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The Jewish diaspora (or simply the Diaspora; Hebrew Galut גלות; Yiddish Golus) refers to the Jews who left the region of the Kingdom of Judah and Roman Judaea as well as those who later emigrated from wider Eretz Israel. Throughout much of Jewish history, most Jews have lived in the Diaspora. Today, the world's Jewish population is mainly concentrated in two countries, viz. the United States and Israel.
The diaspora began with the 6th century BCE conquest of the ancient Kingdom of Judah by Babylon, the destruction of the First Temple (c. 586 BCE), and the expulsion of the population, as recorded in the Bible. The Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar, allowed the Jews to remain in a unified community in Babylon. Another group of Jews fled to Egypt, where they settled in the Nile delta. From 597 BCE onwards, there were three distinct groups of Hebrews: a group in Babylon and other parts of the Middle East, a group in Judaea, and another group in Egypt. While Cyrus the Persian allowed the Jews to return to their homeland in 538 BCE, most chose to remain in Babylon. A large number of Jews in Egypt became mercenaries in Upper Egypt on an island called the Elephantine. Most of these Jews retained their religion, identity, and social customs; both under the Persians and the Greeks, they were allowed to conduct their lives according to their own laws.
In 63 BCE, Judah/Judaea became a 'protectorate' of Rome, and in 6 CE was organized as a Roman province. The Jews began to revolt against the Roman Empire in 66 CE during the period known as the First Jewish–Roman War which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE. During the siege, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and most of Jerusalem. In 132, the Jews rebelled against Hadrian. In 135, Hadrian's army defeated the Jewish armies and Jewish independence was lost. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina and the Jews were forbidden to live there, and Hadrian changed the country's name from Judea to Syria Palaestina.
During the Middle Ages, the Jewish diaspora had divided into distinct regional groups which today are generally addressed according to three primary geographical groupings: the Ashkenazi Jews who immigrated to Central and later Eastern Europe, the Sephardi Jews who settled in Iberia and later North Africa, and the Mizrahi Jews who remained in the Babylon after the destruction of the First Temple. Ashkenazi populations grew rapidly from the 16th to the 19th centuries, with the largest diaspora populations in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Russian Empire. Millions of Jews migrated to the Americas in the 20th century. In the early 21st century the largest diaspora populations were in the United States (≈5.75 million), France (≈475,000), Canada (≈375,000), the United Kingdom (≈300,000), Russia (≈200,000), Argentina (≈200,000) and Germany (≈120,000).
- 1 Origins of the term
- 2 Pre-Roman diaspora
- 3 Roman destruction of Judea
- 4 Dispersion of the Jews in the Roman Empire
- 5 Post-Roman period Jewish populations
- 6 Zionist "Negation of the Diaspora"
- 7 Mystical explanation
- 8 Today
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Origins of the term
The Greek word διασπορά (dispersion) appears in the Ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint: ἔση διασπορὰ ἐν πάσαις βασιλείαις τῆς γῆς (thou shalt be a diaspora (or dispersion) in all kingdoms of the earth) (Deuteronomy xxviii:25). In Talmudic and post-Talmudic Rabbinic literature, this phenomenon was referred to as galut (exile), a term with strongly negative connotations, often contrasted with geula (redemption). The modern Hebrew concept of Tefutzot תפוצות, "scattered", was introduced in the 1930s by the Jewish-American Zionist academic Simon Rawidowicz, who to some degree argued for the acceptance of the Jewish presence outside of the Land of Israel as a modern reality and an inevitability. The Greek term for Diaspora (διασπορά) also appears three times in the New Testament, where it refers to the scattering of Israel, i.e., the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel as opposed to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, although James (1:1) refers to the scattering of all twelve tribes.
After the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon (see Babylonian captivity) and the deportation of a considerable portion of its inhabitants to Mesopotamia, the Jews had two principal cultural centers: Babylonia and the land of Israel.
Although most of the Jewish people in this period, especially the wealthy families, were to be found in Babylonia, the existence they led there, under the successive rules of the Achaemenids, the Seleucids, the Parthians, and the Sassanians, was obscure and devoid of political influence. The poorest but most fervent of the exiles returned to Judah / the Land of Israel during the reign of the Achaemenids. There, with the reconstructed Temple in Jerusalem as their center, they organized themselves into a community, animated by a remarkable religious ardor and a tenacious attachment to the Torah as the focus of its identity. As this little nucleus increased in numbers with the accession of recruits from various quarters, it awoke to a consciousness of itself, and strove once again for national independence and political enfranchisement and sovereignty.
After numerous vicissitudes, and especially owing to internal dissensions in the Seleucid dynasty on the one hand and to the interested support of the pre-Roman Empire, pre-autocratic Roman Republic on the other, the cause of Jewish independence finally triumphed. Under the Hasmonean princes, who were at first high priests and then kings, the Jewish state displayed even a certain luster and annexed several territories. Soon, however, discord in the royal family and the growing disaffection of the pious, the soul of the nation, toward rulers who no longer evinced any appreciation of the real aspirations of their subjects made the Jewish nation easy prey for the ambition of the now increasingly autocratic and imperial Romans, the successors of the Seleucids. In 63 BCE Pompey invaded Jerusalem, the Jewish people lost their political sovereignty and independence, and Gabinius subjected the Jewish people to tribute.
Early diaspora populations
As early as the middle of the 2nd century BCE the Jewish author of the third book of the Oracula Sibyllina addressed the "chosen people," saying: "Every land is full of thee and every sea." The most diverse witnesses, such as Strabo, Philo, Seneca, Luke (the author of the Acts of the Apostles), Cicero, and Josephus, all mention Jewish populations in the cities of the Mediterranean basin. See also History of the Jews in India and History of the Jews in China for pre-Roman (and post-) diasporic populations. King Agrippa I, in a letter to Caligula, enumerated among the provinces of the Jewish diaspora almost all the Hellenized and non-Hellenized countries of the Orient. This enumeration was far from complete as Italy and Cyrene were not included. The epigraphic discoveries from year to year augment the number of known Jewish communities but must be viewed with caution due to the lack of precise evidence of their numbers. According to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, the next most dense Jewish population after the Land of Israel and Babylonia was in Syria, particularly in Antioch, and Damascus, where 10,000 to 18,000 Jews were massacred during the great insurrection. The ancient Jewish philosopher Philo gives the number of Jewish inhabitants in Egypt as one million, one-eighth of the population. Alexandria was by far the most important of the Egyptian Jewish communities. The Jews in the Egyptian diaspora were on a par with their Ptolemaic counterparts and close ties existed for them with Jerusalem. As in other Hellenistic diasporas, the Egyptian diaspora was one of choice not of imposition.
To judge by the accounts of wholesale massacres in 115 BCE, the number of Jewish residents in Cyrenaica, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia was also large. At the commencement of the reign of Caesar Augustus, there were over 7,000 Jews in Rome (though this is only the number that is said to have escorted the envoys who came to demand the deposition of Archelaus; compare: Bringmann: Klaus: Geschichte der Juden im Altertum, Stuttgart 2005, S. 202. Bringmann talks about 8.000 Jews who lived in the city of Rome.). Many sources say that the Jews constituted a full one-tenth (10%) of the population of the ancient city of Rome itself. Finally, if the sums confiscated by the governor Lucius Valerius Flaccus in the year 62/61 BCE represented the tax of a didrachma per head for a single year, it would imply that the Jewish population of Asia Minor numbered 45,000 adult males, for a total of at least 180,000 persons.
"No date or origin can be assigned to the numerous Jewish settlements eventually known in the West. While some were surely founded (and many certainly greatly increased) as a result of the dispersal of Judaean Jews from the Land of Israel and their expulsion from Jerusalem after the revolt of CE 66–70 (The First Jewish–Roman War, known as the Great Revolt) and the revolt of 132–135 (the Second Jewish–Roman War, known as the Bar Kochba Revolt), it is also known that there were already many Jews living outside of the Land of Israel before the Roman imperial oppression and decidedly before the Jewish uprisings for independence and freedom from Roman rule in their homeland—and before their uprisings were crushed. It is reasonable to conjecture that many, such as the settlement in Puteoli attested in 4 BCE, went back to the late (pre-Roman Empire) Roman Republic or early Empire and originated in voluntary emigration and the lure of trade and commerce."
Roman destruction of Judea
Roman rule, which began in 63 BCE, continued until a revolt from CE 66–70, a Jewish uprising to fight for independence, was eventually crushed after four years, culminating in the capture of Jerusalem and the burning and destruction of the Temple, the centre of the national and religious life of the Jews throughout the world. Jerusalem was also destroyed.
Exactly when Roman Anti-Judaism began is a question of scholarly debate, however historian H.H. Ben-Sasson has proposed that the "Crisis under Caligula" (37–41) was the "first open break between Rome and the Jews".
The complete destruction of Jerusalem, and the settlement of several Greek and Roman colonies in Judah/Judaea and the Land of Israel (and the changing of its name to Palestina and of Jerusalem's name to Aelia Capitolina) indicated the express intention of the Roman government to prevent the political regeneration of the Jewish nation—indeed to extinguish it and sever their connection to their homeland. Nevertheless, forty years later the Jews put forth efforts to recover their former freedom. With Israel exhausted, they strove to establish commonwealths on the ruins of Hellenism in Cyrene, Cyprus, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. These efforts, resolute but some would say unwise, were suppressed by Trajan (115–117 CE), and under the Emperor Hadrian the same fate befell the attempt of the Jews of Israel in a new uprising to regain their independence (133–135 CE). From this time on, in spite of unimportant movements under Antoninus, Marcus Aurelius, and Severus, the Jews, reduced in numbers, destitute, and crushed, lost their preponderance in their own homeland. Jerusalem had become, under the name "Ælia Capitolina", a Roman colony and entirely pagan city. Jews were forbidden entrance on pain of death, except for the day of Tisha B'Av, see also Anti-Judaism in the Roman Empire. Yet despite the decree, there has been an almost continual Jewish presence in Jerusalem for 3,300 years, and 43 Jewish communities in Israel remained in the 6th century: 12 on the coast, in the Negev desert, and east of the Jordan, and 31 villages in Galilee (in the northern Land of Israel) and in the Jordan Valley. Yavne on the coastal plain, associated with Yochanan ben Zakai, was an important center of Rabbinic Judaism.
Dispersion of the Jews in the Roman Empire
Following the 1st century Great Revolt and the 2nd century Simon Bar Kochba revolt, the destruction of Judaea exerted a decisive influence upon the dispersed Jewish people throughout the world. One of the most significant changes was the shift of the center of religious authority from the Temple Priesthood to Rabbis.
Many Jews probably entered the Diaspora as slaves after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and 135 CE. Although evidence for Jewish communities in the Diaspora is scanty until the fourth century, many of these slave populations may have served as the basis of later European Jewish communities. Other sources cite plenty of evidence for Jewish communities in the Diaspora well before the 4th century CE.
While the majority of Jews lived outside Judea rather than in it, and long before the destruction of the Temple, the majority of Jewish people were already living in the Diaspora with perhaps as many as a million in Alexandria for example—the Romans did not distinguish between Jews inside and outside of the Land of Israel/Judaea. They collected an annual temple tax, thereby treating all Jews as a distinct ethno-national group. The revolts in and suppression of communities in Egypt, Libya and Crete in 115–117 CE likely decimated the Jewish Diaspora population.
After the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132-135 CE the Romans engaged in mass executions and enslavement, and destroyed large numbers of Judaean towns, forbidding Jews from settling in Jerusalem or its environs (Dio Cassius, Roman History 69.12-14); there was no further Jewish government or overarching legal system thereafter in Judaea; this effectively turned the expatriate Jews of the Diaspora into a permanently exiled people with no national homeland. Restrictions (taxation, discrimination, social exclusions) further alienated and marginalized remaining Jews in the Negev and Galilee and favored the settlement of culturally pagan Syro-Phoenicians and others. It was at this time that Judaea became normatively known as Syria Palestina. The name reflected both the large scale killing of Jews during the suppression of the 2nd Jewish revolt, and a Roman policy, first pagan, then Christian, to alienate Jews from the Land of Israel and Judaea, ensuring that no Jewish temple, Jerusalem or state ever rose again.
Hellenistic-Jewish literature, culture, and discourse, once dynamic and flourishing, declined sharply from the 2nd century. As a result of Christian appropriation of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible—known to and reframed by Christians as the "Old Testament"—as its authorized version, the Rabbis prescribed only the Hebrew Bible—the text in its original language—as authoritative. Through internal and external pressures, the two communities, Greco-Roman and Jewish, diverged, the former becoming universally/monolithically Christian, and, in time, self-defined as "Roman". "Roman" would enter Arabic, Islamic discourse as "Rumi", the Quranic term for "Roman" or "belonging to the Roman Empire". "Greek" became in patristic discourse (the language of the Church fathers) synonymous with "pagan".
The concept of a Jewish people in exile entered normative medieval Jewish, Christian and Islamic thought and discourse. Mohammed addressed the Jews of Mecca and Medina as though they had been twice expelled from the land of Judaea by the servants of Allah, as, he said, a punishment for their rejection of Jesus and of the prophets.
The widespread popular belief that there was a sudden expulsion of Jews from Palestine in 70 CE that led to the creation of the Diaspora is not correct, and scholars argue that modern Jewish ancestry owes about as much to converts from the first millennium to the beginning of the Middle Ages as it does to the Jews of antiquity. The concept of Jewish exile from Palestine is dismissed by serious Jewish historical scholarship. After the revolt, the Jewish religious center shifted to the Babylonian Jewish community and its scholars. The destruction of the Second Temple was responsible for a seismic change in communal Jewish self-perception and of their place in the world. For the generations that followed the event came to represent a fundamental insight about the Jews who were to become an exiled and persecuted people for much of their history.
According to Israel Yuval, the Babylonian captivity created a promise of return in the Jewish consciousness which had the effect of enhancing the Jewish self-perception of Exile after the destruction of the Second Temple, albeit the dispersion was, Yuval says, due to an array of non-exilic factors.
Post-Roman period Jewish populations
During the Middle Ages, due to increasing geographical dispersion and re-settlement, Jews divided into distinct regional groups which today are generally addressed according to two primary geographical groupings: the Ashkenazi of Northern and Eastern Europe and Sephardic Jews of Iberia (Spain and Portugal), North Africa and the Middle East. These groups have parallel histories sharing many cultural similarities as well as a series of persecutions and massive population transfers, such as the expulsion from Spain in 1492 and the exodus from Arab countries in 1948–1973. Although the two branches comprise many unique ethno-cultural practices and links to local populations (such as Europeans for the Ashkenazim and Arabs for the Sephardim), the ample evidence of continuous communication and population transfer has been responsible for a shared sense of cultural and religious Jewish identity between Sephardim and Ashkenazim from the late Roman period to the present.
Classic period: Jews and Samaritans
The Jews (Hebrew: יְהוּדִים, Yehudim), also known as the Jewish people, are an ethnoreligious group who mainly trace their origins to the ancient Israelites of the Levant, as well as other contributory peoples/populations. The Samaritans consider themselves to be the remaining population of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who were not expelled during the ten tribes exile, and who joined with the incoming Assyrian populations to form the Samaritan community. Some biblical scholars also consider that parts of the Judean population had stayed to live in their homes during the exilic period and later joined the returning Israelites from Babylon and formed the Jews of the classic and Hasmonean era.
After the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 Judah (Hebrew: יְהוּדָה Yehuda) became a province of the Persian empire. This status continued into the following Hellenistic period, when Yehud became a disputed province of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria. In the early part of the 2nd century BCE, a revolt against the Seleucids led to the establishment of an independent Jewish kingdom under the Hasmonean dynasty. The Hasmoneans adopted a deliberate policy of imitating and reconstituting the Davidic kingdom, and as part of this forcibly converted to Judaism their neighbours in the Land of Israel. The conversions included Nabateans (Zabadeans) and Itureans, the peoples of the former Philistine cities, the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites. Attempts were also made to incorporate the Samaritans, following takeover of Samaria. The success of mass-conversions is however questionable, as most groups retained their tribal separations and mostly turned Hellenistic or Christian, with Edomites perhaps being the only exception to merge into the Jewish society under Herodian dynasty and in the following period of Jewish-Roman Wars. While there are some references to maintaining the tribal separation among Israelites during the Hasmonean period, the dominant position of the tribe of Judah as well as nationalistic policies of Hasmoneans to refer to residents of Hasmonean Judea as Jews practically erased the tribal distinction, with the exception of the priestly orders of Levites and Kohanim (tribe of Levi).
The Babylonian Jewish community, though maintaining permanent ties with the Hasmonean and later Herodian kingdoms, evolved into a separate Jewish community, which during the Talmudic period assembled its own practices, the Babylonian Talmud, slightly differing from the Jerusalem Talmud. The Babylonian Jewry is considered to be the predecessor of most Mizrahi Jewish communities.
Ashkenazi (from the medieval Hebrew word for "Germany", as in medieval times some believed that the Germanic peoples descended from Gomer's son Ashkenaz, while other Jews place all Europeans as the descendants of the biblical Edomites, a Hebrew tribe that bordered the ancient Israelites in the Levant) is a general category of Jewish populations who immigrated to what is now Germany and northeastern France during the Middle Ages and until modern times used to adhere to the "Yiddish-culture" and the "Ashkenazi" prayer style. There is evidence that groups of Jews had immigrated to Germania during the Roman Era; they were probably merchants who followed the Roman Legions during their conquests. To a larger degree, modern Ashkenazi Jews are the descendants of Jews who migrated into northern France and lower Germany around 800–1000 CE, later migrating into Eastern Europe. Many Ashkenazi Jews also have mixed Sephardic origins, as a result of exiles from Spain, first during Islamic persecutions (11th-12th centuries) and later during Christian reconquests (13th-15th centuries) and the Spanish Inquisition (15th-16th centuries). In this sense, the modern term "Ashkenazi" refers to a subset of Jewish religious practices, appropriated over time, rather than to a strict ethno-geographic division, which became erased over time.
In 2006, a study by Doron Behar and Karl Skorecki of the Technion and Ramban Medical Center in Haifa, Israel demonstrated that the vast majority of Ashkenazi Jews, both men and women, have Middle Eastern ancestry. According to Nicholas Wades' 2010 Autosomal study Ashkenazi Jews share a common ancestry with other Jewish groups and Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews have roughly 30% European ancestry with the rest being Middle Eastern. According to Hammer, the Ashkenazi population expanded through a series of bottlenecks—events that squeeze a population down to small numbers—perhaps as it migrated from the Middle East after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, to Italy, reaching the Rhine Valley in the 10th century.
However, Dr. David Goldstein, a Duke University geneticist and director of the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation, has noted that the work of the Technion and Ramban team served only to confirm that genetic drift played a major role in shaping Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA, explaining that the Technion and Ramban mtDNA studies fail to actually establish a statistically significant link between modern Jews and historic Middle Eastern populations. This differs from the patrilineal case, where Dr. Goldstein said there is no doubt of a Middle Eastern origin.
In June 2010, Behar et al. "shows that most Jewish samples form a remarkably tight subcluster with common genetic origin, that overlies Druze and Cypriot samples but not samples from other Levantine populations or paired Diaspora host populations. In contrast, Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) and Indian Jews (Bene Israel and Cochini) cluster with neighboring autochthonous populations in Ethiopia and western India, respectively, despite a clear paternal link between the Bene Israel and the Levant.". "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." In conclusion the authors are stating that the genetic results are concordant "with the dispersion of the people of ancient Israel throughout the Old World". Regarding the samples he used Behar points out that "Our conclusion favoring common ancestry (of Jewish people) over recent admixture is further supported by the fact that our sample contains individuals that are known not to be admixed in the most recent one or two generations."
A 2013 study of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA by Costa et al., reached the conclusion that the four major female founders and most of the minor female founders had ancestry in prehistoric Europe, rather than the Near East or Caucasus. According to the study these findings 'point to a significant role for the conversion of women in the formation of Ashkenazi communities".
A study by Haber, et al., (2013) noted that while previous studies of the Levant, which had focused mainly on diaspora Jewish populations, showed that the "Jews form a distinctive cluster in the Middle East", these studies did not make clear "whether the factors driving this structure would also involve other groups in the Levant". The authors found strong evidence that modern Levant populations descend from two major apparent ancestral populations. One set of genetic characteristics which is shared with modern-day Europeans and Central Asians is most prominent in the Levant amongst "Lebanese, Armenians, Cypriots, Druze and Jews, as well as Turks, Iranians and Caucasian populations". The second set of inherited genetic characteristics is shared with populations in other parts of the Middle East as well as some African populations. Levant populations in this category today include "Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, as well as North Africans, Ethiopians, Saudis, and Bedouins". Concerning this second component of ancestry, the authors remark that while it correlates with "the pattern of the Islamic expansion", and that "a pre-Islamic expansion Levant was more genetically similar to Europeans than to Middle Easterners," they also say that "its presence in Lebanese Christians, Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, Cypriots and Armenians might suggest that its spread to the Levant could also represent an earlier event". The authors also found a strong correlation between religion and apparent ancestry in the Levant:
"all Jews (Sephardi and Ashkenazi) cluster in one branch; Druze from Mount Lebanon and Druze from Mount Carmel are depicted on a private branch; and Lebanese Christians form a private branch with the Christian populations of Armenia and Cyprus placing the Lebanese Muslims as an outer group. The predominantly Muslim populations of Syrians, Palestinians and Jordanians cluster on branches with other Muslim populations as distant as Morocco and Yemen."
Another 2013 study, made by Doron M. Behar of the Rambam Health Care Campus in Israel and others, suggests that: "Cumulatively, our analyses point strongly to ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews primarily from European and Middle Eastern populations and not from populations in or near the Caucasus region. The combined set of approaches suggests that the observations of Ashkenazi proximity to European and Middle Eastern populations in population structure analyses reflect actual genetic proximity of Ashkenazi Jews to populations with predominantly European and Middle Eastern ancestry components, and lack of visible introgression from the region of the Khazar Khaganate—particularly among the northern Volga and North Caucasus populations—into the Ashkenazi community." 
Sephardim are Jews whose ancestors lived in Spain or Portugal. Some 300,000 Jews resided in Spain before the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, when the Reyes Catolicos reconquered Spain from the Arabs and ordered the Jews to convert to Catholicism, leave the country or face execution without trial. The Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 in the wake of the Alhambra decree. Sephardic Jews subsequently migrated to North Africa (Maghreb), Christian Europe (Netherlands, Britain, France and Poland), throughout the Ottoman Empire and even the newly discovered Latin America. In the Ottoman Empire, the Sephardim mostly settled in the European portion of the Empire, and mainly in the major cities such as: Istanbul, Selânik and Bursa. Selânik, which is today known as Thessaloniki and found in modern-day Greece, had a large and flourishing Sephardic community as was the community of Maltese Jews in Malta.
A large population of Sephardic refugees who fled via the Netherlands as Marranos settled in Hamburg and Altona Germany in the early 16th century, eventually appropriating Ashkenazic Jewish rituals into their religious practice. One famous figure from the Sephardic Ashkenazic population is Glückel of Hameln. Some relocated to the United States, establishing the country's first organized community of Jews and erecting the United States' first synagogue. Other Sephardim remained in Spain and Portugal as Anusim (forced converts to Catholicism), which would also be the fate for those who had migrated to Spanish and Portuguese ruled Latin America. Sephardic Jews evolved to form most of North Africa's Jewish communities of the modern era, as well as the bulk of the Turkish, Syrian, Galilean and Jerusalemite Jews of the Ottoman period.
Mizrahim are Jews descended from the Jewish communities of the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus, largely originating from the Babylonian Jewry of the classic period. The term Mizrahi is used in Israel in the language of politics, media and some social scientists for Jews from the Arab world and adjacent, primarily Muslim-majority countries. The definition of Mizrahi includes the modern Iraqi Jews, Syrian Jews, Lebanese Jews, Persian Jews, Afghan Jews, Bukharian Jews, Kurdish Jews, Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews. Some also include the North-African Sephardic communities and Yemenite Jews under the definition of Mizrahi, but do that from rather political generalization than ancestral reasons.
Temanim are Jews who were living in Yemen prior to immigrating to Ottoman Palestine and Israel. Their geographic and social isolation from the rest of the Jewish community over the course of many centuries allowed them to develop a liturgy and set of practices that are significantly distinct from those of other Oriental Jewish groups; they themselves comprise three distinctly different groups, though the distinction is one of religious law and liturgy rather than of ethnicity. Traditionally the genesis of the Yemenite Jewish community came after the Babylonian exile, though the community most probably emerged in the Roman times, and was significantly reinforced during the reign of Dhu Nuwas in the 6th century CE and later Muslim conquests of the 7th century CE, which drove the Arab Jewish tribes out from central Arabia.
Karaim are Jews who during the Middle Ages used to live mostly in Egypt, Iraq, and Crimea. They are distinguished by the form of Judaism they observe. Rabbinic Jews of varying communities have affiliated with the Karaite community throughout the millennia. As such, Karaite Jews are less an ethnic division, than they are members of a particular branch of Judaism. Karaite Judaism recognizes the Tanakh as the single religious authority of the Jewish people. Linguistic principles and contextual exegesis are used in arriving at the correct meaning of the Torah. Karaite Jews strive to adhere to the plain or most obvious understanding of the text when interpreting the Tanakh. By contrast, Rabbinical Judaism regards an Oral Law (codified and recorded in the Mishnah and Talmuds) as being equally binding on Jews, and mandated by God. In Rabbinical Judaism, the Oral Law forms the basis of religion, morality, and Jewish life. Karaite Jews rely on the use of sound reasoning and the application of linguistic tools to determine the correct meaning of the Tanakh; while Rabbinical Judaism looks toward the Oral law codified in the Talmud, to provide the Jewish community with an accurate understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.
The differences between Karaite and Rabbinic Judaism go back more than a thousand years. Rabbinical Judaism originates from the Pharisees of the Second Temple period. Karaite Judaism may have its origins in the Sadducees of the same era. Karaite Jews hold the entire Hebrew Bible to be a religious authority. As such, the vast majority of Karaites believe in the resurrection of the dead. Karaite Jews are widely regarded as being halachically Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate. Similarly, members of the rabbinic community are considered to be Jews by the Moetzet Hakhamim, if they are patrilineally Jewish.
Jews of Israel comprise an increasingly mixed wide range of Jewish communities making aliyah from Europe, North Africa, and elsewhere in the Middle East. While a significant portion of Israeli Jews still retain memories of their Sephardic, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi origins, mixed Jewish marriages among the communities are very common. There are also smaller groups of Yemenite Jews, Indian Jews and others, still retaining a semi-separate communal life. There are also approximately 50,000 adherents of Karaite Judaism, most of whom live in Israel, but exact numbers are not known, as most Karaites have not participated in any religious censuses. The Beta Israel, though somewhat disputed as descendants of ancient Israelites, are widely recognized in Israel as Ethiopian Jews.
The ancestry of most American Jews goes back to Ashkenazi Jewish communities that emigrated to the US in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as more recent influxes of Persian and other Mizrahi Jewish immigrants. The American Jewish community is considered to contain the highest percentage of mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews, resulting in both increased assimilation and a significant influx of non-Jews becoming identified as Jews. The most widespread practice in the U.S is Reform Judaism, which doesn't require or see the Jews as direct descendants of the ethnic Jews or Biblical Israelites, but rather adherents of the Jewish faith in its Reformist version, in contrast to Orthodox Judaism, the mainstream practice in Israel, which considers the Jews as a closed ethno-religious community with very strict procedures for conversion.
The Jews of modern France number around 400,000 persons, largely descendants of North African communities, some of which were Sephardic communities that had come from Spain and Portugal—others were Arab and Berber Jews from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, who were already living in North Africa before the Jewish exodus from the Iberian Peninsula—and to a smaller degree members of the Ashkenazi Jewish communities, who survived WWII and the Holocaust.
During the Jewish diaspora, Jews who lived in Christian Europe were often attacked by the local population, and were often forced to convert to Christianity. Many, known as "Anusim" ('forced-ones'), continued practicing Judaism in secret while living outwardly as ordinary Christians. The best known Anusim communities were the Jews of Spain and Jews of Portugal, although they existed throughout Europe. In the years since the rise of the Islamic religion, many Jews living in Muslim countries were forced to convert to Islam, such as the Mashhad Jews of Persia, who continued to practice Judaism in secret and eventually made an Aliyah (return to Israel). Many Anusim's descendants left Judaism over the years. The results of a study of the genetics of the Iberian Peninsula released in December 2008 "attest to a high level of religious conversion (whether voluntary or enforced) driven by historical episodes of religious intolerance, which ultimately led to the integration of descendants.
The Samaritans, who in classical times comprised a comparatively large group, now number 745 people, who live in two communities in Israel and the West Bank, and still regard themselves as descendants of the tribes of Ephraim (named by them as Aphrime) and Manasseh (named by them as Manatch). Samaritans adhere to a version of the Torah known as the Samaritan Pentateuch, which differs in some respects from the Masoretic text, sometimes in important ways, and less so from the Septuagint.
The Samaritans consider themselves Bnei Yisrael ("Children of Israel" or "Israelites"), but do not regard themselves as Yehudim (Jews). They view the term "Jews" as a designation for followers of Judaism, which they assert is a related but altered and amended religion brought back by the exiled Israelite returnees, and not the true religion of the ancient Israelites, which according to them is Samaritanism.
Modern DNA studies have provided evidence that most of the world's Jews, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, have a common ancestral lineage in the Levant, which can be traced to a common ancestral population that inhabited the Middle East some four thousand years ago. Maternally, both Jews and Samaritans have had very low rates of intermarriage with local or host populations. Both populations' DNA results indicate the groups having had a high percentage of marriage within their respective communities; in contrast to a low percentage of interfaith marriages (as low as 0.5% per generation). One study on Ashkenazi Jews stated "Taken as a whole, our results, along with those from previous studies, support the model of a Middle Eastern origin of the AJ population followed by subsequent admixture with host Europeans or populations more similar to Europeans. Our data further imply that modern Ashkenazi Jews are perhaps even more similar with Europeans than Middle Easterners." In 2006, a study by Doron Behar and Karl Skorecki of the Technion and Ramban Medical Center in Haifa, Israel demonstrated that 40% of Ashkenazi Jews, both men and women, belong to just 4 maternal lineages, which according to Doron, have a Middle Eastern source.
According to Hammer, his study suggests that the Ashkenazi population expanded through a series of bottlenecks—events that squeeze a population down to small numbers—perhaps as it migrated from the Middle East after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE to Italy, reaching the Rhine Valley in the 10th century. Dr. David Goldstein, a Duke University geneticist and director of the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation, has noted that the Technion and Ramban team confirmed that genetic drift played a major role in shaping Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA, therefore mtDNA studies fail to draw a statistically significant linkage between modern Jews and Middle Eastern populations, however, this differs from the patrilineal case, where Dr. Goldstein said there is no question of a Middle Eastern origin. Autosomal trans-genome DNA studies carried out by Behar and al confirmed the shared Middle Eastern origin of all major Jewish groups. According to Behar, these findings are "consistent with the historical formulation of the Jewish people as descending from the ancient Hebrew and Israelite residents of the Levant" and "the dispersion of the people of ancient Israel throughout the Old World"
A 2013 study of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA reached different conclusions. According to Costa et al., the four major Ashkenazi maternal lineages and most of the minor maternal lineages had a prehistoric European source, rather than a Near Eastern or Caucasian one. According to the study these findings 'point to a significant role for the conversion of women in the formation of Ashkenazi communities'
A study by Haber et al. (2013) noted that while previous studies of the Levant, which had focused mainly on diaspora Jewish populations, showed that the "Jews form a distinctive cluster in the Middle East", these studies did not make clear "whether the factors driving this structure would also involve other groups in the Levant". The authors found strong evidence that modern Levant populations descend from two major apparent ancestral populations. One set of genetic characteristics which is shared with modern-day Europeans and Central Asians is most prominent in the Levant amongst "Lebanese, Armenians, Cypriots, Druze and Jews, as well as Turks, Iranians and Caucasian populations". The second set of inherited genetic characteristics is shared with populations in other parts of the Middle East as well as some African populations. Levant populations in this category today include "Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, as well as North Africans, Ethiopians, Saudis, and Bedouins". Concerning this second component of ancestry, the authors remark that while it correlates with "the pattern of the Islamic expansion", and that "a pre-Islamic expansion Levant was more genetically similar to Europeans than to Middle Easterners," they also say that "its presence in Lebanese Christians, Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, Cypriots and Armenians might suggest that its spread to the Levant could also represent an earlier event". The authors also found a strong correlation between religion and apparent ancestry in the Levant:
"all Jews (Sephardi and Ashkenazi) cluster in one branch; Druze from Mount Lebanon and Druze from Mount Carmel are depicted on a private branch; and Lebanese Christians form a private branch with the Christian populations of Armenia and Cyprus placing the Lebanese Muslims as an outer group. The predominantly Muslim populations of Syrians, Palestinians and Jordanians cluster on branches with other Muslim populations as distant as Morocco and Yemen."
Another 2013 study, made by Doron M. Behar of the Rambam Health Care Campus in Israel and others, suggests that: "Cumulatively, our analyses point strongly to ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews primarily from European and Middle Eastern populations and not from populations in or near the Caucasus region. The combined set of approaches suggests that the observations of Ashkenazi proximity to European and Middle Eastern populations in population structure analyses reflect actual genetic proximity of Ashkenazi Jews to populations with predominantly European and Middle Eastern ancestry components, and lack of visible introgression from the region of the Khazar Khaganate—particularly among the northern Volga and North Caucasus populations—into the Ashkenazi community."
Zionist "Negation of the Diaspora"
According to Eliezer Schweid, the rejection of life in the Diaspora is a central assumption in all currents of Zionism. Underlying this attitude was the feeling that the Diaspora restricted the full growth of Jewish national life. For instance the poet Hayim Nahman Bialik wrote:
- And my heart weeps for my unhappy people ...
- How burned, how blasted must our portion be,
- If seed like this is withered in its soil. ...
According to Schweid, Bialik meant that the "seed" was the potential of the Jewish people. Preserved in the Diaspora, this seed could only give rise to deformed results; however, once conditions changed the seed could still provide a plentiful harvest.
In this matter Sternhell distinguishes two schools of thought in Zionism. One was the liberal or utilitarian school of Herzl and Nordau. Especially after the Dreyfus Affair, they held that anti-Semitism would never disappear and saw Zionism as a rational solution for Jewish individuals.
The other was the organic nationalist school. It was prevalent among the Zionists in Palestine and saw the movement as a project to rescue the Jewish nation rather than as a project to rescue Jewish individuals. For them Zionism was the "Rebirth of the Nation".
Contrary to the negation of the diaspora view, acceptance of the Jewish communities outside of Israel was postulated by those, like Simon Rawidowicz (also a Zionist), who viewed the Jews as a culture evolved into a new 'worldly' entity that had no reason to seek an exclusive return, either physical, emotional or spiritual to its ancient Land, and could remain one people even in dispersion.
It was argued that the dynamics of the diaspora which were affected by persecution, numerous subsequent exiles, as well as political and economic conditions created a new Jewish awareness of the World, and a new awareness of the Jews by the World.
In effect there are many Zionists today who do not embrace the "Negation of the Diaspora" as any kind of absolute, and who see no conflict—and even a beneficial and worldly and positive symbiosis—between a diaspora of healthily self-respecting Jewish communities (such as has evolved in the United States, Canada, and several other Western countries) and a vital and evolving Israeli society and state of Israel.
Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov (Bnei Yissaschar, Chodesh Kislev, 2:25) explains that each exile was characterized by a different negative aspect:
- The Babylonian exile was characterized by physical suffering and oppression. The Babylonians were lopsided toward the Sefirah of Gevurah, strength and bodily might.
- The Persian exile was one of emotional temptation. The Persians were hedonists who declared that the purpose of life is to pursue indulgence and lusts—”Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.” They were lopsided toward the quality of Chessed, attraction and kindness (albeit to the self).
- Hellenistic civilization was highly cultured and sophisticated. Although the Greeks had a strong sense of aesthetics, they were highly pompous, and viewed aesthetics as an end in itself. They were excessively attached to the quality of Tiferet, beauty. This was also related to an appreciation of the intellect’s transcendence over the body, which reveals the beauty of the spirit.
- The exile of Edom began with Rome, whose culture lacked any clearly defined philosophy. Rather, it adopted the philosophies of all the preceding cultures, causing Roman culture to be in a constant flux. Although the Roman Empire has fallen, the Jews are still in the exile of Edom, and indeed, one can find this phenomenon of ever-changing trends dominating modern western society. The Romans and the various nations who inherited their rule (e.g., the Holy Roman Empire, the Europeans, the Americans) are lopsided toward Malchut, sovereignty, the lowest Sefirah, which can receive from any of the others, and act as a medium for them.
As of 2010 the largest numbers of Jews live in Israel (5,703,700), United States (5,275,000), France (483,500), Canada (375,000), the United Kingdom (292,000), Russia (205,000), Argentina (182,300), Germany (119,000) and Brazil (107,329). These numbers reflect the "core" Jewish population, defined as being "not inclusive of non-Jewish members of Jewish households, persons of Jewish ancestry who profess another monotheistic religion, other non-Jews of Jewish ancestry, and other non-Jews who may be interested in Jewish matters." Significant Jewish populations also remain in Middle Eastern and North African countries outside of Israel, particularly Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen. In general, these populations are shrinking due to low growth rates and high rates of emigration (particularly since the 1960s).
The Jewish Autonomous Oblast continues to be an Autonomous Oblast of Russia. The Chief Rabbi of Birobidzhan, Mordechai Scheiner, says there are 4,000 Jews in the capital city. Governor Nikolay Mikhaylovich Volkov has stated that he intends to, "support every valuable initiative maintained by our local Jewish organizations." The Birobidzhan Synagogue opened in 2004 on the 70th anniversary of the region's founding in 1934. An estimated 75,000 Jews live in the vast Siberia region.
Metropolitan areas with the largest Jewish populations are listed below, though one source at jewishtemples.org, states that "It is difficult to come up with exact population figures on a country by country basis, let alone city by city around the world. Figures for Russia and other CIS countries are but educated guesses." The source cited here, the 2010 World Jewish Population Survey, also notes that "Unlike our estimates of Jewish populations in individual countries, the data reported here on urban Jewish populations do not fully adjust for possible double counting due to multiple residences. The differences in the United States may be quite significant, in the range of tens of thousands, involving both major and minor metropolitan areas."
- Gush Dan (Tel Aviv and surroundings) – Israel – 2,979,900
- New York City, New York – U.S. – 2,007,850
- Jerusalem – 705,000
- Los Angeles, California – U.S. – 684,950
- Haifa – Israel – 671,400
- Miami, Florida – U.S. – 485,850
- Be'er Sheva – Israel – 367,600
- San Francisco, California – U.S. – 345,700
- Paris – France – 284,000
- Chicago, Illinois – U.S. – 270,500
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – U.S. – 263,800
- Boston, Massachusetts – U.S. – 229,100
- Washington, D.C. – U.S. – 215,600
- London – United Kingdom – 195,000
- Toronto – Canada – 180,000
- Atlanta, Georgia – U.S. – 119,800
- Moscow – Russia – 95,000
- San Diego, California – U.S. – 89,000
- Cleveland, Ohio – U.S. – 87,000
- Phoenix, Arizona – U.S. – 82,900
- Montreal – Canada – 80,000
- Sao Paulo – Brazil – 75,000
- Johnson (1987), p. 82.
- "The Diaspora". Jewish Virtual Library.
- Elazar, Daniel J. "The Jewish People as the Classic Diaspora: A Political Analysis". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
- "The Bar-Kokhba Revolt". Jewish Virtual Library.
- Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved 19 February 2012 (subscription required).
- See for example, Kiddushin (tosafot) 41a, ref. "Assur l'adam..."
- Simon Rawidowicz, Benjamin C. I. Ravid, Israel, the Ever-Dying People, and Other Essays, Associated University Presses, Inc., Cranbury, NJ., note p.80
- Harald Hegermann (2008) "The Diaspora in the Hellenistic Age." In: The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. 2. Eds.: Davies and Finkelstein.PP. 115 - 166
- E. Mary Smallwood (2008) "The Diaspora in the Roman period before AD 70." In: The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 3. Editors Davis and Finkelstein.
- Kleiner, Fred (2010). Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Global History, Enhanced, Volume I: 1. Wadsworth Publishing. p. 262. ISBN 1439085781.
- H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN 0-674-39731-2, The Crisis Under Gaius Caligula, pages 254–256: "The reign of Gaius Caligula (37–41) witnessed the first open break between the Jews and the Julio-Claudian empire. Until then—if one accepts Sejanus' heyday and the trouble caused by the census after Archelaus' banishment—there was usually an atmosphere of understanding between the Jews and the Empire ... These relations deteriorated seriously during Caligula's reign, and, though after his death the peace was outwardly re-established, considerable bitterness remained on both sides. ... Caligula ordered that a golden statue of *himself* be set up in the Temple in Jerusalem. ... Only Caligula's death, at the hands of Roman conspirators (41), prevented the outbreak of a Jewish-Roman war that might well have spread to the entire East."
- "Academies in Palestine". JewishEncyclopedia.com.
- Ilan Ziv, Searching for Exile - BBC Four
- No Return, No Refuge (Howard Adelman, Elazar Barkan, p. 159). "in the popular imagination of Jewish history, in contrast to the accounts of historians or official agencies, there is a widespread notion that the Jews from Judea were expelled in antiquity after the destruction of the temple and the "Great Rebellion" (70 and 135 c.e., respectively). Even more misleading, there is the widespread, popular belief that this expulsion created the diaspora."
- Bartal, Israel (July 6, 2008). "Inventing an Invention". Haaretz. Archived from the original on April 16, 2009. "Although the myth of an exile from the Jewish homeland (Palestine) does exist in popular Israeli culture, it is negligible in serious Jewish historical discussions.(Israel Bartal, dean of humanities at the Hebrew University)"
- "Book Calls Jewish People an ‘Invention’". The New York Times. November 23, 2009. p. 2.
- The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History (Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Oxford University Press 2009) pp. 17–18
- Ulman, Jane (June 7, 2007). "Timeline: Jewish life in Poland from 1098". Jewish Journal.
- Wade, Nicholas (January 14, 2006). "New Light on Origins of Ashkenazi in Europe". The New York Times.
- Wade, Nicholas (June 9, 2010). "Studies Show Jews' Genetic Similarity". The New York Times.
- Doron M. Behar; Bayazit Yunusbayev; Mait Metspalu; Ene Metspalu; Saharon Rosset; Jüri Parik; Siiri Rootsi; Ildus Kutuev; Guennady Yudkovsky; Elza K. Khusnutdinova; Oleg Balanovsky; Olga Balaganskaya; Ornella Semino; Luisa Pereira; David Gurwitz; Batsheva Bonne-Tamir; Tudor Parfitt; Michael F. Hammer; Karl Skorecki; Richard Villems (July 2010). "The genome-wide structure of the Jewish people". Nature 466 (7303): 238–42. doi:10.1038/nature09103. PMID 20531471.
- M. D. Costa and 16 others (2013). "A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages". Nature Communications 4. doi:10.1038/ncomms3543.
- *Haber, Marc; Gauguier, Dominique; Youhanna, Sonia; Patterson, Nick; Moorjani, Priya; Botigué, Laura R.; Platt, Daniel E.; Matisoo-Smith, Elizabeth et al. (2013). "Genome-Wide Diversity in the Levant Reveals Recent Structuring by Culture". In Williams, Scott M. PLOS Genetics 9 (2): e1003316. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003316. PMC 3585000. PMID 23468648.
- Spain invites descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled 500 years ago to return
- "Y Chromosome Bears Witness to Story of the Jewish Diaspora". New York Times. May 9, 2000.
- PDF (855 KB), Hum Mutat 24:248–260, 2004.
- Cumulatively, our analyses point strongly to ancestry of Ashkenazi Jews primarily from European and Middle Eastern populations and not from populations in or near the Caucasus region. The combined set of approaches suggests that the observations of Ashkenazi proximity to European and Middle Eastern populations in population structure analyses reflect actual genetic proximity of Ashkenazi Jews to populations with predominantly European and Middle Eastern ancestry components, and lack of visible introgression from the region of the Khazar Khaganate—particularly among the northern Volga and North Caucasus populations—into the Ashkenazi community
- E. Schweid, "Rejection of the Diaspora in Zionist Thought", in Essential Papers on Zionsm, ed. By Reinharz & Shapira, 1996, ISBN 0-8147-7449-0, p.133
- Schweid, p. 157
- Z. Sternhell, The Founding Myths of Israel, 1998, pp. 3–36, ISBN 0-691-01694-1, pp. 49–51
- "Lessons from the Dreidel". Chabad.org.
- World Jewish Population Study 2010, by Sergio DellaPergola, ed. Dashefsky, Arnold , Sheskin, Ira M., published by Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry (ASSJ), North American Jewish Data Bank, The Jewish Federations of North America, November 2010
- 2010 Brazilian census Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Retrieved on 2013-11-13
- "A Jewish revival in Birobidzhan?". Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. October 8, 2004.
- "From Tractors to Torah in Russia's Jewish Land". Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS. June 1, 2007.
- "Governor Voices Support for Growing Far East Jewish Community". Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS. November 15, 2004.
- "Far East Community Prepares for 70th Anniversary of Jewish Autonomous Republic". Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS. August 30, 2004.
- "Planting Jewish roots in Siberia". Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS. May 24, 2004.
- "Jewish Temples – World Jewish Population and Temple Directory".
- "Brazil - Modern-Day Community". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/. 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
- Immigration to Israel from North America hits 22-Year High CNSNews.com, December 30, 2005
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jewish diaspora.|
- The Arizal on the four exiles
- Jewish Diaspora at the JewishEncyclopedia.com
- Livius.org: The Jewish diaspora in Rome
- How ALL ISRAEL will be saved, about Paul's apostleship to the diaspora (including the Gentiles)
- The Diaspora and Israel – Rich Cohen
- Research and articles about the diaspora experience and Israel-Diaspora relations on the Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
- World Jewish Congress – Jewish Communities
- The film Exile - a Myth Unearthed by Ilan Ziv, which examines historical evidence for different theories of the Jewish exile