AskDefine | Define Jewish

Dictionary Definition

Jewish adj : of or relating to Jews or their culture or religion; "He is Jewish"; "a Jewish wedding" [syn: Judaic]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Adjective

Jewish ( more Jewish, most Jewish)
  1. Of or relating to Jews, their religion, their people or their culture.

Noun

  1. informal dated The Yiddish language

Translations

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

A Jew (Hebrew: יְהוּדִי, Yehudi (sl.); , Yehudim (pl.); Ladino: ג׳ודיו, Djudio (sl.); ג׳ודיוס, Djudios (pl.); Yiddish: ייִד, Yid (sl.); , Yidn (pl.)) is a member of the Jewish people, an ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the ancient Middle East. The ethnicity and the religion of Judaism, the traditional faith of the Jewish nation, are strongly interrelated, and converts to Judaism are both included and have been absorbed within the Jewish people throughout the millennia.
The Jews have experienced a long history of persecution in many different lands, resulting in a population that has fluctuated both in numbers and distribution over the centuries. According to the Jewish Agency, for the year 2007 there were 13.2 million Jews worldwide; 5.4 million (40.9%) in Israel, 5.3 million (40.2%) in the United States, and the remainder distributed in communities of varying sizes around the world; this represents 0.2% of the current estimated world population. These numbers include all those who consider themselves Jews whether or not affiliated, and, with the exception of Israel's Jewish population, do not include those who do not consider themselves Jews or who are not Jewish by halakha. The total world Jewish population, however, is difficult to measure. In addition to halakhic considerations, there are secular, political, and ancestral identification factors in defining who is a Jew that increase the figure considerably. Within a decade, Solomon began to build the Holy Temple known as the First Temple. Upon Solomon's death (c. 930 BCE), the ten northern tribes split off to form the Kingdom of Israel. In 722 BCE the Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel and exiled its Jews, starting a Jewish diaspora. At a time of limited mobility and travel, Jews became some of the first and most visible immigrants. Then as now, immigrants were treated with suspicion.
The First Temple period ended around 586 BCE as the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah and destroyed the Jewish Temple. In 538 BCE, after fifty years of Babylonian captivity, Persian King Cyrus the Great permitted the Jews to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the holy temple. Construction of the Second Temple, was completed in 516 BCE during the reign of Darius the Great seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple. When Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, the Land of Israel fell under Hellenistic Greek control, eventually falling to the Ptolemaic dynasty who lost it to the Seleucids. The Seleucid attempt to recast Jerusalem as a Hellenized polis came to a head in 168 BCE with the successful Maccabean revolt of Mattathias the High Priest and his five sons against Antiochus Epiphanes, and their establishment of the Hasmonean Kingdom in 152 BCE with Jerusalem again as its capital. The Hasmonean Kingdom lasted over one hundred years, but then as Rome became stronger it installed Herod as a Jewish client king. The Herodian Kingdom also lasted over a hundred years. Defeats by the Jews in the First revolt in 70 CE, the first of the Jewish-Roman Wars and the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE notably contributed to the numbers and geography of the diaspora, as significant numbers of the Jewish population of the Land of Israel were expelled and sold into slavery throughout the Roman Empire. Since then, Jews have lived in almost every country of the world, primarily in Europe and the greater Middle East, surviving discrimination, oppression, poverty, and even genocide (see: anti-Semitism, The Holocaust), with occasional periods of cultural, economic, and individual prosperity in various locations (such as Islamic Spain and Portugal, Emancipating Germany and Poland, or the contemporary Liberal Democracies of the United States, Australia or United Kingdom).
Until the late 18th century, the terms Jews and adherents of Judaism were practically synonymous, and Judaism was the prime binding factor of the Jewish people, regardless of the degree of adherence. Following the Age of Enlightenment and its Jewish counterpart Haskalah, a gradual transformation occurred during which many Jews came to view being a member of the Jewish nation as separate from adhering to the Jewish faith.
The Hebrew noun "Yehudi" (plural Yehudim) originally referred to the tribe of Judah. Later, when the Northern Kingdom of Israel split from the Southern Kingdom of Israel, the Southern Kingdom of Israel began to refer to itself by the name of its predominant tribe, or as the Kingdom of Judah . The term originally referred to the people of the southern kingdom, although the term B'nei Yisrael (Israelites) was still used for both groups. After the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom leaving the southern kingdom as the only Israelite state, the word Yehudim gradually came to refer to people of the Jewish faith as a whole, rather than those specifically from the tribe or Kingdom of Judah. The English word Jew is ultimately derived from Yehudi (see Etymology). Its first use in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) to refer to the Jewish people as a whole is in the Book of Esther.

Etymology

There are many different views as to the origin of the English language word Jew. The most common view is that the Middle English word Jew is from the Old French giu, earlier juieu, from the Latin iudeus from the Greek Ioudaios (). The Latin simply means Judaean, from the land of Judaea. The Hebrew word for Jew, יהודי , is pronounced ye-hoo-DEE.
The etymological equivalent is in use in other languages, e.g., "Jude" in German, "juif" in French, "jøde," in Danish, etc., but derivations of the word "Hebrew" are also in use to describe a Jewish person, e.g., in Spanish (hebreo), in Italian (Ebreo), and , (Yevrey). The German word "Jude" is pronounced yoodeh and is the origin of the word Yiddish. (See Jewish ethnonyms for a full overview.)

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. At times conversion has accounted for a substantial part of Jewish population growth. In the first century of the Christian era, for example, population more than doubled, from 4 to 8–10 million within the confines of the Roman Empire, in good part as a result of a wave of conversion.
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 tradition into the Babylonian Talmud. Interpretations of sections of the Tanach, such as Deuteronomy 7:1-5, by learned Jewish sages, are used as a warning against intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews because "[the non-Jewish male spouse] will cause your child to turn away from Me and they will worship the gods 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 contrasts with Ezra 10:2-3, where Israelites returning from Babylon, vow to put aside their gentile wives and their children. Since the Haskalah, these halakhic interpretations of Jewish identity have been challenged.

Ethnic divisions

Within the world's Jewish population, which is considered a single self-identifying ethnicity, 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 were 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 from each other. During the millennia of the Jewish diaspora the communities would develop under the influence of their local environments; political, cultural, natural and populational. Today, manifestation 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.
Historically, Jews have been distinguished into two major groups: the Ashkenazim, or "Germans" (Ashkenaz meaning "Germany" in Medieval Hebrew, denoting their Central European base), and the Sephardim, or "Spaniards" (Sefarad meaning "Spain" or "Iberia" in Hebrew, denoting their Spanish and Portuguese base). The Mizrahim, or "Easterners" (Mizrach being "East" in Hebrew), that is, the diverse collection of Middle Eastern and North African Jews, could constitute a third major group.
Smaller Jewish cultural groups include the Indian Jews including the Bene Israel, Bnei Menashe, Cochin Jews and Bene Ephraim; the Romaniotes of Greece; the Italkim or Bené Roma of Italy; the Teimanim from the Yemen and Oman; various African Jews, including most numerously the Beta Israel of Ethiopia; and Chinese Jews, most notably the Kaifeng Jews, as well as various other distinct but now extinct communities.
The divisions between all these groups are approximate and their boundaries aren’t clear. The Mizrahim for example, are a heterogeneous collection of North African, Central Asian, Caucasian and Middle Eastern Jewish communities which are often as unrelated to each other as they are to any of the earlier mentioned Jewish groups. In modern usage. However, the Mizrahim are also termed Sephardi due to similar styles of liturgy, despite independent development from Sephardim proper. Thus, among Mizrahim there are Iraqi Jews, Egyptian Jews, Berber Jews, Lebanese Jews, Kurdish Jews, Libyan Jews, Syrian Jews, Bukharian Jews, Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews and various others. The Teimanim from the Yemen and Oman 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. Additionally, there is a differentiation made between the pre-existing Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities as distinct from the descendants of those Sephardi migrants who established themselves in the Middle East and North Africa after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492, and a few years later from the expulsion decreed in Portugal.
Despite this diversity, Ashkenazi Jews represent the bulk of modern Jewry, with at least 70% of Jews worldwide (and up to 90% prior to World War II and the Holocaust). As a result of their emigration from Europe during the wartime periods, Ashkenazim also represent the overwhelming majority of Jews in the New World continents and in countries previously without native Jewish communities, such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Africa. In France, emigration of Mizrahim from North Africa has led them to outnumber pre-existing European Jews. Only in Israel is the Jewish population representative of all groups, a melting pot independent of each group's proportion within the overall world Jewish population.

Population

Significant geographic populations

There are an estimated 13 million Jews worldwide. The table below lists countries with significant populations. Please note that these populations represent low-end estimates of the worldwide Jewish population, accounting for around 0.2% of the world's population.
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1