiness. Reform and Reconstructionist Jews do not keep kosher, Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews do keep kosher, to varying degrees of strictness.

The laws of niddah (“menstruant”, often referred to euphemistically as “family purity”) and various other laws regulating the interaction between men and women (e.g., tzeniut, modesty in dress) are perceived, especially by Orthodox Jews, as vital factors in Jewish life.

The laws of niddah dictate that sexual cannot take place while the woman is having a menstrual flow, and she has to count seven “clean” days and immerse in a mikvah (ritual bath).

Life-cycle events occur throughout a Jew’s life that bind him/her to the entire community.

Judaism does not have a clergy, in the sense of full-time specialists required for religious services. Technically, the last time Judaism had a clergy was prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, when priests attended to the Temple and sacrifices. The priesthood is an inherited position, and although priests no longer have clerical duties, they are still honored in many Jewish communities.

From the times of the Mishna and Talmud to the present, Judaism has required specialists or authorities for the practice of very few rituals or ceremonies. A Jew can fulfil most requirements for prayer by himself. Some activities — reading the Torah and haftarah (a supplementary portion from the Prophets or Writings); the prayer for mourners; the blessings for bridegroom and bride; the complete grace after meals — require a minyan, the presence of ten adults (Orthodox Jews and some Conservative Jews require ten adult men; some Conservative Jews and Reform Jews include women in the minyan).

The most common professional clergy in a synagogue are:

Jewish prayer services do involve two specified roles, which are often, but not always, filled by a rabbi and/or hazzan in many congregations:

Note that these roles are not mutually exclusive. The same person is often qualified to fill more than one role, and often does.

Many congregations, especially larger ones, also rely on a:

The three preceding positions are usually voluntary and considered an honor. Since the Enlightenment large synagogues have often adopted the practice of hiring rabbis and hazzans to act as shatz and baal koreh, and this is still typically the case in most Conservative and Reform congregations. However, in most Orthodox synagogues these positions are filled by laypeople.

Jewish history is an extensive topic; this section will cover the elements of Jewish history of most importance to the Jewish religion and the development of Jewish denominations.

Jews trace their religious lineage to the biblical patriarch Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. After the Exodus from Egypt, the Jews came to Canaan, and settled the land. A kingdom was established under Saul and continued under King David and Solomon with its capital in Jerusalem. After Solomon’s reign the nation split into two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Israel (in the north) and the Kingdom of Judah (in the south). The Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser V in the 8th century BCE and spread all over the Assyrian empire, where they were assimilated into other cultures and become known as the Ten Lost Tribes. The Kingdom of Judah continued as an independent state until it was conquered by a Babylonian army in the early 6th century BCE, destroying the First Temple that was at the centre of ancient Jewish worship. The Judean elite was exiled to Babylonia, but later at least a part of them returned to their homeland after the subsequent conquest of Babylonia by the Persians seventy years later, a period known as the Babylonian Captivity. A new Second Temple was constructed, and old religious practices were resumed.

After a Jewish revolt against Roman rule in 66 CE, the Romans all but destroyed Jerusalem; only a single “Western Wall” of the Second Temple remained. Following a second revolt, Jews were not allowed to enter the city of Jerusalem and most Jewish worship was forbidden by Rome. Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews, Jewish worship stopped being centrally organized around the Temple, and instead was rebuilt around rabbis who acted as teachers and leaders of individual communities. No new books were added to the Jewish Bible after the Roman period, instead major efforts went into interpreting and developing Jewish law.

Around the first century CE there were several small Jewish sects: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, and Christians. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, these sects vanished. Christianity survived, but by breaking with Judaism and becoming a separate religion; the Pharisees survived but in the form of Rabbinic Judaism (today, known simply as “Judaism”).

Some Jews in the 8th and 9th centuries adopted the Sadducees’ rejection of the oral law of the Pharisees/rabbis recorded in the Mishnah (and developed by later rabbis in the two Talmuds), intending to rely only upon the Tanakh. These included the Isunians, the Yudganites, the Malikites, and others. They soon developed oral traditions of their own which differed from the rabbinic traditions, and eventually formed the Karaite sect. Karaites exist in small numbers today, mostly living in Israel. Rabbinical and Karaite Jews each hold that the others are Jews, but that the other faith is erroneous.

Over time Jews developed into distinct ethnic groups amongst others, the Ashkenazi Jews (of Central and Eastern Europe with Russia); the Sephardi Jews (of Spain, Portugal, and North Africa) and the Yemenite Jews, from the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. This split is cultural, and is not based on any doctrinal dispute, although the distance did result in minor differences in practice and prayers.

Hasidic Judaism was founded by Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760), also known as the Ba’al Shem Tov (or Besht). His disciples attracted many followers; they themselves established numerous Hasidic sects across Europe. Hasidic Judaism eventually became the way of life for many Jews in Europe. Waves of Jewish immigration in the 1880s carried it to the United States.

Early on, there was a serious schism between Hasidic and non-Hasidic Jews. European Jews who rejected the Hasidic movement were dubbed by the Hasidim as mitnagdim, (lit. “opponents”). Some of the reasons for the rejection of Hasidic Judaism were the overwhelming exuberance of Hasidic worship; their untraditional ascriptions of infallibility and alleged miracle-working to their leaders, and the concern that it might become a messianic sect. Since then all the sects of Hasidic Judaism have been subsumed into mainstream Orthodox Judaism, particularly Haredi Judaism.

In the late 18th century CE Europe was swept by a group of intellectual, social and political movements known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment led to reductions in the European laws that prohibited Jews to interact with the wider secular world, thus allowing Jews access to secular education and experience. A parallel Jewish movement, Haskalah or the “Jewish Enlightenment,” began, especially in Central Europe, in response to both the Enlightenment and these new freedoms. It placed an emphasis on integration with secular society and a pursuit of non-religious knowledge. The thrust and counter-thrust between supporters of Haskalah and more traditional Jewish concepts eventually led to the formation of a number of different branches of Judaism: Haskalah supporters founded Reform Judaism and Liberal Judaism, while traditionalists founded many forms of Orthodox Judaism, and Jews seeking a balance between the two sides founded Conservative Judaism. A number of smaller groups came into being as well.

While the Holocaust did not immediately affect Jewish denominations, its great loss of life caused a radical demographic shift, ultimately affecting the makeup of organized Judaism the way it is today. A Jewish day of mourning, Yom HaShoah, was inserted into the Jewish calendar, commemorating the Holocaust.

In most Western nations, such as the United States of America, Israel, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa, a wide variety of Jewish practices exist, along with a growing plurality of secular and non-practicing Jews. For example, in the world’s largest Jewish community, the United States, according to the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey(http://www.ujc.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=83784), 4.3 million out of 5.1 million Jews had some sort of connection to the religion. Of that population of connected Jews, 80% participated in some sort of Jewish religious observance, but only 48% belonged to a synagogue.

Religious (and secular) Jewish movements in the USA and Canada perceive this as a crisis situation, and have grave concern over rising rates of intermarriage and assimilation in the Jewish community. Since American Jews are marrying at a later time in their life than they used to, and are having fewer children than they used, the birth rate for American Jews has dropped from over 2.0 down to 1.7 (the replacement rate is 2.1). (This is My Beloved, This is My Friend: A Rabbinic Letter on Intimate relations, p. 27, Elliot N. Dorff, The Rabbinical Assembly, 1996). Intermarriage rates range from 40-50% in the US, and only about a third of children of intermarried couples are raised Jewish. Due to intermarriage and low birth rates, the Jewish population in the US shrank from 5.5 million in 1990 to 5.1 million in 2001. This is indicative of the general population trends among the Jewish community in the Diaspora, but a focus on population masks the diversity of current Jewish religious practice, as well as growth trends among some communities, like haredi Jews.

In the last 50 years there has been a general increase in interest in religion among many segments of the Jewish population. All of the major Jewish denominations have experienced a resurgence in popularity, with increasing numbers of younger Jews participating in Jewish education, joining synagogues, and becoming (to varying degrees) more observant. Complementing the increased popularity of the major denominations has been a number of new approaches to Jewish worship, including feminist approaches to Judaism and Jewish renewal movements. There is a separate article on the Baal teshuva movement, the movement of Jews returning to observant Judaism. Though this gain has not offset the general demographic loss due to intermarriage and acculturation, many Jewish communities and movements are growing.

There are a number of articles on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. These articles include:

Since the Holocaust, there has been much to note in the way of reconciliation between some Christian groups and the Jewish people; the article on Christian-Jewish reconciliation studies this issue.

Messianic Judaism (sometimes Hebrew Christianity) is the common designation for a number of Christian groups which include varying degrees of Jewish practice. These groups have attracted tens (and perhaps hundreds) of thousands of Jews and Christians to their ranks; members identify themselves as Jews. These groups are viewed highly negatively by all Jewish denominations, which typically see them as covert and deceptive attempts to convert Jews to Christianity, a view Messianic-Jewish groups strongly contest.

Some Jews have joined other faiths, such as Judeo-Paganism and neo-paganism. Some adherents to those movements identify themselves as Jews nonetheless.

Under Islamic rule, Judaism has been practiced for almost 1500 years and this has led to an interplay between the two religions which has been positive as well as negative at times. The period around 900 to 1200 in Moorish Spain came to be known as the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain.

The 20th century animosity of Muslim leaders towards Zionism, the political movement of Jewish self-determination, has led to a renewed interest in the relationship between Judaism and Islam.

Other relevant material:

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Judaism – Academic Kids

Written on September 3rd, 2015 & filed under Judaism Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ashkenazi Jews ( Y’hudey Ashkenaz in Ashkenazi Hebrew) Total population 10[1]11.2[2] million Regions with significant populations United States 56 million[3] Israel 2.8 million[1][4] Russia 194,000500,000 Argentina 300,000 United Kingdom ~ 260,000 Canada ~ 240,000 France 200,000 Germany 200,000 Ukraine 150,000 Australia 120,000 South Africa 80,000 Belarus 80,000 Hungary 75,000 Chile 70,000 Belgium 30,000 Brazil 30,000 Netherlands 30,000 Moldova 30,000 Poland 25,000 Mexico 18,500 Sweden 18,000 Latvia 10,000 Romania 10,000 Austria 9,000 New Zealand 5,000 Azerbaijan 4,300 Lithuania 4,000 Czech Republic 3,000 Slovakia 3,000 Estonia 1,000 Languages Historical: Yiddish Modern: Local languages, primarily: English, Hebrew, Russian Religion Judaism, some secular, irreligious Related ethnic groups Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, other Jewish ethnic divisions, Samaritans,[5]Assyrians,[5][6]Kurds,[7]Arabs, other Levantines,[5][6][8][9]Italians, Iberians and Greeks[10][11][12][13][14]

Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or simply Ashkenazim (Hebrew: , Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation: [aknazim], singular: [aknazi], Modern Hebrew: [akenazim, akenazi]; also Y’hudey Ashkenaz, lit. “The Jews of Germany”),[15] are a Jewish ethnic division whose ethnogenesis and emergence as a distinct community of Jews coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the 1st millennium.[16] The traditional language of Ashkenazi Jews consisted of various dialects of Yiddish.

They established communities throughout Central and Eastern Europe, which had been their primary region of concentration and residence until recent times, evolving their own distinctive characteristics and diasporic identities.[17] Once emancipated, weaving Jewish creativity into the texture of European life (Hannah Arendt),[18] the Ashkenazi made a “quite disproportionate and remarkable contribution to humanity” (Eric Hobsbawm[19]), and to European culture in all fields of endeavour: philosophy, scholarship, literature, art, music and science.[20][21] The genocidal impact of the Holocaust, the mass murder of approximately 6 million Jews during World War II devastated the Ashkenazi and their Yiddish culture, affecting almost every Jewish family.[22][23]

It is estimated that in the 11th century Ashkenazi Jews composed only three percent of the world’s Jewish population, while at their peak in 1931 they accounted for 92 percent of the world’s Jews. Immediately prior to the Holocaust, the number of Jews in the world stood at approximately 16.7 million.[24] Statistical figures vary for the contemporary demography of Ashkenazi Jews, oscillating between 10 million[1] and 11.2 million.[2]Sergio DellaPergola in a rough calculation of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, implies that Ashkenazi make up less than 74% of Jews worldwide.[25] Other estimates place Ashkenazi Jews as making up about 75% of Jews worldwide.[26]

Genetic studies on Ashkenazim have been conducted to determine how much of their ancestry comes from the Levant, and how much derives from European populations. These studiesresearching both their paternal and maternal lineagespoint to a significant prevalence of ancient Levantine origins. But they have arrived at diverging conclusions regarding both the degree and the sources of their European ancestry.[27] These diverging conclusions focus particularly on the extent of the European genetic origin observed in Ashkenazi maternal lineages.

The name Ashkenazi derives from the biblical figure of Ashkenaz, the first son of Gomer, son of Khaphet, son of Noah, and a Japhetic patriarch in the Table of Nations (Genesis 10). The name of Gomer has often been linked to the ethnonym Cimmerians. Biblical Ashkenaz is usually derived from Assyrian Akza (cuneiform Akuzai/Ikuzai), a people who expelled the Cimmerians from the Armenian area of the Upper Euphrates,[28] whose name is usually associated with the name of the Scythians.[29][30] The intrusive n in the Biblical name is likely due to a scribal error confusing a waw with a nun .[29][30][31]

In Jeremiah 51:27, Ashkenaz figures as one of three kingdoms in the far north, the others being Minni and Ararat, perhaps corresponding to Urartu, called on by God to resist Babylon.[31][32]

In the Yoma tractate of the Babylonian Talmud the name Gomer is rendered as Germania, which elsewhere in rabbinical literature was identified with Germanikia in northwestern Syria, but later became associated with Germania. Ashkenaz is linked to Scandza/Scanzia, viewed as the cradle of Germanic tribes, as early as a 6th-century gloss to the Historia Ecclesiastica of Eusebius.[33] In the 10th-century History of Armenia of Yovhannes Drasxanakertc’i (1.15) Ashkenaz was associated with Armenia,[28] as it was occasionally in Jewish usage, where its denotation extended at times to Adiabene, Khazaria, Crimea and areas to the east.[34] His contemporary Saadia Gaon identified Ashkenaz with the Saquliba or Slavic territories,[35] and such usage covered also the lands of tribes neighboring the Slavs, and Eastern and Central Europe.[34] In modern times, Samuel Krauss identified the Biblical “Ashkenaz” with Khazaria.[35]

Sometime in the early medieval period, the Jews of central and eastern Europe came to be called by this term.[31] In conformity with the custom of designating areas of Jewish settlement with biblical names, Spain was denominated Sefarad (Obadiah 20), France was called Tsarefat (1 Kings 17:9), and Bohemia was called the Land of Canaan.[36] By the high medieval period, Talmudic commentators like Rashi began to use Ashkenaz/Eretz Ashkenaz to designate Germany, earlier known as Loter,[31][33] where, especially in the Rhineland communities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz, the most important Jewish communities arose.[37] Rashi uses leshon Ashkenaz (Ashkenazi language) to describe German speech, and Byzantium and Syrian Jewish letters referred to the Crusaders as Ashkenazim.[33] Given the close links between the Jewish communities of France and Germany following the Carolingian unification, the term Ashkenazi came to refer to both the Jews of medieval Germany and France.[38]

The origins of the Ashkenazim are obscure,[39] and many theories have arisen speculating about their ultimate provenance.[40] The most well supported theory is the one that details a Jewish migration through what is now Italy and other parts of southern Europe.[41] The historical record attests to Jewish communities in southern Europe since pre-Christian times.[42] Many Jews were denied full Roman citizenship until 212 CE, when Emperor Caracalla granted all free peoples this privilege. Jews were required to pay a poll tax until the reign of Emperor Julian in 363. In the late Roman Empire, Jews were free to form networks of cultural and religious ties and enter into various local occupations. But, after Christianity became the official religion of Rome and Constantinople in 380, Jews were increasingly marginalized.

The history of Jews in Greece goes back to at least the Archaic Era of Greece, when the classical culture of Greece was undergoing a process of formalization after the Greek Dark Age. The Greek historian Herodotus knew of the Jews, whom he called “Palestinian Syrians”, and listed them among the levied naval forces in service of the invading Persians. While Jewish monotheism was not deeply affected by Greek Polytheism, the Greek way of living was attractive for many wealthier Jews.[43] The Synagogue in the Agora of Athens is dated to the period between 267 and 396 CE. The Stobi Synagogue in Macedonia, was built on the ruins of a more ancient synagogue in the 4th century, while later in the 5th century, the synagogue was transformed into Christian basilica.[44]

Sporadic[45]epigraphic evidence in grave site excavations, particularly in Brigetio (Szny), Aquincum (buda), Intercisa (Dunajvros), Triccinae (Srvr), Savaria (Szombathely), Sopianae (Pcs), and Osijek in Croatia, attest to the presence of Jews after the 2nd and 3rd centuries where Roman garrisons were established,[46] There was a sufficient number of Jews in Pannonia to form communities and build a synagogue. Jewish troops were among the Syrian soldiers transferred there, and replenished from the Middle East, after 175 C.E. Jews and especially Syrians came from Antioch, Tarsus and Cappadocia. Others came from Italy and the Hellenized parts of the Roman empire. The excavations suggest they first lived in isolated enclaves attached to Roman legion camps, and intermarried among other similar oriental families within the military orders of the region.[45]Raphael Patai states that later Roman writers remarked that they differed little in either customs, manner of writing, or names from the people among whom they dwelt; and it was especially difficult to differentiate Jews from the Syrians.[47][48] After Pannonia was ceded to the Huns in 433, the garrison populations were withdrawn to Italy, and only a few, enigmatic traces remain of a possible Jewish presence in the area some centuries later.[46]

No evidence has yet been found of a Jewish presence in antiquity in Germany beyond its Roman border, nor in Eastern Europe. In Gaul and Germany itself, with the possible exception of Trier and Cologne, the archeological evidence suggests at most a fleeting presence of very few Jews, primarily itinerant traders or artisans.[46] A substantial Jewish population emerged in northern Gaul by the Middle Ages,[46] but Jewish communities existed in 465 CE in Brittany, in 524 CE in Valence, and in 533 CE in Orleans.[49] Throughout this period and into the early Middle Ages, some Jews assimilated into the dominant Greek and Latin cultures, mostly through conversion to Christianity.[50][bettersourceneeded] King Dagobert I of the Franks expelled the Jews from his Merovingian kingdom in 629. Jews in former Roman territories faced new challenges as harsher anti-Jewish Church rulings were enforced.

Charlemagne’s expansion of the Frankish empire around 800, including northern Italy and Rome, brought on a brief period of stability and unity in Francia. This created opportunities for Jewish merchants to settle again north of the Alps. Charlemagne granted the Jews freedoms similar to those once enjoyed under the Roman Empire. In addition, Jews from southern Italy, fleeing religious persecution, began to move into central Europe.[citation needed] Returning to Frankish lands, many Jewish merchants took up occupations in finance and commerce, including money lending, or usury. (Church legislation banned Christians from lending money in exchange for interest.) From Charlemagne’s time to the present, Jewish life in northern Europe is well documented. By the 11th century, when Rashi of Troyes wrote his commentaries, Jews in what came to be known as “Ashkenaz” were known for their halakhic learning, and Talmudic studies. They were criticized by Sephardim and other Jewish scholars in Islamic lands for their lack of expertise in Jewish jurisprudence (dinim) and general ignorance of Hebrew linguistics and literature.[51]Yiddish emerged as a result of language contact with various High German vernaculars in the medieval period.[52] It was written with Hebrew letters, and heavily influenced by Hebrew and Aramaic.

Historical records show evidence of Jewish communities north of the Alps and Pyrenees as early as the 8th and 9th century. By the 11th century Jewish settlers, moving from southern European and Middle Eastern centers, appear to have begun to settle in the north, especially along the Rhine, often in response to new economic opportunities and at the invitation of local Christian rulers. Thus Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, invited Jacob ben Yekutiel and his fellow Jews to settle in his lands; and soon after the Norman Conquest of England, William the Conqueror likewise extended a welcome to continental Jews to take up residence there. Bishop Rdiger Huzmann called on the Jews of Mainz to relocate to Speyer. In all of these decisions, the idea that Jews had the know-how and capacity to jump-start the economy, improve revenues, and enlarge trade seems to have played a prominent role.[53] Typically Jews relocated close to the markets and churches in town centres, where, though they came under the authority of both royal and ecclesiastical powers, they were accorded administrative autonomy.[53]

In the 11th century, both Rabbinic Judaism and the culture of the Babylonian Talmud that underlies it became established in southern Italy and then spread north to Ashkenaz.[54]

With the onset of the Crusades in 1095, and the expulsions from England (1290), France (1394), and parts of Germany (15th century), Jewish migration pushed eastward into Poland (10th century), Lithuania (10th century), and Russia (12th century). Over this period of several hundred years, some have suggested, Jewish economic activity was focused on trade, business management, and financial services, due to several presumed factors: Christian European prohibitions restricting certain activities by Jews, preventing certain financial activities (such as “usurious” loans)[55] between Christians, high rates of literacy, near universal male education, and ability of merchants to rely upon and trust family members living in different regions and countries.

By the 15th century, the Ashkenazi Jewish communities in Poland were the largest Jewish communities of the Diaspora.[56] This area, which eventually fell under the domination of Russia, Austria, and Prussia (Germany), would remain the main center of Ashkenazi Jewry until the Holocaust.

The answer to why there was so little assimilation of Jews in central and eastern Europe for so long would seem to lie in part in the probability that the alien surroundings in central and eastern Europe were not conducive, though contempt did not prevent some assimilation. Furthermore, Jews lived almost exclusively in shtetls, maintained a strong system of education for males, heeded rabbinic leadership, and scorned the life-style of their neighbors; and all of these tendencies increased with every outbreak of antisemitism.[57]

In the first half of the 11th century, Hai Gaon refers to questions that had been addressed to him from Ashkenaz, by which he undoubtedly means Germany. Rashi in the latter half of the 11th century refers to both the language of Ashkenaz[58] and the country of Ashkenaz.[59] During the 12th century, the word appears quite frequently. In the Mahzor Vitry, the kingdom of Ashkenaz is referred to chiefly in regard to the ritual of the synagogue there, but occasionally also with regard to certain other observances.[60]

In the literature of the 13th century, references to the land and the language of Ashkenaz often occur. Examples include Solomon ben Aderet’s Responsa (vol. i., No. 395); the Responsa of Asher ben Jehiel (pp.4, 6); his Halakot (Berakot i. 12, ed. Wilna, p.10); the work of his son Jacob ben Asher, Tur Orach Chayim (chapter 59); the Responsa of Isaac ben Sheshet (numbers 193, 268, 270).

In the Midrash compilation, Genesis Rabbah, Rabbi Berechiah mentions Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah as German tribes or as German lands. It may correspond to a Greek word that may have existed in the Greek dialect of the Palestinian Jews, or the text is corrupted from “Germanica.” This view of Berechiah is based on the Talmud (Yoma 10a; Jerusalem Talmud Megillah 71b), where Gomer, the father of Ashkenaz, is translated by Germamia, which evidently stands for Germany, and which was suggested by the similarity of the sound.

In later times, the word Ashkenaz is used to designate southern and western Germany, the ritual of which sections differs somewhat from that of eastern Germany and Poland. Thus the prayer-book of Isaiah Horowitz, and many others, give the piyyutim according to the Minhag of Ashkenaz and Poland.

According to 16th-century mystic Rabbi Elijah of Chelm, Ashkenazi Jews lived in Jerusalem during the 11th century. The story is told that a German-speaking Palestinian Jew saved the life of a young German man surnamed Dolberger. So when the knights of the First Crusade came to siege Jerusalem, one of Dolberger’s family members who was among them rescued Jews in Palestine and carried them back to Worms to repay the favor.[61] Further evidence of German communities in the holy city comes in the form of halakhic questions sent from Germany to Jerusalem during the second half of the 11th century.[62]

In an essay on Sephardi Jewry, Daniel Elazar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs[63] summarized the demographic history of Ashkenazi Jews in the last thousand years, noting that at the end of the 11th century, 97% of world Jewry was Sephardic and 3% Ashkenazi; by the end of XVI century, the: ‘Treaty on the redemption of captives’, by Gracian of the God’s Mother, Mercy Priest, who was imprisoned by Turks, cites a Tunisian Hebrew, made captive when arriving to Gaeta, who aided others with money, named: ‘Simon Escanasi’, in the mid-17th century, “Sephardim still outnumbered Ashkenazim three to two”, but by the end of the 18th century, “Ashkenazim outnumbered Sephardim three to two, the result of improved living conditions in Christian Europe versus the Ottoman Muslim world.”[63] By 1931, Ashkenazi Jews accounted for nearly 92% of world Jewry.[63] These factors are sheer demography showing the migration patterns of Jews from Southern and Western Europe to Central and Eastern Europe.

In 1740 a family from Lithuania became the first Ashkenazi Jews to settle in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.[64]

The generations of after emigration from the west enjoyed a comparatively stable socio-political environment in places like Poland, Russia, and Belarus. A thriving publishing industry and the printing of hundreds of biblical commentaries precipitated the development of the Hasidic movement as well as major Jewish academic centers.[65] After two centuries of comparative tolerance in the new nations, massive westward emigration occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries in response to pogroms in the east and the economic opportunities offered in other parts of the world. Ashkenazi Jews have made up the majority of the American Jewish community since 1750.[56]

Ashkenazi cultural growth led to the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, with its goal of integrating modern European values into Jewish life.[66]Zionism was also developed in modern Europe.[67]

Of the estimated 8.8 million Jews living in Europe at the beginning of World War II, the majority of whom were Ashkenazi, about 6 million more than two-thirds were systematically murdered in the Holocaust. These included 3 million of 3.3 million Polish Jews (91%); 900,000 of 1.5 million in Ukraine (60%); and 5090% of the Jews of other Slavic nations, Germany, Hungary, and the Baltic states, and over 25% of the Jews in France. Sephardi communities suffered similar depletions in a few countries, including Greece, the Netherlands and the former Yugoslavia.[68] As the large majority of the victims were Ashkenazi Jews, their percentage dropped from nearly 92% of world Jewry in 1931 to nearly 80% of world Jewry today.[63] The Holocaust also effectively put an end to the dynamic development of the Yiddish language in the previous decades, as the vast majority of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, around 5 million, were Yiddish speakers.[69] Many of the surviving Ashkenazi Jews emigrated to countries such as Israel, Canada, Argentina, Australia, and the United States after the war.

Following the Holocaust, some sources place Ashkenazim today as making up approximately 8385 percent of Jews worldwide,[70][71][72][73] while Sergio DellaPergola in a rough calculation of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, implies that Ashkenazi make up a notably lower figure, less than 74%.[25] Other estimates place Ashkenazi Jews as making up about 75% of Jews worldwide.[26] Ashkenazi Jews constitute around 3536% of Israel’s total population, or 47.5% of Israel’s Jewish population.[74][75]

In Israel, the term Ashkenazi is now used in a manner unrelated to its original meaning, often applied to all Jews who settled in Europe and sometimes including those whose ethnic background is actually Sephardic. Jews of any non-Ashkenazi background, including Mizrahi, Yemenite, Kurdish and others who have no connection with the Iberian Peninsula, have similarly come to be lumped together as Sephardic. Jews of mixed background are increasingly common, partly because of intermarriage between Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi, and partly because many do not see such historic markers as relevant to their life experiences as Jews.[76]

Religious Ashkenazi Jews living in Israel are obliged to follow the authority of the chief Ashkenazi rabbi in halakhic matters. In this respect, a religiously Ashkenazi Jew is an Israeli who is more likely to support certain religious interests in Israel, including certain political parties. These political parties result from the fact that a portion of the Israeli electorate votes for Jewish religious parties; although the electoral map changes from one election to another, there are generally several small parties associated with the interests of religious Ashkenazi Jews. The role of religious parties, including small religious parties that play important roles as coalition members, results in turn from Israel’s composition as a complex society in which competing social, economic, and religious interests stand for election to the Knesset, a unicameral legislature with 120 seats.[77]

People of Ashkenazi descent constitute around 47.5% of Israeli Jews (and therefore 3536% of Israelis).[4] They have played a prominent role in the economy, media, and politics[78] of Israel since its founding. During the first decades of Israel as a state, strong cultural conflict occurred between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews (mainly east European Ashkenazim). The roots of this conflict, which still exists to a much smaller extent in present-day Israeli society, are chiefly attributed to the concept of the “melting pot”.[79] That is to say, all Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel were strongly encouraged to “melt down” their own particular exilic identities within the general social “pot” in order to become Israeli.[80]

The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis in the Yishuv and Israel include:

Religious Jews have Minhagim, customs, in addition to Halakha, or religious law, and different interpretations of law. Different groups of religious Jews in different geographic areas historically adopted different customs and interpretations. On certain issues, Orthodox Jews are required to follow the customs of their ancestors, and do not believe they have the option of picking and choosing. For this reason, observant Jews at times find it important for religious reasons to ascertain who their household’s religious ancestors are in order to know what customs their household should follow. These times include, for example, when two Jews of different ethnic background marry, when a non-Jew converts to Judaism and determines what customs to follow for the first time, or when a lapsed or less observant Jew returns to traditional Judaism and must determine what was done in his or her family’s past. In this sense, “Ashkenazic” refers both to a family ancestry and to a body of customs binding on Jews of that ancestry. Reform Judaism, which does not necessarily follow those minhagim, did nonetheless originate among Ashkenazi Jews.[81]

In a religious sense, an Ashkenazi Jew is any Jew whose family tradition and ritual follows Ashkenazi practice. Until the Ashkenazi community first began to develop in the Early Middle Ages, the centers of Jewish religious authority were in the Islamic world, at Baghdad and in Islamic Spain. Ashkenaz (Germany) was so distant geographically that it developed a minhag of its own. Ashkenazi Hebrew came to be pronounced in ways distinct from other forms of Hebrew.[82]

In this respect, the counterpart of Ashkenazi is Sephardic, since most non-Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews follow Sephardic rabbinical authorities, whether or not they are ethnically Sephardic. By tradition, a Sephardic or Mizrahi woman who marries into an Orthodox or Haredi Ashkenazi Jewish family raises her children to be Ashkenazi Jews; conversely an Ashkenazi woman who marries a Sephardi or Mizrahi man is expected to take on Sephardic practice and the children inherit a Sephardic identity, though in practice many families compromise. A convert generally follows the practice of the beth din that converted him or her. With the integration of Jews from around the world in Israel, North America, and other places, the religious definition of an Ashkenazi Jew is blurring, especially outside Orthodox Judaism.[83]

New developments in Judaism often transcend differences in religious practice between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. In North American cities, social trends such as the chavurah movement, and the emergence of “post-denominational Judaism”[84][85] often bring together younger Jews of diverse ethnic backgrounds. In recent years, there has been increased interest in Kabbalah, which many Ashkenazi Jews study outside of the Yeshiva framework. Another trend is the new popularity of ecstatic worship in the Jewish Renewal movement and the Carlebach style minyan, both of which are nominally of Ashkenazi origin.[86]

Culturally, an Ashkenazi Jew can be identified by the concept of Yiddishkeit, which means “Jewishness” in the Yiddish language.[87]Yiddishkeit is specifically the Jewishness of Ashkenazi Jews.[88] Before the Haskalah and the emancipation of Jews in Europe, this meant the study of Torah and Talmud for men, and a family and communal life governed by the observance of Jewish Law for men and women. From the Rhineland to Riga to Romania, most Jews prayed in liturgical Ashkenazi Hebrew, and spoke Yiddish in their secular lives. But with modernization, Yiddishkeit now encompasses not just Orthodoxy and Hasidism, but a broad range of movements, ideologies, practices, and traditions in which Ashkenazi Jews have participated and somehow retained a sense of Jewishness. Although a far smaller number of Jews still speak Yiddish, Yiddishkeit can be identified in manners of speech, in styles of humor, in patterns of association. Broadly speaking, a Jew is one who associates culturally with Jews, supports Jewish institutions, reads Jewish books and periodicals, attends Jewish movies and theater, travels to Israel, visits ancient synagogues in Prague, and so forth. It is a definition that applies to Jewish culture in general, and to Ashkenazi Yiddishkeit in particular.

As Ashkenazi Jews moved away from Europe, mostly in the form of aliyah to Israel, or immigration to North America, and other English-speaking areas; and Europe (particularly France) and Latin America, the geographic isolation that gave rise to Ashkenazim has given way to mixing with other cultures, and with non-Ashkenazi Jews who, similarly, are no longer isolated in distinct geographic locales. Hebrew has replaced Yiddish as the primary Jewish language for many Ashkenazi Jews, although many Hasidic and Hareidi groups continue to use Yiddish in daily life. (There are numerous Ashkenazi Jewish anglophones and Russian-speakers as well, although English and Russian are not originally Jewish languages.)

France’s blended Jewish community is typical of the cultural recombination that is going on among Jews throughout the world. Although France expelled its original Jewish population in the Middle Ages, by the time of the French Revolution, there were two distinct Jewish populations. One consisted of Sephardic Jews, originally refugees from the Inquisition and concentrated in the southwest, while the other community was Ashkenazi, concentrated in formerly German Alsace, and speaking mainly Yiddish. The two communities were so separate and different that the National Assembly emancipated them separately in 1790 and 1791.[89]

But after emancipation, a sense of a unified French Jewry emerged, especially when France was wracked by the Dreyfus affair in the 1890s. In the 1920s and 1930s, Ashkenazi Jews from Europe arrived in large numbers as refugees from antisemitism, the Russian revolution, and the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. By the 1930s, Paris had a vibrant Yiddish culture, and many Jews were involved in diverse political movements. After the Vichy years and the Holocaust, the French Jewish population was augmented once again, first by Ashkenazi refugees from Central Europe, and later by Sephardi immigrants and refugees from North Africa, many of them francophone.

Then, in the 1990s, yet another Ashkenazi Jewish wave began to arrive from countries of the former Soviet Union and Central Europe. The result is a pluralistic Jewish community that still has some distinct elements of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic culture. But in France, it is becoming much more difficult to sort out the two, and a distinctly French Jewishness has emerged.[90]

In an ethnic sense, an Ashkenazi Jew is one whose ancestry can be traced to the Jews who settled in Central Europe. For roughly a thousand years, the Ashkenazim were a reproductively isolated population in Europe, despite living in many countries, with little inflow or outflow from migration, conversion, or intermarriage with other groups, including other Jews. Human geneticists have argued that genetic variations have been identified that show high frequencies among Ashkenazi Jews, but not in the general European population, be they for patrilineal markers (Y-chromosome haplotypes) and for matrilineal markers (mitotypes).[91] However, a 2013 study of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA, from the University of Huddersfield in England, suggests that at least 80 percent of the Ashkenazi maternal lineages derive from the assimilation of mtDNAs indigenous to Europe, probably as a consequence of conversion.[92]

Since the middle of the 20th century, many Ashkenazi Jews have intermarried, both with members of other Jewish communities and with people of other nations and faiths, while some Jews have also adopted children from other ethnic groups or from other parts of the world and have raised them as Jews. Conversion to Judaism, rare for nearly 2,000 years, has become more common.[93]

A 2006 study found Ashkenazi Jews to be a clear, homogeneous genetic subgroup. Strikingly, regardless of the place of origin, Ashkenazi Jews can be grouped in the same genetic cohort that is, regardless of whether an Ashkenazi Jew’s ancestors came from Poland, Russia, Hungary, Lithuania, or any other place with a historical Jewish population, they belong to the same ethnic group. The research demonstrates the endogamy of the Jewish population in Europe and lends further credence to the idea of Ashkenazi Jews as an ethnic group. Moreover, though intermarriage among Jews of Ashkenazi descent has become increasingly common, many Haredi Jews, particularly members of Hasidic or Hareidi sects, continue to marry exclusively fellow Ashkenazi Jews. This trend keeps Ashkenazi genes prevalent and also helps researchers further study the genes of Ashkenazi Jews with relative ease. It is noteworthy that these Haredi Jews often have extremely large families.[94]

The Halakhic practices of (Orthodox) Ashkenazi Jews may differ from those of Sephardi Jews, particularly in matters of custom. Differences are noted in the Shulkhan Arukh itself, in the gloss of Moses Isserles. Well known differences in practice include:

The term Ashkenazi also refers to the nusach Ashkenaz (Hebrew, “liturgical tradition”, or rite) used by Ashkenazi Jews in their Siddur (prayer book). A nusach is defined by a liturgical tradition’s choice of prayers, order of prayers, text of prayers and melodies used in the singing of prayers. Two other major forms of nusach among Ashkenazic Jews are Nusach Sefard (not to be confused with Sephardi), which is the same as the general Polish (Hasidic) Nusach; and Nusach Chabad, otherwise known as Lubavitch Chasidic, Nusach Arizal or Nusach Ari.

This phrase is often used in contrast with Sephardi Jews, also called Sephardim, who are descendants of Jews from Spain and Portugal. There are some differences in how the two groups pronounce certain Hebrew letters and in points of ritual.

Several famous people have Ashkenazi as a surname, such as Vladimir Ashkenazy. However, most people with this surname hail from within Sephardic communities, particularly from the Syrian Jewish community. The Sephardic carriers of the surname would have some Ashkenazi ancestors since the surname was adopted by families who were initially of Ashkenazic origins who move to Sephardi countries and joined those communities. Ashkenazi would be formally adopted as the family surname having started off as a nickname imposed by their adopted communities. Some have shortened the name to Ash.

Relations between Ashkenazim and Sephardim have not always been warm. North African Sepharadim and Berber Jews were often looked upon by Ashkenazim as second-class citizens during the first decade after the creation of Israel. This has led to protest movements such as the Israeli Black Panthers led by Saadia Marciano a Moroccan Jew. Nowadays, relations are getting better.[96] In some instances, Ashkenazi communities have accepted significant numbers of Sephardi newcomers, sometimes resulting in intermarriage.[97][98]

Ashkenazi Jews have a noted history of achievement in Western societies[99] in the fields of exact and social sciences, literature, finance, politics, media, and others. In those societies where they have been free to enter any profession, they have a record of high occupational achievement, entering professions and fields of commerce where higher education is required.[100] Ashkenazi Jews have won a large number of the Nobel awards.[101][102] While they make up about 2% of the U.S. population,[103] 27% of United States Nobel prize winners in the 20th century,[103] a quarter of Fields Medal winners,[104] 25% of ACM Turing Award winners,[103] half the world’s chess champions,[103] including 8% of the top 100 world chess players,[105] and a quarter of Westinghouse Science Talent Search winners[104] have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry.

Time magazine’s person of the 20th century, Albert Einstein,[106] was an Ashkenazi Jew. According to a study performed by Cambridge University, 21% of Ivy League students, 25% of the Turing Award winners, 23% of the wealthiest Americans, and 38% of the Oscar-winning film directors, and 29% of the Oslo awards have gone to Ashkenazi Jews.[107]

Efforts to identify the origins of Ashkenazi Jews through DNA analysis began in the 1990s. Currently, there are three types of genetic origin testing, autosomal DNA (atDNA), mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and Y-chromosomal DNA (Y-DNA). Autosomal DNA is a mixture from an individual’s entire ancestry, Y-DNA shows a male’s lineage only along his strict-paternal line, mtDNA shows any person’s lineage only along the strict-maternal line. Genome-wide association studies have also been employed to yield findings relevant to genetic origins.

Like most DNA studies of human migration patterns, the earliest studies on Ashkenazi Jews focused on the Y-DNA and mtDNA segments of the human genome. Both segments are unaffected by recombination (except for the ends of the Y chromosome the pseudoautosomal regions known as PAR1 and PAR2), thus allowing tracing of direct maternal and paternal lineages.

These studies revealed that Ashkenazi Jews originated in the Middle East during the Bronze Age (between 2500 BC and 700 BC), spreading later to Europe.[108]

Although the Jewish people in general were present across a wide geographical area as described, genetic research done by Gil Atzmon of the Longevity Genes Project at Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggests “that Ashkenazim branched off from other Jews around the time of the destruction of the First Temple, 2,500 years ago … flourished during the Roman Empire but then went through a ‘severe bottleneck’ as they dispersed, reducing a population of several million to just 400 families who left Northern Italy around the year 1000 for Central and eventually Eastern Europe.”[109]

Various studies have arrived at diverging conclusions regarding both the degree and the sources of the non-Levantine admixture in Ashkenazim,[27] particularly in respect to the extent of the non-Levantine genetic origin observed in Ashkenazi maternal lineages, which is in contrast to the predominant Levantine genetic origin observed in Ashkenazi paternal lineages. All studies nevertheless agree that genetic overlap with the Fertile Crescent exists in both lineages, albeit at differing rates. Collectively, Ashkenazi Jews are less genetically diverse than other Jewish ethnic divisions.[110]

The majority of genetic findings to date concerning Ashkenazi Jews conclude that the male line was founded by ancestors from the Middle East.[111][112][113] Others have found a similar genetic line among Greeks, and Macedonians.

A study of haplotypes of the Y-chromosome, published in 2000, addressed the paternal origins of Ashkenazi Jews. Hammer et al.[114] found that the Y-chromosome of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews contained mutations that are also common among Middle Eastern peoples, but uncommon in the general European population. This suggested that the male ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews could be traced mostly to the Middle East. The proportion of male genetic admixture in Ashkenazi Jews amounts to less than 0.5% per generation over an estimated 80 generations, with “relatively minor contribution of European Y chromosomes to the Ashkenazim,” and a total admixture estimate “very similar to Motulsky’s average estimate of 12.5%.” This supported the finding that “Diaspora Jews from Europe, Northwest Africa, and the Near East resemble each other more closely than they resemble their non-Jewish neighbors.” “Past research found that 5080 percent of DNA from the Ashkenazi Y chromosome, which is used to trace the male lineage, originated in the Near East,” Richards said.

But historical documents tell a slightly different tale. Based on accounts such as those of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, by the time of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, as many as six million Jews were living in the Roman Empire, but outside Israel, mainly in Italy and Southern Europe. In contrast, only about 500,000 lived in Judea, said Ostrer, who was not involved in the new study.[115]

A 2001 study by Nebel et al. showed that both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish populations share the same overall paternal Near Eastern ancestries. In comparison with data available from other relevant populations in the region, Jews were found to be more closely related to groups in the north of the Fertile Crescent. The authors also report on Eu 19 (R1a) chromosomes, which are very frequent in Central and Eastern Europeans (54%60%) at elevated frequency (12.7%) in Ashkenazi Jews. They hypothesized that the differences among Ashkenazim Jews could reflect low-level gene flow from surrounding European populations and/or genetic drift during isolation.[116] A later 2005 study by Nebel et al., found a similar level of 11.5% of male Ashkenazim belonging to R1a1a (M17+), the dominant Y-chromosome haplogroup in Central and Eastern Europeans.[117]

Before 2006, geneticists had largely attributed the ethnogenesis of most of the world’s Jewish populations, including Ashkenazi Jews, to Israelite Jewish male migrants from the Middle East and “the women from each local population whom they took as wives and converted to Judaism.” Thus, in 2002, in line with this model of origin, David Goldstein, now of Duke University, reported that unlike male Ashkenazi lineages, the female lineages in Ashkenazi Jewish communities “did not seem to be Middle Eastern”, and that each community had its own genetic pattern and even that “in some cases the mitochondrial DNA was closely related to that of the host community.” In his view this suggested “that Jewish men had arrived from the Middle East, taken wives from the host population and converted them to Judaism, after which there was no further intermarriage with non-Jews.”[91]

In 2006, a study by Behar et al.,[118] based on what was at that time high-resolution analysis of haplogroup K (mtDNA), suggested that about 40% of the current Ashkenazi population is descended matrilineally from just four women, or “founder lineages”, that were “likely from a Hebrew/Levantine mtDNA pool” originating in the Middle East in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. Additionally, Behar et al. suggested that the rest of Ashkenazi mtDNA is originated from ~150 women, and that most of those were also likely of Middle Eastern origin.[118] In reference specifically to Haplogroup K, they suggested that although it is common throughout western Eurasia, “the observed global pattern of distribution renders very unlikely the possibility that the four aforementioned founder lineages entered the Ashkenazi mtDNA pool via gene flow from a European host population”.

In 2013, however, a study of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA by a team led by Martin B. Richards of the University of Huddersfield in England reached different conclusions, again corroborating the pre-2006 origin hypothesis. Testing was performed on the full 16,600 DNA units composing mitochondrial DNA (the 2006 Behar study had only tested 1,000 units) in all their subjects, and the study found that the four main female Ashkenazi founders had descent lines that were established in Europe 10,000 to 20,000 years in the past[119] while most of the remaining minor founders also have a deep European ancestry. The study states that the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Near East (i.e., they were non-Israelite), nor were they recruited in the Caucasus (i.e., they were non-Khazar), but instead they were assimilated within Europe, primarily of Italian and Old French origins. Richards summarized the findings on the female line as such: “[N]one [of the mtDNA] came from the North Caucasus, located along the border between Europe and Asia between the Black and Caspian seas. All of our presently available studies including my own, should thoroughly debunk one of the most questionable, but still tenacious, hypotheses: that most Ashkenazi Jews can trace their roots to the mysterious Khazar Kingdom that flourished during the ninth century in the region between the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire.”[115] The 2013 study estimated that 80 percent of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry comes from women indigenous to Europe, and only 8 percent from the Near East, while the origin of the remainder is undetermined.[12][119] According to the study these findings “point to a significant role for the conversion of women in the formation of Ashkenazi communities.”[12][13][120][121][122][123]

Variation in Ashkenazi mtDNA is highly distinctive, with four major and numerous minor founders. However, due to their rarity in the general population, these founders had been difficult to trace to a source.

A 2014 study by Fernndez et al. has found that Ashkenazi Jews display a frequency of haplogroup K in their maternal DNA that suggests an ancient Near Eastern origin, similar to the results of Behar. He stated that this observation clearly contradicts the results of the study led by Richards that suggested a European source for 3 exclusively Ashkenazi K lineages.[124]

In genetic epidemiology, a genome-wide association study (GWA study, or GWAS) is an examination of all or most of the genes (the genome) of different individuals of a particular species to see how much the genes vary from individual to individual. These techniques were originally designed for epidemiological uses, to identify genetic associations with observable traits.[125]

A 2006 study by Seldin et al. used over five thousand autosomal SNPs to demonstrate European genetic substructure. The results showed “a consistent and reproducible distinction between ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ European population groups”. Most northern, central, and eastern Europeans (Finns, Swedes, English, Irish, Germans, and Ukrainians) showed >90% in the “northern” population group, while most individual participants with southern European ancestry (Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, Spaniards) showed >85% in the “southern” group. Both Ashkenazi Jews as well as Sephardic Jews showed >85% membership in the “southern” group. Referring to the Jews clustering with southern Europeans, the authors state the results were “consistent with a later Mediterranean origin of these ethnic groups”.[126]

A 2007 study by Bauchet et al. found that Ashkenazi Jews were most closely clustered with Arabic North African populations when compared to Global population, and in the European structure analysis, they share similarities only with Greeks and Southern Italians, reflecting their east Mediterranean origins.[127][128]

A 2010 study on Jewish ancestry by Atzmon-Ostrer et al. stated “Two major groups were identified by principal component, phylogenetic, and identity by descent (IBD) analysis: Middle Eastern Jews and European/Syrian Jews. The IBD segment sharing and the proximity of European Jews to each other and to southern European populations suggested similar origins for European Jewry and refuted large-scale genetic contributions of Central and Eastern European and Slavic populations to the formation of Ashkenazi Jewry”, as both groups the Middle Eastern Jews and European/Syrian Jews shared common ancestors in the Middle East about 2500 years ago. The study examines genetic markers spread across the entire genome and shows that the Jewish groups (Ashkenazi and non Ashkenazi) share large swaths of DNA, indicating close relationships and that each of the Jewish groups in the study (Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Italian, Turkish, Greek and Ashkenazi) has its own genetic signature but is more closely related to the other Jewish groups than to their fellow non-Jewish countrymen.[129] Atzmon’s team found that the SNP markers in genetic segments of 3 million DNA letters or longer were 10 times more likely to be identical among Jews than non-Jews. Results of the analysis also tally with biblical accounts of the fate of the Jews. The study also found that with respect to non-Jewish European groups, the population most closely related to Ashkenazi Jews are modern-day Italians. The study speculated that the genetic-similarity between Ashkenazi Jews and Italians may be due to inter-marriage and conversions in the time of the Roman Empire. It was also found that any two Ashkenazi Jewish participants in the study shared about as much DNA as fourth or fifth cousins.[130][131]

A 2010 study by Bray et al., using SNP microarray techniques and linkage analysis found that when assuming Druze and Palestinian Arab populations to represent the reference to world Jewry ancestor genome, between 35 to 55 percent of the modern Ashkenazi genome can possibly be of European origin, and that European “admixture is considerably higher than previous estimates by studies that used the Y chromosome” with this reference point. Assuming this reference point the linkage disequilibrium in the Ashkenazi Jewish population was interpreted as “matches signs of interbreeding or ‘admixture’ between Middle Eastern and European populations”.[132] On the Bray et al. tree, Ashkenazi Jews were found to be a genetically more divergent population than Russians, Orcadians, French, Basques, Italians, Sardinians and Tuscans. The study also observed that Ashkenazim are more diverse than their Middle Eastern relatives, which was counterintuitive because Ashkenazim are supposed to be a subset, not a superset, of their assumed geographical source population. Bray et al. therefore postulate that these results reflect not the population antiquity but a history of mixing between genetically distinct populations in Europe. However, it’s possible that the relaxation of marriage prescription in the ancestors of Ashkenazim that drove their heterozygosity up, while the maintenance of the FBD rule in native Middle Easterners have been keeping their heterozygosity values in check. Ashkenazim distinctiveness as found in the Bray et al. study, therefore, may come from their ethnic endogamy (ethnic inbreeding), which allowed them to “mine” their ancestral gene pool in the context of relative reproductive isolation from European neighbors, and not from clan endogamy (clan inbreeding). Consequently, their higher diversity compared to Middle Easterners stems from the latter’s marriage practices, not necessarily from the former’s admixture with Europeans.[133]

The genome-wide genetic study carried out in 2010 by Behar et al. examined the genetic relationships among all major Jewish groups, including Ashkenazim, as well as the genetic relationship between these Jewish groups and non-Jewish ethnic populations. The study found that contemporary Jews (excluding Indian and Ethiopian Jews) have a close genetic relationship with people from the Levant. The authors explained that “the most parsimonious explanation for these observations is a common genetic origin, which is consistent with an historical formulation of the Jewish people as descending from ancient Hebrew and Israelite residents of the Levant”.[134]

Speculation that the Ashkenazi arose from Khazar stock surfaced in the later 19th century and has met with mixed fortunes in the scholarly literature. In late 2012 Eran Elhaik, a research associate studying genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, argued for Khazar descent in his paper The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses.[135][136] A 2013 study of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA found no significant evidence of Khazar contribution to the Ashkenazi Jewish DNA, as would be predicted by the Khazar hypothesis.[137]

A 2013 trans-genome study carried out by 30 geneticists, from 13 universities and academies, from 9 countries, assembling the largest data set available to date, for assessment of Ashkenazi Jewish genetic origins found no evidence of Khazar origin among Ashkenazi Jews. “Thus, analysis of Ashkenazi Jews together with a large sample from the region of the Khazar Khaganate corroborates the earlier results that Ashkenazi Jews derive their ancestry primarily from populations of the Middle East and Europe, that they possess considerable shared ancestry with other Jewish populations, and that there is no indication of a significant genetic contribution either from within or from north of the Caucasus region”, the authors concluded.[138]

There are many references to Ashkenazi Jews in the literature of medical and population genetics. Indeed, much awareness of “Ashkenazi Jews” as an ethnic group or category stems from the large number of genetic studies of disease, including many that are well reported in the media, that have been conducted among Jews. Jewish populations have been studied more thoroughly than most other human populations, for a variety of reasons:

The result is a form of ascertainment bias. This has sometimes created an impression that Jews are more susceptible to genetic disease than other populations.[139] Healthcare professionals are often taught to consider those of Ashkenazi descent to be at increased risk for colon cancer.[140]

A study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine examines a particular genetic trait that increases the lifespan of the Ashkenazi population. The study focuses on telomerase, the enzyme responsible for maintaining telomeres at the ends of chromosomes during cell division.[141][142]

Genetic counseling and genetic testing are often undertaken by couples where both partners are of Ashkenazi ancestry. Some organizations, most notably Dor Yeshorim, organize screening programs to prevent homozygosity for the genes that cause related diseases.[143][144]

Link:
Ashkenazi Jews – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Written on August 16th, 2015 & filed under Jewish History Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This article is about the mother of Barack Obama. For the British equestrian, see Anne Dunham. Ann Dunham

Ann Dunham in 1960

Stanley Ann Dunham (November 29, 1942 November 7, 1995) was the mother of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, and an American anthropologist who specialized in economic anthropology and rural development.[1] Dunham was known as Stanley Dunham through high school, then as Ann Dunham, Ann Obama, Ann Soetoro, Ann Sutoro (after her second divorce), and finally as Ann Dunham.[2] Born in Wichita, Kansas, Dunham spent her childhood in California, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas, her teenage years in Mercer Island, Washington, and most of her adult life in Hawaii and Indonesia.[3]

Dunham studied at the EastWest Center and at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu, where she attained a bachelor’s in anthropology[4] and master’s and Ph.D. in anthropology.[5] She also attended University of Washington at Seattle in 1961-1962. Interested in craftsmanship, weaving and the role of women in cottage industries, Dunham’s research focused on women’s work on the island of Java and blacksmithing in Indonesia. To address the problem of poverty in rural villages, she created microcredit programs while working as a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development. Dunham was also employed by the Ford Foundation in Jakarta and she consulted with the Asian Development Bank in Gujranwala, Pakistan. Towards the latter part of her life, she worked with Bank Rakyat Indonesia, where she helped apply her research to the largest microfinance program in the world.[5]

After her son was elected President, interest renewed in Dunham’s work: The University of Hawaii held a symposium about her research; an exhibition of Dunham’s Indonesian batik textile collection toured the United States; and in December 2009, Duke University Press published Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia, a book based on Dunham’s original 1992 dissertation. Janny Scott, an author and former New York Times reporter, published a biography about Ann Dunham’s life titled A Singular Woman in 2011. Posthumous interest has also led to the creation of The Ann Dunham Soetoro Endowment in the Anthropology Department at the University of Hawaii at Mnoa, as well as the Ann Dunham Soetoro Graduate Fellowships, intended to fund students associated with the EastWest Center (EWC) in Honolulu, Hawaii.[6]

In an interview, Barack Obama referred to his mother as “the dominant figure in my formative years… The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics.”[7]

Dunham was born on November 29, 1942 at Saint Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas,[8] the only child of Madelyn Lee Payne and Stanley Armour Dunham.[9] She was of predominantly English ancestry, with some German, Swiss, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh ancestry.[10]Wild Bill Hickok is her sixth cousin, five times removed.[11]

Ancestry.com announced on July 30, 2012, after using a combination of old documents and yDNA analysis, that Dunham’s mother may have been descended from African John Punch, who was an indentured servant/slave in seventeenth-century colonial Virginia.[12][13]

Her parents were born in Kansas and met in Wichita, where they married on May 5, 1940.[14] After the attack on Pearl Harbor, her father joined the United States Army and her mother worked at a Boeing plant in Wichita.[15] According to Dunham, she was named after her father because he wanted a son, though her relatives doubt this story and her maternal uncle recalled that her mother named Dunham after her favorite actress Bette Davis’ character in the film In This Our Life because she thought it sounded sophisticated.[16] As a child and teenager she was known as Stanley.[2] Other children teased her about her name but she used it through high school, “apologizing for it each time she introduced herself in a new town”.[17] By the time Dunham began attending college, she was known by her middle name, Ann, instead.[2] After World War II, Dunham’s family moved from Wichita to California while her father attended the University of California, Berkeley. In 1948, they moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma, and from there to Vernon, Texas, and then to El Dorado, Kansas.[18] In 1955, the family moved to Seattle, Washington, where her father was employed as a furniture salesman and her mother worked as vice president of a bank. They lived in an apartment complex in the Wedgwood neighborhood where she attended Nathan Eckstein Junior High School.[19]

In 1956, Dunham’s family moved to Mercer Island, an Eastside suburb of Seattle. Dunham’s parents wanted their 13-year-old daughter to attend the newly opened Mercer Island High School.[7] At the school, teachers Val Foubert and Jim Wichterman taught the importance of challenging social norms and questioning authority to the young Dunham, and she took the lessons to heart: “She felt she didn’t need to date or marry or have children.” One classmate remembered her as “intellectually way more mature than we were and a little bit ahead of her time, in an off-center way”,[7] and a high school friend described her as knowledgeable and progressive: “If you were concerned about something going wrong in the world, Stanley would know about it first. We were liberals before we knew what liberals were.” Another called her “the original feminist”.[7]

Read more from the original source:
Ann Dunham – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Written on August 11th, 2015 & filed under Anne Frank Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The name of God in Judaism used most often in the Hebrew Bible is (YHWH), also known as the Tetragrammaton. Elohim (God, singular and plural form, depending on the context), and Adonai (master), are regarded by rabbinic Judaism not as names, but as epithets or titles reflecting different aspects of God. Elohim is the aspect of justice, and Adonai the aspect of mercy.[1]

The name of God in Judaism used most often in the Hebrew Bible is the four-letter name (YHWH), also known as the Tetragrammaton (Greek for “four letters”). The Tetragrammaton appears 6,828 times in the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia edition of the Hebrew Masoretic Text. It first appears at Genesis 2:4 and is usually translated as the LORD in many English language Bibles, although Jehovah or Yahweh are employed in others.

The Hebrew letters are (right to left) Yodh, He, Waw and He (). It is written as YHWH, YHVH, or JHVH in English, depending on the transliteration convention that is used. YHWH is thought to be an archaic third person singular imperfect of the verb “to be” (meaning, therefore, “He is”). This interpretation agrees with the meaning of the name given in Exodus 3:14 where God is represented as speaking, and hence as using the first person (“I am”).

The name ceased to be pronounced in Second Temple Judaism, by the 3rd century BCE.[2]Rabbinical Judaism teaches that the name is forbidden to be uttered except by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) in the inner sanctum (Kodesh ha-Kadoshim, or Holy of Holies) of the Temple on Yom Kippur. Throughout the service, the High Priest pronounced the name YHWH (or Yehowah) “just as it is written”[3] in each blessing he made. When the people standing in the Temple courtyard heard the name they prostrated themselves flat on the floor.

Passages such as: “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, YHWH [be] with you. And they answered him, YHWH bless thee.” (Ruth 2:4), indicates the name was still being pronounced at the time of the redaction of the Hebrew Bible in the 6th or 5th century BCE. The prohibition against verbalizing the name did not apply to the forms of the name within theophoric names (the prefixes yeho-, yo-, and the suffixes -yahu, -yah) and their pronunciation remains in use.

There is nothing in the Torah to prohibit the saying of the name,[4] but modern Jews never pronounce YHWH, instead, Jews say Adonai (“Lord”). The Jewish Publication Society translation of 1917, in online versions, uses YHWH once at Exodus 6:3.

Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Hebrew: ) is the first of three responses given to Moses when he asks for God’s name (Exodus 3:14). The King James version of the Bible translates the Hebrew as “I Am that I Am” and uses it as a proper name for God. The Aramaic Targum Onkelos leaves the phrase untranslated and is so quoted in the Talmud (B. B. 73a.[clarification needed])

Ehyeh is the first-person singular imperfect form of hayah, “to be”. Ehyeh is usually translated “I will be”, since the imperfect tense in Hebrew denotes actions that are not yet completed (e.g. Exodus 3:12, “Certainly I will be [ehyeh] with thee.”).[5] Asher is an ambiguous pronoun which can mean, depending on context, “that”, “who”, “which”, or “where”.[5]

Although Ehyeh asher ehyeh is generally rendered in English “I am that I am”, better renderings might be “I will be what I will be” or “I will be who I will be”, or “I shall prove to be whatsoever I shall prove to be” or even “I will be because I will be”.[6] Other renderings include: Leeser, I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE; Rotherham, “I Will Become whatsoever I please.” Greek, Ego eimi ho on ( ), “I am The Being” in the Septuagint,[7] and Philo,[8][9] and Revelation[10] or, “I am The Existing One”; Lat., ego sum qui sum, “I am Who I am.”[11]

“Jah” appears often in theophoric names, such as Elijah, Adonijah, or Hallelujah. Found in the King James Version of the Bible at Psalm 68:4.

Continued here:
Names of God in Judaism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Written on August 9th, 2015 & filed under Judaism Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reflections & Religion

This essay is a continuation of a previous post, The Jewish Way.

Matthew 5:20, Christian Bible

Matthew 10: 5-6, Christian Bible

One of the most common themes in literature is teshuvah, or return and repentance. I am not a follower of the Christian tradition by any means, but one of the most famous stories that focuses on this theme in the Christian faith is The Prodigal Son.

It is a touching parable attributed to Jesus of Nazareth about a wayward son who asks for his inheritance when his father is still alivea real slap in the face of traditionsquanders it living the high life, and ends up destitute and feeding the pigs, an unkosher animal that symbolizes non-Jewish ways and traditions. He eventually makes it home, expecting to be treated with contempt, but is instead received in kindness and joy as a king.

In the Christian tradition, the story is significant in that it speaks about God’s patient and enduring love for humanity in general and his love for his own, in this case, followers of the Christian church in particular. There is no getting way from that reality when one reads the Christian interpretation of the story, even from the most liberal and Judaic-knowledgeable and -aware sources.

Even so, the conventional Christian interpretation, as full of humanity and humility it contains, surely misses the mark. Unfortunately, this view, even shared by Christian scholars and theologians of first-rank minds, fails to take into account a few essential points. In short, the whole social and cultural history of the parable and frame it within the proper context.

That being said, I would like to add another interpretation of this famous and well-liked parable. A midrash so to speak, in a sort of inquiry to the narrative’s meaning. I am not a biblical scholar or a Judaic studies scholar, but I am fairly familiar with the biblical narratives contained in the main books of both Judaism and Christianity and the traditions that inform them. So I say this not without knowledge or thought. The story of the Prodigal Son is actually about Jewish teshuvah or return to Jewish ways and values.

That is, the story is directed only at Jesus’ co-religionists at the time, his fellow Jews. His message is directly aimed at the idea of maintaining their Jewish ways and traditions, even in the face of opposition and the temptation to assimilate into the larger surrounding culture of Hellenistic Greece, which still had resonance in Roman-conqueredJudea. There is no getting away from that fact, and I am not sure how Christians today can read anything but that essential truth into the story.

Originally posted here:
Perry J Greenbaum: The Jewish Prodigal


Anne Hathaway

Hathaway in 2014

Anne Jacqueline Hathaway (born November 12, 1982) is an American actress, singer, and producer.

After several stage roles, Hathaway appeared in the 1999 television series Get Real. She came to prominence after playing Mia Thermopolis in the Disney film The Princess Diaries (2001) and in its 2004 sequel. Since then, Hathaway has starred in dramatic films such as the 2005 films Havoc and Brokeback Mountain. She has also starred in The Devil Wears Prada in 2006 and in Becoming Jane (2007) as Jane Austen and also in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) as Dr. Brand.

In 2008, she won several awards for her performance in Rachel Getting Married, also earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. In 2010, she starred in the box office hits Valentine’s Day, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and Love and Other Drugs and won an Emmy Award for her voice-over performance on The Simpsons. In 2011, she had a voice role in the animated film Rio. In 2012, she portrayed Selina Kyle/Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Fantine in Tom Hooper’s Les Misrables. Her performance in the latter earned her rave reviews and several accolades, including the Golden Globe Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, the BAFTA Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

People magazine named her one of its breakthrough stars of 2001,[1] and she appeared on its list of the world’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 2006.[2]

Hathaway was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Kathleen Ann “Kate” (ne McCauley) and Gerald Thomas Hathaway.[3] Her father is a lawyer, and her mother is a former actress who inspired Hathaway to follow in her footsteps.[4] Hathaway’s mother played Fantine in the first U.S. tour of Les Misrables.[5] When Hathaway was six years old, the family moved to Millburn, New Jersey, where she grew up.[6] Hathaway is the middle of three children with an older brother, Michael, and a younger brother, Thomas. She is of mostly French and Irish ancestry, with distant Native American and German roots.[7]

Raised Roman Catholic with what she considers “really strong values”, Hathaway stated that she wished to be a nun during her childhood: “When I was 11, I felt like I got a calling from God to be a nun.”[6][8] At the age of 15, her relationship with the Catholic Church changed after she learned that her brother Michael was gay.[8] She has stated: “I realized my older brother was gay, and I couldn’t support a religion that didn’t support my brother. Now I call myself a non-denominational Christian, because I haven’t found the religion for me.”[9] In 2009, she stated that her religious beliefs are “a work in progress”.[8][10]

Hathaway attended Brooklyn Heights Montessori School and Wyoming Elementary School in Millburn.[11] She graduated from Millburn High School, where she participated in many school plays; her high school performance as Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress gained her a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award nomination for Best Performance by a High School Actress. During this time, she was in plays including Jane Eyre and Gigi at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse.[12] She spent several semesters studying as an English major and Women’s Studies minor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, before transferring to New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, referring to her college enrollment as one of her best decisions because she enjoyed being with others who were trying to “grow up”.[13]

Hathaway also studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and was the first teenager admitted into The Barrow Group Theater Company’s acting program.[14] A soprano, she performed in 1998 and 1999 with the All-Eastern U.S. High School Honors Chorus at Carnegie Hall and has performed in plays at Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange, New Jersey. She is a trained stage actress and has stated that she prefers performing on stage to film roles.[6] Her acting style has been compared to those of Judy Garland and Audrey Hepburn.[15] She cites Garland as one of her favorite actresses[11] and Meryl Streep as her idol.[16]

Excerpt from:
Anne Hathaway – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Written on August 9th, 2015 & filed under Anne Frank Tags: , , , , , , ,

Updated July 31, 2015 7:17 p.m. ET

JERUSALEMSuspected Jewish extremists fire-bombed two Palestinian homes in a West Bank village early Friday, killing a toddler and prompting the Israeli army to deploy fresh forces to the territory to prevent unrest.

Assailants torched two houses about 4 a.m., according to Israeli emergency response personnel and witnesses. One home was apparently empty and the family was sleeping in the other. An 18-month-old boy was killed immediately, Israeli doctors told Israeli radio and television stations, while his father, mother and 5-year-old brother survived the blaze with critical burns.

Neighbors said the parents emerged from their home in flames as two masked men fled the site in Duma, is a small village near Nablus, the only West Bank city ruled by Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza.

A neighbor and relative of the victims said he tried unsuccessfully to enter the burning building to save the boy. A huge fire stopped me and I saw there was a cupboard that had fallen on the baby, he said in an interview.

Late on Friday, Israeli troops shot a teen who was part of a group demonstrating against the fire-bombing. Palestinian media said the teen died. The Israel Defense Forces said troops shot the suspect after he approached a security fence and ignored repeated warning shots. The IDF confirmed the teens death.

The firebombing followed another extremist attack on Thursday, when an ultra-Orthodox Jew who was convicted a decade ago of stabbing people at a gay pride parade here repeated the crime on Thursday, this time wounding six people at the same event.

On Friday, the suspect, Yishai Schlissel, appeared in court, where his arrest was extended for 12 days as the investigation against him continued, the Associated Press reported.

Referring to Fridays assault, Palestinian leaders blamed Israel for a failure to crack down on violent attacks from Israels West Bank settlers.

We hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the brutal assassination of the toddler, said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, emerging from an emergency meeting. Mr. Abbas said the Palestinian leadership intended to take the case to the International Criminal Court.

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Attack in West Bank Kills Palestinian Child – WSJ


After the family was arrested, they were all taken to concentration camps. Edith Frank, Annes mother, died of starvation in Auschwitz on January 6, 1945, a day before the camp was liberated. Margot, Annes sister, and Anne herself both died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen, Margot in March, 1945 and Anne in April, 1945, a few weeks before it, too, was liberated. Otto Frank, her father, was the only survivor from the family (Anne Franks Timeline).

When Otto Frank returned and entered the now abandoned home and Annex, he noticed a drawer open in the antique wooden dresser in the corner. In the drawer there was a green folder marked in Miep Gies’ handwriting, “Annes Diary.” As Otto opened it, tears poured down his face. “This is all that is left of my Anne,” he thought to himself. As he sat on the hard, cold, wooden floor, he began to read aloud the first page: “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support…” (Frank,1995).

Anne was the type of person who always looked on the bright side of things. Even when she was in hiding, she never doubted the fact she would get out of there alive. She said as one of her first impressions of the Annex, “The Annex is an ideal place to hide in. It may be damp and lopsided, but theres probably not a more comfortable hiding place in all of Amsterdam. No, in all of Holland” (Frank,1995). Most people would have been in severe depression if they were forced to leave their home for a place like this. She would also sometimes prefer the Annex to the outside, because it protected her from the dangers of the street. She referred to it once as “a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds” (Brown,1991). A hero should always be positive, and that is what Anne was. She never gave up hope, not until the moment she died.

Anne and her family lived in the Secret Annex for almost three years without ever once setting foot outdoors. This would require extreme patience just to be able to stay in the house for so long. In addition, the eight members of the house couldnt move from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM, so no one would hear them below. This called for even more patience, to sit still for ten hours straight. Anne must have been a calm, even-tempered person if she lived with the same eight people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 3 years. This trait in Anne demonstrates why she was a great hero.

Anne Frank was a very strong and brave person. When she was younger, living in the Netherlands, her teachers described her as someone who always spoke her mind, someone who liked attention, liked to make people laugh, “a little comedian” (Brown,1991). They also said she was very mature for her age, had a good sense of herself, that “she knew who she was” (Brown,1991). She loved performing, especially in school plays. To keep herself strong, she used a diary she received for her 13th birthday as an outlet for her fear. “When I write, I can shake off all my cares” (Anne Frank: Her Life and Times). Her personality was strong, which in turn allowed her to show great bravery in life. She must have had to be extremely brave to sit in bed at night and hear the sirens, taking away friends and family. She also heard the bombs, the explosions as the war raged around her. For her to be able to handle this, and still go on living a semi-normal life, as recorded in her diary, proved that she was very brave.

By writing her famous diary, Anne Frank helped the world understand that the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust had faces, lives, and personalities. She has been called the “human face of the Holocaust,” and her personal record of “her struggle to keep hope alive through the darkest days of this century has touched the hearts of millions” (Mller). She helped teach people that the Holocaust did happen, and it was a horrible thing. Without her help, the world would never know the intensity of the pain caused during this time. A boy, who was once so moved after he performed in a play about Anne, wrote to Otto Frank, and said that he realized that “not only does Anne stand for the Jews, but for any human being who suffered because of his beliefs, color, or race” (Brown,1991).

Anne Frank is a hero because she was optimistic, patient, unselfish, and strong. For some, she has been someone to look up to. For others, she has been a victim of wrongdoing that will help to prevent the same tragedy from happening again. She died unjustly. If she had lived, she could have been someone who was famous for her life, not her death.

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The My Hero Project – Anne Frank

Written on July 19th, 2015 & filed under Anne Frank Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“Forget You Not”: Holocaust S urviv ors a nd R eme mbr a n c e Proj e ct – Part IV – TABLE OF CONTENTS . .

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On December 7, 1970, while in Warsaw for a commemorative service honoring the participants of the WarsawGhettoUprising, the German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneels in front of the Monument, in an apparent gesture of apology, repentance, and reconciliation.

Photo Credit:

1. Pre-Holocaust Studies

The Israeli Coat of Arms features the Menorah, the candelabra used in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. It, along with other Temple artifacts, was captured almost two millennia ago by the Romans during their siege of Jerusalem. According to the historian Flavius Josephus, a Jew who lived at the time of the Romans, “Most of the spoils that were carried were heaped up indiscriminately, but more prominent than all the rest were those captured in the Temple at Jerusalem – a golden table weighing several hundred weight, and a lampstand similarly made of gold but differently constructed from those we normally use. The central shaft was fixed to a base, and from it extended slender branches placed like the prongs of a trident, and with the end of each one forged into a lamp: these numbered seven, signifying the honour paid to that number by the Jews.” (Josephus, The Jewish War, G.A. Williamson, translator, Penguin, 1959.) The Arch of Titus in Rome has on it a carving depicting the spoils of the Temple – including the Menorah – being carried triumphantly through Rome.

Courtesy of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Originally posted here:
Part IV – Holocaust Studies, Anti-Semitism and Related Topics