Prior to World War II the worldwide Jewish population reached a peak of 16.7 million, representing around 0.7% of the world population at that time. Approximately 6 million Jews were systematically murdered during the Holocaust. Since then the population has slowly risen again, and as of 2016 was estimated at 14.4 million by the Berman Jewish DataBank, or less than 0.2% of the total world population. The exact world Jewish population, however, is difficult to measure. In addition to issues with census methodology, disputes among proponents of halakhic, secular, political, and ancestral identification factors regarding who is a Jew may affect the figure considerably depending on the source. Israel is the only country where Jews form a majority of the population. The modern State of Israel was established as a Jewish state and defines itself as such in its Declaration of Independence and Basic Laws. Its Law of Return grants the right of citizenship to any Jew who requests it.
The Hebrew word for Jew, יְהוּדִי ISO 259-3 Yehudi, is pronounced [jehuˈdi], with the stress on the final syllable, in Israeli Hebrew, in its basic form. The Ladino name is ג׳ודיו, Djudio (sg.); ג׳ודיוס, Djudios (pl.); Yiddish: ייִד Yid (sg.); ייִדן, Yidn (pl.).
The etymological equivalent is in use in other languages, e.g., يَهُودِيّ yahūdī (sg.), al-yahūd (pl.), in Arabic, "Jude" in German, "judeu" in Portuguese, "juif" in French, "jøde" in Danish and Norwegian, "judío" in Spanish, "jood" in Dutch, "żyd" in Polish etc., but derivations of the word "Hebrew" are also in use to describe a Jew, e.g., in Italian (Ebreo), in Persian ("Ebri/Ebrani" (Persian: عبری/عبرانی)) and Russian (Еврей, Yevrey). The German word "Jude" is pronounced [ˈjuːdə], the corresponding adjective "jüdisch" [ˈjyːdɪʃ] (Jewish) is the origin of the word "Yiddish". (See Jewish ethnonyms for a full overview.)
It is widely recognized that the attributive use of the noun Jew, in phrases such as Jew lawyer or Jew ethics, is both vulgar and highly offensive. In such contexts Jewish is the only acceptable possibility. Some people, however, have become so wary of this construction that they have extended the stigma to any use of Jew as a noun, a practice that carries risks of its own. In a sentence such as There are now several Jews on the council, which is unobjectionable, the substitution of a circumlocution like Jewish people or persons of Jewish background may in itself cause offense for seeming to imply that Jew has a negative connotation when used as a noun.
A factual reconstruction for the origin of the Jews is a difficult and complex endeavor. It requires examining at least 3,000 years of ancient human history using documents in vast quantities and variety written in at least ten near Eastern languages. As archaeological discovery relies upon researchers and scholars from diverse disciplines, the goal is to interpret all of the factual data, focusing on the most consistent theory. In this case, it is complicated by long standing politics and religious and cultural prejudices.
Modern archaeology has largely discarded the historicity of this narrative, with it being reframed as constituting the Israelites' inspiring national myth narrative. The Israelites and their culture, according to the modern archaeological account, did not overtake the region by force, but instead branched out of the Canaanite peoples and culture through the development of a distinct monolatristic—and later monotheistic—religion centered on Yahweh, one of the Ancient Canaanite deities. The growth of Yahweh-centric belief, along with a number of cultic practices, gradually gave rise to a distinct Israelite ethnic group, setting them apart from other Canaanites.
According to the Book of Ezra, the Persian Cyrus the Great ended the Babylonian exile in 538 BCE, the year after he captured Babylon. The exile ended with the return under Zerubbabel the Prince (so-called because he was a descendant of the royal line of David) and Joshua the Priest (a descendant of the line of the former High Priests of the Temple) and their construction of the Second Temple in the period 521–516 BCE. The Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient tablet on which is written a declaration in the name of Cyrus referring to restoration of temples and repatriation of exiled peoples, has often been taken as corroboration of the authenticity of the biblical decrees attributed to Cyrus, but other scholars point out that the cylinder's text is specific to Babylon and Mesopotamia and makes no mention of Judah or Jerusalem. Professor Lester L. Grabbe asserted that the "alleged decree of Cyrus" regarding Judah, "cannot be considered authentic", but that there was a "general policy of allowing deportees to return and to re-establish cult sites". He also stated that archaeology suggests that the return was a "trickle" taking place over decades, rather than a single event.
As part of the Persian Empire, the former Kingdom of Judah became the province of Judah (Yehud Medinata) with different borders, covering a smaller territory. The population of the province was greatly reduced from that of the kingdom, archaeological surveys showing a population of around 30,000 people in the 5th to 4th centuries BCE.:308 The region was under control of the Achaemenids until the fall of their empire in c. 333 BCE to Alexander the Great. Jews were also politically independent during the Hasmonean dynasty spanning from 140 to 37 BCE and to some degree under the Herodian dynasty from 37 BCE to 6 CE. Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, most Jews have lived in diaspora.
Genetic studies on Jews show that most Jews worldwide bear a common genetic heritage which originates in the Middle East, and that they bear their strongest genetic resemblance to the peoples of the Fertile Crescent. The genetic composition of different Jewish groups shows that Jews share a common gene pool dating back 4,000 years, as a marker of their common ancestral origin. Despite their long-term separation, Jewish communities maintained commonalities in culture, tradition, and language.
The Jewish people and the religion of Judaism are strongly interrelated. Converts to Judaism typically have a status within the Jewish ethnos equal to those born into it. However, several converts to Judaism, as well as ex-Jews, have claimed that converts are treated as second-class Jews by many born Jews. Conversion is not encouraged by mainstream Judaism, and it is considered a difficult task. A significant portion of conversions are undertaken by children of mixed marriages, or would-be or current spouses of Jews.
The Hebrew Bible, a religious interpretation of the traditions and early history of the Jews, established the first of the Abrahamic religions, which are now practiced by 54% of the world. Judaism guides its adherents in both practice and belief, and has been called not only a religion, but also a "way of life," which has made drawing a clear distinction between Judaism, Jewish culture, and Jewish identity rather difficult. Throughout history, in eras and places as diverse as the ancient Hellenic world, in Europe before and after The Age of Enlightenment (see Haskalah), in Islamic Spain and Portugal, in North Africa and the Middle East,India,China, or the contemporary United States and Israel, cultural phenomena have developed that are in some sense characteristically Jewish without being at all specifically religious. Some factors in this come from within Judaism, others from the interaction of Jews or specific communities of Jews with their surroundings, and still others from the inner social and cultural dynamics of the community, as opposed to from the religion itself. This phenomenon has led to considerably different Jewish cultures unique to their own communities.
Babylon and Rome
After the destruction of the Second Temple Judaism lost much of its sectarian nature.:69 Nevertheless, a significant Hellenized Diaspora remained, centered in Alexandria, at the time the largest urban Jewish community in the world. Hellenism was a force not just in the Diaspora but also in the Land of Israel over a long period of time. Generally, scholars view Rabbinic Judaism as having been meaningfully influenced by Hellenism.
Without a Temple, Greek-speaking Jews no longer looked to Jerusalem in the way they had before. Judaism separated into a linguistically Greek and a Hebrew / Aramaic sphere.: 8–11 The theology and religious texts of each community were distinctively different.: 11–13 Hellenized Judaism never developed yeshivas to study the Oral Law. Rabbinic Judaism (centered in the Land of Israel and Babylon) almost entirely ignores the Hellenized Diaspora in its writings.: 13–14 Hellenized Judaism eventually disappeared as its practitioners assimilated into Greco-Roman culture, leaving a strong Rabbinic eastern Diaspora with large centers of learning in Babylon.: 14–16
By the first century, the Jewish community in Babylonia, to which Jews were exiled after the Babylonian conquest as well as after the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE, already held a speedily growing population of an estimated one million Jews, which increased to an estimated two million between the years 200 CE and 500 CE, both by natural growth and by immigration of more Jews from the Land of Israel, making up about one-sixth of the world Jewish population at that era. The 13th-century author Bar Hebraeus gave a figure of 6,944,000 Jews in the Roman world; Salo Wittmayer Baron considered the figure convincing. The figure of seven million within and one million outside the Roman world in the mid-first century became widely accepted, including by Louis Feldman. However, contemporary scholars now accept that Bar Hebraeus based his figure on a census of total Roman citizens, the figure of 6,944,000 being recorded in Eusebius' Chronicon. Louis Feldman, previously an active supporter of the figure, now states that he and Baron were mistaken.: 185 Feldman's views on active Jewish missionizing have also changed. While viewing classical Judaism as being receptive to converts, especially from the second century BCE through the first century CE, he points to a lack of either missionizing tracts or records of the names of rabbis who sought converts as evidence for the lack of active Jewish missionizing.: 205–06 Feldman maintains that conversion to Judaism was common and the Jewish population was large both within the Land of Israel and in the Diaspora.: 183–203, 206 Other historians believe that conversion during the Roman era was limited in number and did not account for much of the Jewish population growth, due to various factors such as the illegality of male conversion to Judaism in the Roman world from the mid-second century. Another factor that made conversion difficult in the Roman world was the halakhic requirement of circumcision, a requirement that proselytizing Christianity quickly dropped. The Fiscus Judaicus, a tax imposed on Jews in 70 CE and relaxed to exclude Christians in 96 CE, also limited Judaism's appeal.
Who is a Jew?
Judaism shares some of the characteristics of a nation, an ethnicity, a religion, and a culture, making the definition of who is a Jew vary slightly depending on whether a religious or national approach to identity is used. Generally, in modern secular usage Jews include three groups: people who were born to a Jewish family regardless of whether or not they follow the religion, those who have some Jewish ancestral background or lineage (sometimes including those who do not have strictly matrilineal descent), and people without any Jewish ancestral background or lineage who have formally converted to Judaism and therefore are followers of the religion.
Historical definitions of Jewish identity have traditionally been based on halakhic definitions of matrilineal descent, and halakhic conversions. Historical definitions of who is a Jew date back to the codification of the Oral Torah into the Babylonian Talmud, around 200 CE. Interpretations of sections of the Tanakh, such as Deuteronomy 7:1–5, by Jewish sages, are used as a warning against intermarriage between Jews and Canaanites because "[the non-Jewish husband] will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods (i.e., idols) of others." Leviticus 24:10 says that the son in a marriage between a Hebrew woman and an Egyptian man is "of the community of Israel." This is complemented by Ezra 10:2–3, where Israelites returning from Babylon vow to put aside their gentile wives and their children. A popular theory is that the rape of Jewish women in captivity brought about the law of Jewish identity being inherited through the maternal line, although scholars challenge this theory citing the Talmudic establishment of the law from the pre-exile period. Another argument is that the rabbis changed the law of patrilineal descent to matrilineal descent due to the widespread rape of Jewish women by Roman soldiers. Since the anti-religious Haskalah movement of the late 18th and 19th centuries, halakhic interpretations of Jewish identity have been challenged.
According to historian Shaye J. D. Cohen, the status of the offspring of mixed marriages was determined patrilineally in the Bible. He brings two likely explanations for the change in Mishnaic times: first, the Mishnah may have been applying the same logic to mixed marriages as it had applied to other mixtures (Kil'ayim). Thus, a mixed marriage is forbidden as is the union of a horse and a donkey, and in both unions the offspring are judged matrilineally. Second, the Tannaim may have been influenced by Roman law, which dictated that when a parent could not contract a legal marriage, offspring would follow the mother. Rabbi Rivon Krygier follows a similar reasoning, arguing that Jewish descent had formerly passed through the patrineal descent and the law of matrilineal descent had its roots in the Roman legal system.
Within the world's Jewish population there are distinct ethnic divisions, most of which are primarily the result of geographic branching from an originating Israelite population, and subsequent independent evolutions. An array of Jewish communities was established by Jewish settlers in various places around the Old World, often at great distances from one another, resulting in effective and often long-term isolation. During the millennia of the Jewish diaspora the communities would develop under the influence of their local environments: political, cultural, natural, and populational. Today, manifestations of these differences among the Jews can be observed in Jewish cultural expressions of each community, including Jewish linguistic diversity, culinary preferences, liturgical practices, religious interpretations, as well as degrees and sources of genetic admixture.
Sephardi Jewish couple from Sarajevo in traditional clothing. Photo taken in 1900.
Jews are often identified as belonging to one of two major groups: the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. Ashkenazim, or "Germanics" (Ashkenaz meaning "Germany" in Hebrew), are so named denoting their German Jewish cultural and geographical origins, while Sephardim, or "Hispanics" (Sefarad meaning "Spain/Hispania" or "Iberia" in Hebrew), are so named denoting their Spanish/Portuguese Jewish cultural and geographic origins. The more common term in Israel for many of those broadly called Sephardim, is Mizrahim (lit. "Easterners", Mizrach being "East" in Hebrew), that is, in reference to the diverse collection of Middle Eastern and North African Jews who are often, as a group, referred to collectively as Sephardim (together with Sephardim proper) for liturgical reasons, although Mizrahi Jewish groups and Sephardi Jews proper are ethnically distinct.
The divisions between all these groups are approximate and their boundaries are not always clear. The Mizrahim for example, are a heterogeneous collection of North African, Central Asian, Caucasian, and Middle Eastern Jewish communities that are no closer related to each other than they are to any of the earlier mentioned Jewish groups. In modern usage, however, the Mizrahim are sometimes termed Sephardi due to similar styles of liturgy, despite independent development from Sephardim proper. Thus, among Mizrahim there are Egyptian Jews, Iraqi Jews, Lebanese Jews, Kurdish Jews, Libyan Jews, Syrian Jews, Bukharian Jews, Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews, Iranian Jews and various others. The Teimanim from Yemen are sometimes included, although their style of liturgy is unique and they differ in respect to the admixture found among them to that found in Mizrahim. In addition, there is a differentiation made between Sephardi migrants who established themselves in the Middle East and North Africa after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s and the pre-existing Jewish communities in those regions.
Hebrew is the liturgical language of Judaism (termed lashon ha-kodesh, "the holy tongue"), the language in which most of the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh) were composed, and the daily speech of the Jewish people for centuries. By the 5th century BCE, Aramaic, a closely related tongue, joined Hebrew as the spoken language in Judea. By the 3rd century BCE, some Jews of the diaspora were speaking Greek. Others, such as in the Jewish communities of Babylonia, were speaking Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages of the Babylonian Talmud. These languages were also used by the Jews of Israel at that time.
Y DNA studies tend to imply a small number of founders in an old population whose members parted and followed different migration paths. In most Jewish populations, these male line ancestors appear to have been mainly Middle Eastern. For example, Ashkenazi Jews share more common paternal lineages with other Jewish and Middle Eastern groups than with non-Jewish populations in areas where Jews lived in Eastern Europe, Germany and the French Rhine Valley. This is consistent with Jewish traditions in placing most Jewish paternal origins in the region of the Middle East. Conversely, the maternal lineages of Jewish populations, studied by looking at mitochondrial DNA, are generally more heterogeneous. Scholars such as Harry Ostrer and Raphael Falk believe this indicates that many Jewish males found new mates from European and other communities in the places where they migrated in the diaspora after fleeing ancient Israel. In contrast, Behar has found evidence that about 40% of Ashkenazi Jews originate maternally from just four female founders, who were of Middle Eastern origin. The populations of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jewish communities "showed no evidence for a narrow founder effect." Subsequent studies carried out by Feder et al. confirmed the large portion of non-local maternal origin among Ashkenazi Jews. Reflecting on their findings related to the maternal origin of Ashkenazi Jews, the authors conclude "Clearly, the differences between Jews and non-Jews are far larger than those observed among the Jewish communities. Hence, differences between the Jewish communities can be overlooked when non-Jews are included in the comparisons."
Studies of autosomal DNA, which look at the entire DNA mixture, have become increasingly important as the technology develops. They show that Jewish populations have tended to form relatively closely related groups in independent communities, with most in a community sharing significant ancestry in common. For Jewish populations of the diaspora, the genetic composition of Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jewish populations show a predominant amount of shared Middle Eastern ancestry. According to Behar, the most parsimonious explanation for this shared Middle Eastern ancestry is that it is "consistent with the historical formulation of the Jewish people as descending from ancient Hebrew and Israelite residents of the Levant" and "the dispersion of the people of ancient Israel throughout the Old World".North African, Italian and others of Iberian origin show variable frequencies of admixture with non-Jewish historical host populations among the maternal lines. In the case of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews (in particular Moroccan Jews), who are closely related, the source of non-Jewish admixture is mainly southern European, while Mizrahi Jews show evidence of admixture with other Middle Eastern populations. Behar et al. have remarked on a close relationship between Ashkenazi Jews and modern Italians. A 2001 study found that Jews were found to be more closely related to groups of the Fertile Crescent (Kurds, Turks, and Armenians) than to their Arab neighbors, the geographic distribution of whose genetic signature was found to correlate with the pattern of the Islamic conquests.
Although historically, Jews have been found all over the world, in the decades since World War II and the establishment of Israel, they have increasingly concentrated in a small number of countries. In 2013, the United States and Israel were collectively home to more than 80% of the global Jewish population, each country having approximately 41% of the world's Jews.
Israel, the Jewish nation-state, is the only country in which Jews make up a majority of the citizens. Israel was established as an independent democratic and Jewish state on 14 May 1948. Of the 120 members in its parliament, the Knesset, as of 2016, 14 members of the Knesset are Arab citizens of Israel (not including the Druze), most representing Arab political parties. One of Israel's Supreme Court judges is also an Arab citizen of Israel.
In this Rosh Hashana greeting card from the early 1900s, Russian Jews, packs in hand, gaze at the American relatives beckoning them to the United States. Over two million Jews fled the pogroms of the Russian Empire to the safety of the U.S. between 1881 and 1924.
More than half of the Jews live in the Diaspora (see Population table). Currently, the largest Jewish community outside Israel, and either the largest or second-largest Jewish community in the world, is located in the United States, with 5.2 million to 6.4 million Jews by various estimates. Elsewhere in the Americas, there are also large Jewish populations in Canada (315,000), Argentina (180,000–300,000), and Brazil (196,000–600,000), and smaller populations in Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, Colombia and several other countries (see History of the Jews in Latin America). Demographers disagree on whether the United States has a larger Jewish population than Israel, with many maintaining that Israel surpassed the United States in Jewish population during the 2000s, while others maintain that the United States still has the largest Jewish population in the world. Currently, a major national Jewish population survey is planned to ascertain whether or not Israel has overtaken the United States in Jewish population.
Western Europe's largest Jewish community, and the third-largest Jewish community in the world, can be found in France, home to between 483,000 and 500,000 Jews, the majority of whom are immigrants or refugees from North African countries such as Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia (or their descendants). The United Kingdom has a Jewish community of 292,000. In Eastern Europe, the exact figures are difficult to establish. The number of Jews in Russia varies widely according to whether a source uses census data (which requires a person to choose a single nationality among choices that include "Russian" and "Jewish") or eligibility for immigration to Israel (which requires that a person have one or more Jewish grandparents). According to the latter criteria, the heads of the Russian Jewish community assert that up to 1.5 million Russians are eligible for aliyah. In Germany, the 102,000 Jews registered with the Jewish community are a slowly declining population, despite the immigration of tens of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Thousands of Israelis also live in Germany, either permanently or temporarily, for economic reasons.
Prior to 1948, approximately 800,000 Jews were living in lands which now make up the Arab world (excluding Israel). Of these, just under two-thirds lived in the French-controlled Maghreb region, 15–20% in the Kingdom of Iraq, approximately 10% in the Kingdom of Egypt and approximately 7% in the Kingdom of Yemen. A further 200,000 lived in Pahlavi Iran and the Republic of Turkey. Today, around 26,000 Jews live in Arab countries and around 30,000 in Iran and Turkey. A small-scale exodus had begun in many countries in the early decades of the 20th century, although the only substantial aliyah came from Yemen and Syria. The exodus from Arab and Muslim countries took place primarily from 1948. The first large-scale exoduses took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily in Iraq, Yemen and Libya, with up to 90% of these communities leaving within a few years. The peak of the exodus from Egypt occurred in 1956. The exodus in the Maghreb countries peaked in the 1960s. Lebanon was the only Arab country to see a temporary increase in its Jewish population during this period, due to an influx of refugees from other Arab countries, although by the mid-1970s the Jewish community of Lebanon had also dwindled. In the aftermath of the exodus wave from Arab states, an additional migration of Iranian Jews peaked in the 1980s when around 80% of Iranian Jews left the country.
Since at least the time of the Ancient Greeks, a proportion of Jews have assimilated into the wider non-Jewish society around them, by either choice or force, ceasing to practice Judaism and losing their Jewish identity. Assimilation took place in all areas, and during all time periods, with some Jewish communities, for example the Kaifeng Jews of China, disappearing entirely. The advent of the Jewish Enlightenment of the 18th century (see Haskalah) and the subsequent emancipation of the Jewish populations of Europe and America in the 19th century, accelerated the situation, encouraging Jews to increasingly participate in, and become part of, secular society. The result has been a growing trend of assimilation, as Jews marry non-Jewish spouses and stop participating in the Jewish community.
Rates of interreligious marriage vary widely: In the United States, it is just under 50%, in the United Kingdom, around 53%; in France; around 30%, and in Australia and Mexico, as low as 10%. In the United States, only about a third of children from intermarriages affiliate with Jewish religious practice. The result is that most countries in the Diaspora have steady or slightly declining religiously Jewish populations as Jews continue to assimilate into the countries in which they live.
War and persecution
World War I poster showing a soldier cutting the bonds from a Jewish man, who says, "You have cut my bonds and set me free – now let me help you set others free!"
According to James Carroll, "Jews accounted for 10% of the total population of the Roman Empire. By that ratio, if other factors had not intervened, there would be 200 million Jews in the world today, instead of something like 13 million."
The Roman Emperor Nero sends Vespasian with an army to destroy the Jews, 69 CE.
In the Papal States, which existed until 1870, Jews were required to live only in specified neighborhoods called ghettos.
Islam and Judaism have a complex relationship. Traditionally Jews and Christians living in Muslim lands, known as dhimmis, were allowed to practice their religions and administer their internal affairs, but they were subject to certain conditions. They had to pay the jizya (a per capita tax imposed on free adult non-Muslim males) to the Islamic state. Dhimmis had an inferior status under Islamic rule. They had several social and legal disabilities such as prohibitions against bearing arms or giving testimony in courts in cases involving Muslims. Many of the disabilities were highly symbolic. The one described by Bernard Lewis as "most degrading" was the requirement of distinctive clothing, not found in the Quran or hadith but invented in early medievalBaghdad; its enforcement was highly erratic. On the other hand, Jews rarely faced martyrdom or exile, or forced compulsion to change their religion, and they were mostly free in their choice of residence and profession.
Throughout Jewish history, Jews have repeatedly been directly or indirectly expelled from both their original homeland, the Land of Israel, and many of the areas in which they have settled. This experience as refugees has shaped Jewish identity and religious practice in many ways, and is thus a major element of Jewish history. The incomplete list of major and other noteworthy migrations that follows includes numerous instances of expulsion or departure under duress:
Assyrian policy was to deport and displace conquered peoples, and it is estimated some 4,500,000 among captive populations suffered this dislocation over 3 centuries of Assyrian rule. With regard to Israel, Tiglath-Pileser III claims he deported 80% of the population of Lower Galilee, some 13,520 people. Some 27,000 Israelites, 20–25% of the population of the Kingdom of Israel, were described as being deported by Sargon II, and were replaced by other deported populations and sent into permanent exile by Assyria, initially to the Upper Mesopotamian provinces of the Assyrian Empire,
Many expulsions during the Middle Ages and Enlightenment in Europe, including: 1290, 16,000 Jews were expelled from England, see the (Statute of Jewry); in 1396, 100,000 from France; in 1421 thousands were expelled from Austria. Many of these Jews settled in Eastern Europe, especially Poland.
The pogroms in Eastern Europe, the rise of modern antisemitism, the Holocaust, and the rise of Arab nationalism all served to fuel the movements and migrations of huge segments of Jewry from land to land and continent to continent, until they arrived back in large numbers at their original historical homeland in Israel.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, many of the Jews in the affected territory (who had been refuseniks) were suddenly allowed to leave. This produced a wave of migration to Israel in the early 1990s.
Israel is the only country with a Jewish population that is consistently growing through natural population growth, although the Jewish populations of other countries, in Europe and North America, have recently increased through immigration. In the Diaspora, in almost every country the Jewish population in general is either declining or steady, but Orthodox and Haredi Jewish communities, whose members often shun birth control for religious reasons, have experienced rapid population growth.
Orthodox and Conservative Judaism discourage proselytism to non-Jews, but many Jewish groups have tried to reach out to the assimilated Jewish communities of the Diaspora in order for them to reconnect to their Jewish roots. Additionally, while in principle Reform Judaism favors seeking new members for the faith, this position has not translated into active proselytism, instead taking the form of an effort to reach out to non-Jewish spouses of intermarried couples.
There is also a trend of Orthodox movements pursuing secular Jews in order to give them a stronger Jewish identity so there is less chance of intermarriage. As a result of the efforts by these and other Jewish groups over the past 25 years, there has been a trend (known as the Baal teshuva movement) for secular Jews to become more religiously observant, though the demographic implications of the trend are unknown. Additionally, there is also a growing rate of conversion to Jews by Choice of gentiles who make the decision to head in the direction of becoming Jews.
There is no single governing body for the Jewish community, nor a single authority with responsibility for religious doctrine. Instead, a variety of secular and religious institutions at the local, national, and international levels lead various parts of the Jewish community on a variety of issues.
"A portrait of Jewish Americans Chapter 1: Population Estimates". Pew Research Center. 1 October 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013. Combining 5.3 million adult Jews (the estimated size of the net Jewish population in this survey) with 1.3 million children (in households with a Jewish adult who are being raised Jewish or partly Jewish) yields a total estimate of 6.7 million Jews of all ages in the United States (rounded to the nearest 100,000).
^Kiaris, Hippokratis (2012). Genes, Polymorphisms and the Making of Societies: How Genetic Behavioral Traits Influence Human Cultures. Universal Publishers (published 1 April 2012). p. 21. ISBN 978-1612330938.
^Facts On File, Incorporated (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. Infobase Publishing. pp. 337–. ISBN 978-1-4381-2676-0."The people of the Kingdom of Israel and the ethnic and religious group known as the Jewish people that descended from them have been subjected to a number of forced migrations in their history"
^"In the broader sense of the term, a Jew is any person belonging to the worldwide group that constitutes, through descent or conversion, a continuation of the ancient Jewish people, who were themselves descendants of the Hebrews of the Old Testament." Jew at Encyclopædia Britannica
^John Day, [In Search of Pre-Exilic Israel,] Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005 pp. 47.5 p.48:'In this sense, the emergence of ancient Israel is viewed not as the cause of the demise of Canaanite culture but as its upshot'.
^Rainer Albertz, Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century B.C.E. Society of Biblical Lit, 2003 pp. 45ff: 'Since the exilic era constitutes a gaping hole in the historical narrative of the Bible, historical reconstruction of this era faces almost insurmountable difficulties. Like the premonarchic period and the late Persian period, the exilic period, though set in the bright light of Ancient Near Eastern history, remains historically obscure. Since there are very few Israelite sources, the only recourse is to try to cast some light on this darkness from the history of the surrounding empires under whose dominion Israel came in this period.'
Botticini, Maristella and Zvi Eckstein. "From Farmers to Merchants, Voluntary Conversions and Diaspora: A Human Capital Interpretation of History." pp. 18–19. August 2006. Accessed 21 November 2015. "The death toll of the Great Revolt against the Roman empire amounted to about 600,000 Jews, whereas the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 caused the death of about 500,000 Jews. Massacres account for roughly 40 percent of the decrease of the Jewish population in Palestine. Moreover, some Jews migrated to Babylon after these revolts because of the worse economic conditions. After accounting for massacres and migrations, there is an additional 30 to 40 percent of the decrease in the Jewish population in Palestine (about 1–1.3 million Jews) to be explained" (p. 19).
Boyarin, Daniel, and Jonathan Boyarin. 2003. Diaspora: Generation and the Ground of Jewish Diaspora. p. 714 "...it is crucial to recognize that the Jewish conception of the Land of Israel is similar to the discourse of the Land of many (if not nearly all) "indigenous" peoples of the world. Somehow the Jews have managed to retain a sense of being rooted somewhere in the world through twenty centuries of exile from that someplace (organic metaphors are not out of place in this discourse, for they are used within the tradition itself). It is profoundly disturbing to hear Jewish attachment to the Land decried as regressive in the same discursive situations in which the attachment of native Americans or Australians to their particular rocks, trees, and deserts is celebrated as an organic connection to the Earth that "we" have lost" p. 714.
Cohen, Robin. 1997. Global Diasporas: An Introduction. p. 24 London: UCL Press. "...although the word Babylon often connotes captivity and oppression, a rereading of the Babylonian period of exile can thus be shown to demonstrate the development of a new creative energy in a challenging, pluralistic context outside the natal homeland. When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in AD 70, it was Babylon that remained as the nerve- and brain-centre for Jewish life and thought...the crushing of the revolt of the Judaeans against the Romans and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman general Titus in AD 70 precisely confirmed the catastrophic tradition. Once again, Jews had been unable to sustain a national homeland and were scattered to the far corners of the world" (p. 24).
Johnson, Paul A History of the Jews "The Bar Kochba Revolt," (HarperPerennial, 1987) pp. 158–61.: Paul Johnson analyzes Cassius Dio's Roman History: Epitome of Book LXIX para. 13–14 (Dio's passage cited separately) among other sources: "Even if Dio's figures are somewhat exaggerated, the casualties amongst the population and the destruction inflicted on the country would have been considerable. According to Jerome, many Jews were also sold into slavery, so many, indeed, that the price of Jewish slaves at the slave market in Hebron sank drastically to a level no greater than that for a horse. The economic structure of the country was largely destroyed. The entire spiritual and economic life of the Palestinian Jews moved to Galilee. Jerusalem was now turned into a Roman colony with the official name Colonia Aelia Capitolina (Aelia after Hadrian's family name: P. Aelius Hadrianus; Capitolina after Jupiter Capitolinus). The Jews were forbidden on pain of death to set foot in the new Roman city. Aelia thus became a completely pagan city, no doubt with the corresponding public buildings and temples...We can...be certain that a statue of Hadrian was erected in the centre of Aelia, and this was tantamount in itself to a desecration of Jewish Jerusalem." p. 159.
Cassius Dio's Roman History: Epitome of Book LXIX para. 13–14: "13 At first the Romans took no account of them. Soon, however, all Judaea had been stirred up, and the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering together, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans, partly by secret and partly by overt acts; 2 many outside nations, too, were joining them through eagerness for gain, and the whole earth, one might almost say, was being stirred up over the matter. Then, indeed, Hadrian sent against them his best generals. First of these was Julius Severus, who was dispatched from Britain, where he was governor, against the Jews. 3 Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their desperation, but by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and his under-officers, and by depriving them of food and shutting them up, he was able, rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparatively little danger, to crush, exhaust and exterminate them. Very few of them in fact survived. Fifty of their most important outposts and nine hundred and eighty-five of their most famous villages were razed to the ground. Five hundred and eighty thousand men were slain in the various raids and battles, and the number of those that perished by famine, disease and fire was past finding out. 2 Thus nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate, a result of which the people had had forewarning before the war. For the tomb of Solomon, which the Jews regard as an object of veneration, fell to pieces of itself and collapsed, and many wolves and hyenas rushed howling into their cities. 3 Many Romans, moreover, perished in this war. Therefore Hadrian in writing to the senate did not employ the opening phrase commonly affected by the emperors, 'If you and our children are in health, it is well; I and the legions are in health'" (para. 13–14).
Safran, William. 2005. The Jewish Diaspora in a Comparative and Theoretical Perspective. Israel Studies 10 (1): 36. "...diaspora referred to a very specific case—that of the exile of the Jews from the Holy Land and their dispersal throughout several parts of the globe. Diaspora [ galut] connoted deracination, legal disabilities, oppression, and an often painful adjustment to a hostland whose hospitality was unreliable and ephemeral. It also connoted the existence on foreign soil of an expatriate community that considered its presence to be transitory. Meanwhile, it developed a set of institutions, social patterns, and ethnonational and/or religious symbols that held it together. These included the language, religion, values, social norms, and narratives of the homeland. Gradually, this community adjusted to the hostland environment and became itself a center of cultural creation. All the while, however, it continued to cultivate the idea of return to the homeland." (p. 36).
Sheffer, Gabriel. 2005. Is the Jewish Diaspora Unique? Reflections on the Diaspora's Current Situation. Israel Studies 10 (1): pp. 3–4. "...the Jewish nation, which from its very earliest days believed and claimed that it was the "chosen people," and hence unique. This attitude has further been buttressed by the equally traditional view, which is held not only by the Jews themselves, about the exceptional historical age of this diaspora, its singular traumatic experiences its singular ability to survive pogroms, exiles, and Holocaust, as well as its "special relations" with its ancient homeland, culminating in 1948 with the nation-state that the Jewish nation has established there... First, like many other members of established diasporas, the vast majority of Jews no longer regard themselves as being in Galut [exile] in their host countries.7 Perceptually, as well as actually, Jews permanently reside in host countries of their own free will, as a result of inertia, or as a result of problematic conditions prevailing in other hostlands, or in Israel. It means that the basic perception of many Jews about their existential situation in their hostlands has changed. Consequently, there is both a much greater self- and collective-legitimatization to refrain from making serious plans concerning "return" or actually "making Aliyah" [to emigrate, or "go up"] to Israel. This is one of the results of their wider, yet still rather problematic and sometimes painful acceptance by the societies and political systems in their host countries. It means that they, and to an extent their hosts, do not regard Jewish life within the framework of diasporic formations in these hostlands as something that they should be ashamed of, hide from others, or alter by returning to the old homeland" (p. 4).
Davies, William David; Finkelstein, Louis; Katz, Steven T. (1 January 1984). The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 4, The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521772488. Although Dio's figure of 985 as the number of villages destroyed during the war seems hyperbolic, all Judaean villages, without exception, excavated thus far were razed following the Bar Kochba Revolt. This evidence supports the impression of total regional destruction following the war. Historical sources note the vast number of captives sold into slavery in Palestine and shipped abroad. ... The Judaean Jewish community never recovered from the Bar Kochba war. In its wake, Jews no longer formed the majority in Palestine, and the Jewish center moved to the Galilee. Jews were also subjected to a series of religious edicts promulgated by Hadrian that were designed to uproot the nationalistic elements with the Judaean Jewish community, these proclamations remained in effect until Hadrian's death in 138. An additional, more lasting punitive measure taken by the Romans involved expunging Judaea from the provincial name, changing it from Provincia Judaea to Provincia Syria Palestina. Although such name changes occurred elsewhere, never before or after was a nation's name expunged as the result of rebellion.
Dalit Rom-Shiloni, Exclusive Inclusivity: Identity Conflicts Between the Exiles and the People who Remained (6th–5th Centuries BCE), A&C Black, 2013 p. xv n.3: 'it is argued that biblical texts of the Neo-Babylonian and the early Persian periods show a fierce adversarial relationship(s) between the Judean groups. We find no expressions of sympathy to the deported community for its dislocation, no empathic expressions towards the People Who Remained under Babylonian subjugation in Judah. The opposite is apparent: hostile, denigrating, and denunciating language characterizes the relationships between resident and exiled Judeans throughout the sixth and fifth centuries.' (p. xvii)
^Shatzmiller, Joseph. Doctors to Princes and Paupers: Jews, Medicine, and Medieval Society. Berkeley: U of California, 1995. Print.
^Max I. Dimont (1 June 2004). Jews, God, and History. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 102–. ISBN 978-1-101-14225-7."During the subsequent five hundred years, under Persian, Greek and Roman domination, the Jews wrote, revised, admitted and canonized all the books now comprising the Jewish Old Testament"
^Dr. Andrea C. Paterson (21 May 2009). Three Monotheistic Faiths – Judaism, Christianity, Islam: An Analysis and Brief History. AuthorHouse. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-1-4520-3049-4."Judaism also contributed to the religion of Islam for Islam derives its ideas of holy text, the Qur'an, ultimately from Judaism. The dietary and legal codes of Islam are based on those of Judaism. The basic design of the mosque, the Islamic house of worship, comes from that of the early synagogues. The communal prayer services of Islam and their devotional routines resembles those of Judaism."
^Cambridge University Historical Series, An Essay on Western Civilization in Its Economic Aspects, p.40: Hebraism, like Hellenism, has been an all-important factor in the development of Western Civilization; Judaism, as the precursor of Christianity, has indirectly had had much to do with shaping the ideals and morality of western nations since the christian era.
^Dever, William (2001). What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and When Did They Know It?. Eerdmans. pp. 98–99. ISBN 3-927120-37-5. After a century of exhaustive investigation, all respectable archaeologists have given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob credible "historical figures" [...] archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus has similarly been discarded as a fruitless pursuit.
^Mark Smith in "The Early History of God: Yahweh and Other Deities of Ancient Israel" states "Despite the long regnant model that the Canaanites and Israelites were people of fundamentally different culture, archaeological data now casts doubt on this view. The material culture of the region exhibits numerous common points between Israelites and Canaanites in the Iron I period (c. 1200–1000 BCE). The record would suggest that the Israelite culture largely overlapped with and derived from Canaanite culture... In short, Israelite culture was largely Canaanite in nature. Given the information available, one cannot maintain a radical cultural separation between Canaanites and Israelites for the Iron I period." (pp. 6–7). Smith, Mark (2002) "The Early History of God: Yahweh and Other Deities of Ancient Israel" (Eerdman's)
^Rendsberg, Gary (2008). "Israel without the Bible". In Frederick E. Greenspahn. The Hebrew Bible: New Insights and Scholarship. NYU Press, pp. 3–5
^Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2012). Western civilization (8th ed.). Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning. p. 33. ISBN 9780495913245. What is generally agreed, however, is that between 1200 and 1000 B.C.E., the Israelites emerged as a distinct group of people, possibly united into tribes or a league of tribes
^Lipschits, Oded (2014). "The History of Israel in the Biblical Period". In Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi. The Jewish Study Bible (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199978465.
^ abcFinkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). The Bible unearthed : archaeology's new vision of ancient Israel and the origin of its stories (1st Touchstone ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-86912-8.
^ abKuhrt, Amiele (1995). The Ancient Near East. Routledge. p. 438. ISBN 978-0415167628.
^מרדכי וורמברנד ובצלאל ס רותת "עם ישראל – תולדות 4000 שנה – מימי האבות ועד חוזה השלום", ע"מ 95. (Translation: Mordechai Vermebrand and Betzalel S. Ruth – "The People of Israel – the history of 4000 years – from the days of the Forefathers to the Peace Treaty", 1981, p. 95)
^ abDr. Solomon Gryazel, "History of the Jews – From the destruction of Judah in 586 BC to the present Arab Israeli conflict", p. 137
^Salo Wittmayer Baron (1937). A Social and Religious History of the Jews, by Salo Wittmayer Baron ... Volume 1 of A Social and Religious History of the Jews. Columbia University Press. p. 132.
^ abcLouis H. Feldman (2006). Judaism And Hellenism Reconsidered. BRILL.
^GOODMAN, MARTIN (26 February 2010). "Secta and natio". The Times Literary Supplement. Docs.google.com. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
^Brandeis, Louis (25 April 1915). "The Jewish Problem: How To Solve It". University of Louisville School of Law. Retrieved 2 April 2012. Jews are a distinctive nationality of which every Jew, whatever his country, his station or shade of belief, is necessarily a member
^Seth Daniel Kunin (8 February 2000). Themes and Issues in Judaism. A&C Black. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-304-33758-3.: Although culture - and Judaism is a culture (or cultures) as well as religion - can be subdivided into different analytical categories..."
^ abGrintz, Jehoshua M. (March 1960). "Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language in the Last Days of the Second Temple". Journal of Biblical Literature. The Society of Biblical Literature. 79 (1): 32–47. doi:10.2307/3264497. JSTOR3264497.
^Nava Nevo (2001). International Handbook of Jewish Education. Springer. p. 428. ISBN 9789400703544. In contrast to other peoples who are masters of their national languages, Hebrew is not the 'common possession' of all Jewish people, and it mainly—if not exclusively—lives and breathes in Israel.... Although there are oases of Hebrew in certain schools, it has not become the Jewish lingua franca and English is rapidly taking its place as the Jewish people's language of communication. Even Hebrew-speaking Israeli representatives tend to use English in their public appearances at international Jewish conventions.
^Chaya Herman (2006). Prophets and Profits: Managerialism and the Restructuring of Jewish Schools in South Africa. HSRC Press. p. 121. ISBN 9780796921147. It is English rather than Hebrew that emerged as the lingua franca of the Jews towards the late 20th century.... This phenomenon occurred despite efforts to make Hebrew a language of communication, and despite the fact that the teaching of Hebrew was considered the raison d'être of the Jewish day schools and the 'nerve center' of Jewish learning.
^Yaakov Kleiman (2004). DNA & Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews. Devora Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 9781930143890. The community is divided between 'native' Georgian Jews and Russian-speaking Ashkenazim who began migrating there at the beginning of the 19th century, and especially during World War II.
^Joshua A. Fishman (1985). Readings in the Sociology of Jewish Languages. pp. 165, 169–74. ISBN 9004072373. Jews in Tadzhikistan have adopted Tadzhik as their first language. The number of Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazic Jews in that region is comparatively low (cf. 2,905 in 1979). Both Ashkenazic and Oriental Jews have assimilated to Russian, the number of Jews speaking Russian as their first language amounting to a total of 6,564. It is reasonable to assume that the percentage of assimilated Ashkenazim is much higher than the portion of Oriental Jews.
^Donald L Niewyk, The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2000, p. 45: "The Holocaust is commonly defined as the murder of more than 5,000,000 Jews by the Germans in World War II." However, the Holocaust usually includes all of the different victims who were systematically murdered.
^Eisenstadt, S.N. (2004). Explorations in Jewish Historical Experience: The Civilizational Dimension. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. p. 75. ISBN 90-04-13693-2.
^Lewis, Hal M. (2006). From Sanctuary to Boardroom: A Jewish Approach to Leadership. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 1. ISBN 0-7425-5229-2.
^Schwartz, Richard H. (2001). Judaism and Global Survival. New York: Lantern Books. p. 153. ISBN 1-930051-87-5.
^Shalev, Baruch (2005). 100 Years of Nobel Prizes. p. 57. A striking fact... is the high number of Laureates of the Jewish faith—over 20% of the total Nobel Prizes (138); including: 17% in Chemistry, 26% in Medicine and Physics, 40% in Economics and 11% in Peace and Literature each. These numbers are especially startling in light of the fact that only some 14 million people (0.2% of the world's population) are Jewish.
^Dobbs, Stephen Mark (12 October 2001). "As the Nobel Prize marks centennial, Jews constitute 1/5 of laureates". j.Retrieved 3 April 2012. Throughout the 20th century, Jews, more so than any other minority, ethnic or cultural group, have been recipients of the Nobel Prize – perhaps the most distinguished award for human endeavor in the six fields for which it is given. Remarkably, Jews constitute almost one-fifth of all Nobel laureates. This, in a world in which Jews number just a fraction of 1 percent of the population.
^Ted Falcon; David Blatner (2001). "28". Judaism for dummies. John Wiley & Sons. Similarly, because Jews make up less than a quarter of one percent of the world's population, it's surprising that over 20 percent of Nobel prizes have been awarded to Jews or people of Jewish descent.
^Lawrence E. Harrison (2008). The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It. Oxford University Press. p. 102. That achievement is symbolized by the fact that 15 to 20 percent of Nobel Prizes have been won by Jews, who represent two tenths of one percent of the world's population.
^Jonathan B. Krasner; Jonathan D. Sarna (2006). The History of the Jewish People: Ancient Israel to 1880's America. Behrman House, Inc. p. 1. These accomplishments account for 20 percent of the Nobel Prizes awarded since 1901. What a feat for a people who make up only .2 percent of the world's population!
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