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יהודים (Yehudim)
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Israel 5,393,000[1] – 5,569,000[2]
 United States 5,275,000[1] – 6,444,000 [3]
 France 490,000 [1]
 Canada 374,000 [1]
 United Kingdom 295,000 [1]
 Russia 225,000 [1]
 Argentina 184,000 [1]
 Germany 120,000 [1]
 Australia 104,000 [1]
 Brazil 96,000 [1]
 Ukraine 77,000 [1]
 South Africa 72,000 [1]
 Hungary 49,000 [1]
 Mexico 40,000 [1]
 Belgium 31,200 [4]
 Netherlands 30,000 [4]
 Italy 28,600 [4]
 Chile 20,700 [4]
 Belarus 18,200 [4]
 Uruguay 18,000 [4]
 Switzerland 17,900 [4]
 Turkey 17,800 [4]
 Venezuela 15,400 [4]
 Sweden 15,000 [4]
 Spain 12,000 [4]
 Iran 10,800 [4]
 Romania 10,100 [4]
 Latvia 9,800 [4]
 Austria 9,000 [4]
 Azerbaijan 6,800 [4]
 Denmark 6,400 [4]
 Panama 5,000 [4]
Historical Jewish languages
Hebrew · Yiddish · Ladino · others
Liturgical languages
Hebrew · Aramaic
Predominant spoken languages
The vernacular language of each home nation in the Jewish diaspora, including, significantly, English, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian.


The Jews (Hebrew: יְהוּדִים‎, Yehudim), also known as the Jewish people, are an ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation.[5][6][7] Converts to Judaism, whose status as Jews within the Jewish ethnos is equal to those born into it, have been absorbed into the Jewish people throughout the millennia.

In Jewish tradition, Jewish ancestry is traced to the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the second millennium BCE. The Jews have enjoyed three periods of political autonomy in their national homeland, the Land of Israel, twice during ancient history, and currently once again, since 1948, with the establishment of the modern State of Israel. The first of the two ancient eras spanned from 1350 to 586 BCE, and encompassed the periods of the Judges, the United Monarchy, and the Divided Monarchy of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, ending with the destruction of the First Temple. The second era was the period of the Hasmonean Kingdom spanning from 140 to 37 BCE. Since the destruction of the First Temple, the diaspora has been the home of most of the world's Jews.[8] Except in the modern State of Israel, Jews are a minority in every country in which they live, and they have frequently experienced persecution throughout history, resulting in a population that fluctuated both in numbers and distribution over the centuries.

According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, as of 2007 there were 13.2 million Jews worldwide, 5.4 million of whom lived in Israel, 5.3 million 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.[1] (Other sources cite higher estimates. For example, the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics estimates the number of Israeli Jews to be 5.6 million and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the American Jewish population to be as many as 6.4 million.[2][3]) These numbers include all those who consider themselves Jews whether or not affiliated with a Jewish organization.[9] 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.[9]



Name and etymology

The English word Jew continues Middle English Gyw, Iewe, a loan from Old French giu, earlier juieu, ultimately from Latin Iudaeum. The Latin Iudaeus simply means Judaean, "from the land of Judaea". The Latin term itself, like the corresponding Greek Ἰουδαῖος, is a loan from Aramaic Y'hūdāi, corresponding to Hebrew: יְהוּדִי‎, Yehudi (sg.); יְהוּדִים, Yehudim (pl.), in origin the term for a member of the tribe of Judah or the people of the kingdom of Judah. The Hebrew word for Jew, יְהוּדִי, is pronounced [jəhuˈdiː], with the stress on the final syllable.[10]

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., "Jude" in German, "juif" in French, "jøde" in Danish, "judío" in Spanish, etc., but derivations of the word "Hebrew" are also in use to describe a Jewish person, e.g., in Italian (Ebreo), and Russian: Еврей, (Yevrey).[11] The German word "Jude" is pronounced [ˈjuːdə], and is the origin of the word Yiddish.[12] (See Jewish ethnonyms for a full overview.)

According to the The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000):

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.[13]


Judaism guides its adherents in both practice and belief, and has been called not only a religion, but also a "way of life,"[14] 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,[15] in Europe before and after The Age of Enlightenment (see Haskalah),[16] in Islamic Spain and Portugal,[17] in North Africa and the Middle East,[17] India,[18] and China,[19] or the contemporary United States[20] and Israel,[21] 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, 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, each as authentically Jewish as the next.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24] At times conversion has accounted for a substantial part of Jewish population growth. In the first century of the Christian era, for example, the 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.[25]

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 Tanakh, 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.[26][27] Since the Haskalah, these halakhic interpretations of Jewish identity have been challenged.[28]

Ethnic divisions

Ashkenazi Jews of late 19th century Eastern Europe portrayed in Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur (1878), by Maurycy Gottlieb.

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 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.[29]

Jews are often identified as belonging to one of two major groups: the Ashkenazim, or "Germanics" (Ashkenaz meaning "Germany" in Medieval Hebrew, denoting their Central European base), and the Sephardim, or "Hispanics" (Sefarad meaning "Spain/Hispania" 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, constitute a third major group, although they are sometimes termed Sephardi for liturgical reasons.[30]

Smaller groups include, but are not restricted to, Indian Jews such as the Bene Israel, Bnei Menashe, Cochin Jews, and Bene Ephraim; the Romaniotes of Greece; the Italian Jews ("Italkim" or "Bené Roma"); the Teimanim from 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 almost extinct communities.[31]

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 often as unrelated to each other as 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 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 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. 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.[31]

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, Ashkenazim also represent the overwhelming majority of Jews in the New World continents, in countries such as the United States, Canada, Argentina, Australia, and Brazil. In France, emigration of Mizrahim from North Africa has led them to outnumber the Ashkenazim and Sephardim.[32] 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.[33]

Jewish languages

Hebrew is the liturgical language of Judaism (termed lashon ha-kodesh, "the holy tongue"), the language in which the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh) were composed, and the daily speech of the Jewish people for centuries. By the fifth century BCE, Aramaic, a closely related tongue, joined Hebrew as the spoken language in Judea.[34] By the third century BCE, Jews of the diaspora were speaking Greek.[35] Modern Hebrew is now one of the two official languages of the State of Israel along with Arabic.[36]

Hebrew was revived as a spoken language by Eliezer ben Yehuda, who arrived in Palestine in 1881. It hadn't been used as a mother tongue since Tannaic times.[34] For over sixteen centuries Hebrew was used almost exclusively as a liturgical language, and as the language in which most books had been written on Judaism, with a few speaking only Hebrew on the Sabbath.[37] For centuries, Jews worldwide have spoken the local or dominant languages of the regions they migrated to, often developing distinctive dialectal forms or branching off as independent languages. Yiddish is the Judæo-German language developed by Ashkenazi Jews who migrated to Central Europe, and Ladino is the Judæo-Spanish language developed by Sephardic Jews who migrated to the Iberian peninsula. Due to many factors, including the impact of the Holocaust on European Jewry, the Jewish exodus from Arab lands, and widespread emigration from other Jewish communities around the world, ancient and distinct Jewish languages of several communities, including Gruzinic, Judæo-Arabic, Judæo-Berber, Krymchak, Judæo-Malayalam and many others, have largely fallen out of use.[38]

The three most commonly spoken languages among Jews today are Hebrew, English and Russian. Some Romance languages, such as French, and Spanish are also widely used.[38]

Yiddish has been spoken by more Jews in history than any other language, closely followed by English and Hebrew (if modern and biblical are counted as one variety).

Genetic studies

Genetic studies indicate various lineages found in modern Jewish populations, however, most of these populations share a lineage in common, traceable to an ancient population that underwent geographic branching and subsequent independent evolutions.[39] While DNA tests have demonstrated inter-marriage in all of the various Jewish ethnic divisions over the last 3,000 years, it was substantially less than in other populations.[40 ] The findings lend support to traditional Jewish accounts accrediting their founding to exiled Israelite populations, and counters theories that many or most of the world's Jewish populations were founded entirely by local populations that adopted the Jewish faith, devoid of any actual Israelite genetic input.[40 ][41]

DNA analysis further determined that modern Jews of the priesthood tribe—"Kohanim"—share an ancestor dating back about 3,000 years.[42] This result is consistent for all Jewish populations around the world.[42] The researchers estimated that the most recent common ancestor of modern Kohanim lived between 1000 BCE (roughly the time of the Biblical Exodus) and 586 BCE, when the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple.[43 ] They found similar results analyzing DNA from Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews.[43 ] The scientists estimated the date of the original priest based on genetic mutations, which indicated that the priest lived roughly 106 generations ago, between 2,650 and 3,180 years ago depending whether one counts a generation as 25 or 30 years.[43 ]

Although individual and groups of converts to Judaism have historically been absorbed into contemporary Jewish populations — in the Khazars' case, absorbed into the Ashkenazim — it is unlikely that they formed a large percentage of the ancestors of modern Jewish groups, and much less that they represented their genesis as Jewish communities.[44]

Male lineages: Y chromosomal DNA

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences found that "the paternal gene pools of Jewish communities from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population", and suggested that "most Jewish communities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora".[39] Researchers expressed surprise at the remarkable genetic uniformity they found among modern Jews, no matter where the diaspora has become dispersed around the world.[39]

Other Y-chromosome findings show that the world's Jewish communities are closely related to Kurds, Syrians and Palestinians.[45][42] Skorecki and colleague wrote that "the extremely close affinity of Jewish and non-Jewish Middle Eastern populations observed ... supports the hypothesis of a common Middle Eastern origin".[42] According to another study of the same year, more than 70% of Jewish men and half of the Arab men (inhabitants of Israel and the territories only) whose DNA was studied inherited their Y-chromosomes from the same paternal ancestors who lived in the region within the last few thousand years. The results are consistent with the Biblical account of Jews and Arabs having a common ancestor. About two-thirds of Israeli Arabs and Arabs in the territories and a similar proportion of Israeli Jews are the descendants of at least three common ancestors who lived in the Middle East in the Neolithic period. However, the Palestinian Arab clade includes two Arab modal haplotypes which are found at only very low frequency among Jews, reflecting divergence and/or large scale admixture from non-local populations to the Palestinians.[46]

Points in which Jewish groups differ is largely in the source and proportion of genetic contribution from host populations.[47][48] The proportion of male indigenous European genetic admixture in Ashkenazi Jews amounts to around 0.5% per generation over an estimated 80 generations, and a total admixture estimate "very similar to Motulsky's average estimate of 12.5%."[39] More recent study estimates an even lower European male contribution, and that only 5%–8% of the Ashkenazi gene pool is of European origin.[39]

Female lineages: Mitochondrial DNA

Before 2006, geneticists largely attributed the genesis of most of the world's Jewish populations to founding acts by males who migrated from the Middle East and "by the women from each local population whom they took as wives and converted to Judaism." However, more recent findings of studies of maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA, at least in Ashkenazi Jews, has led to a review of this archetype.[49] This research has suggested that, in addition to Israelite male, significant female founder ancestry might also derive from the Middle East.[49] In addition, Behar (2006) suggested that the rest of Ashkenazi mtDNA is originated from about 150 women, most of those were probably of Middle Eastern origin.[50]

Research in 2008 found significant founder effects in many non-Asheknazi Jewish populations. In Belmonte, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Bene Israel and Libyan Jewish communities "a single mother was sufficient to explain at least 40% of their present-day mtDNA variation". In addition, "the Cochin and Tunisian Jewish communities show an attenuated pattern with two founding mothers explaining >30% of the variation." In contrast, Bulgarian, Turkish, Moroccan and Ethiopian Jews were heterogeneous with no evidence "for a narrow founder effect or depletion of mtDNA variation attributable to drift". The authors noted that "the first three of these communities were established following the Spanish expulsion and/or received large influxes of individuals from the Iberian Peninsula and high variation presently observed, probably reflects high overall mtDNA diversity among Jews of Spanish descent. Likewise, the mtDNA pool of Ethiopian Jews reflects the rich maternal lineage variety of East Africa." Jewish communities from Iraq, Iran, and Yemen showed a "third and intermediate pattern... consistent with a founding event, but not a narrow one".[51]

In this and other studies Yemenite Jews differ from other Mizrahim, as well as from Ashkenazim, in the proportion of sub-Saharan African gene types which have entered their gene pools.[47] African-specific Hg L(xM,N) lineages were found only in Yemenite and Ethiopian Jewish populations.[51] Among Yemenites, the average stands at 35% lineages within the past 3,000 years.[47]


Population centres

There are an estimated 13.2 million Jews worldwide.[1] 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.

Country or Region Jewish population Total Population % Jewish Notes
Israel 5,393,000 7,117,000 75.8% [1]
United States 5,275,000 301,469,000 1.7% [1]
Europe 1,506,000 710,000,000 0.2% [4]
France 490,000 64,102,000 0.8% [1]
Canada 374,000 32,874,000 1.1% [1]
United Kingdom 295,000 60,609,000 0.5% [1]
Russia 225,000 142,400,000 0.2% [1]
Argentina 184,000 39,922,000 0.5% [1]
Germany 120,000 82,310,000 0.1% [1]
Australia 104,000 20,788,000 0.5% [1]
Brazil 96,000 188,078,000 0.05% [1]
Ukraine 77,000 46,481,000 0.2% [1]
South Africa 72,000 47,432,000 0.2% [1]
Hungary 49,000 10,053,000 0.5% [1]
Mexico 40,000 108,700,000 0.04% [1]
Asia (excl. Israel) 39,500 3,900,000,000 0.001% [4]
Belgium 31,200 10,419,000 0.3% [4]
Italy 28,600 58,884,000 0.05% [4]
Turkey 17,800 72,600,000 0.02% [4]
Iran 10,800 68,467,000 0.02% [4]
Romania 10,100 21,500,000 0.05% [4]
New Zealand 7,000 4,306,400 0.04% [4]
Greece 5,500 11,100,000 0.05% [4]
Cuba 1,500 11,450,000 0.013% [52]
Total 13,156,500 6,455,078,000 0.2% [1]

State of Israel

David Ben Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, May 14, 1948

Israel, the Jewish nation-state, is the only country in which Jews make up a majority of the citizens.[53][54] Israel was established as an independent democratic state on May 14, 1948.[55] Of the 120 members in its parliament, the Knesset,[56] currently, 12 members of the Knesset are Arab citizens of Israel, most representing Arab political parties and one of Israel's Supreme Court judges is a Palestinian Arab.[57] Between 1948 and 1958, the Jewish population rose from 800,000 to two million.[58] Currently, Jews account for 75.8% of the Israeli population, or 5.4 million people.[1] The early years of the state of Israel were marked by the mass immigration of Holocaust survivors and Jews fleeing Arab lands.[59] Israel also has a large population of Ethiopian Jews, many of whom were airlifted to Israel in the late 1980s and early 1990s.[60] Between 1974 and 1979 nearly 227,258 immigrants arrived in Israel, about half being from the Soviet Union.[61] This period also saw an increase in immigration to Israel from Western Europe, Latin America, and the United States[62] A trickle of immigrants from other communities has also arrived, including Indian Jews and others, as well as some descendants of Ashkenazi Holocaust survivors who had settled in countries such as the United States, Argentina, Australia and South Africa. Some Jews have emigrated from Israel elsewhere, due to economic problems or disillusionment with political conditions and the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict. Jewish Israeli emigrants are known as yordim.[63]

Diaspora (outside Israel)

The waves of immigration to the United States and elsewhere at the turn of the nineteenth century, the founding of Zionism and later events, including pogroms in Russia, the massacre of European Jewry during the Holocaust, and the founding of the state of Israel, with the subsequent Jewish exodus from Arab lands, all resulted in substantial shifts in the population centers of world Jewry by the end of the twentieth century.[64]

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 would flee the pogroms of the Russian Empire to the safety of the US from 1881–1924.[65]

Currently, the largest Jewish community in the world is located in the United States, with 5.3 million or 6.4 million Jews by various estimates. Elsewhere in the Americas, there are also large Jewish populations in Canada, Argentina, and Brazil, and smaller populations in Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, and several other countries (see History of the Jews in Latin America).[1][3]

Western Europe's largest Jewish community can be found in France, home to 490,000 Jews, the majority of whom are immigrants or refugees from North African Arab countries such as Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia (or their descendants).[66] There are 295,000 Jews in the United Kingdom. In Eastern Europe, there are anywhere from 350,000 to one million Jews living in the former Soviet Union, but exact figures are difficult to establish. The fastest-growing Jewish community in the world, outside Israel, is the one in Germany, especially in Berlin, its capital. Tens of thousands of Jews from the former Eastern Bloc have settled in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall.[67]

The Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East were home to around 900,000 Jews in 1945. Fueled by anti-Zionism[68] after the founding of Israel, systematic persecution caused almost all of these Jews to flee to Israel, North America, and Europe in the 1950s (see Jewish exodus from Arab lands). Today, around 8,000 Jews remain in all Arab nations combined.[4]

Iran is home to around 10,800 Jews, down from a population of 100,000 Jews before the 1979 revolution. After the revolution some of the Iranian Jews emigrated to Israel or Europe but most of them emigrated (with their non-Jewish Iranian compatriots) to the United States (especially Los Angeles, where the principal community is called "Tehrangeles").[4][69]

Outside Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and the rest of Asia, there are significant Jewish populations in Australia and South Africa.[4]

Demographic changes


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.[70] Assimilation took place in all areas, and during all time periods,[70] with some Jewish communities, for example the Kaifeng Jews of China, disappearing entirely.[71] The advent of the Jewish Enlightenment of the 1700s (see Haskalah) and the subsequent emancipation of the Jewish populations of Europe and America in the 1800s, 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.[72] Rates of interreligious marriage vary widely: In the United States, they are just under 50%,[73] in the United Kingdom, around 53%, in France, around 30%,[74] and in Australia and Mexico, as low as 10%.[75][76] In the United States, only about a third of children from intermarriages affiliate themselves with Jewish religious practice.[77] 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

Related articles: Antisemitism, History of antisemitism, New antisemitism
Jews (identifiable by the distinctive hats that they were required to wear) being killed by Christian knights. French Bible illustration from 1255.
WW I poster shows a soldier cutting the bonds from a Jewish man, who says, " let me help you set others free!"

The Jewish people and Judaism have experienced various persecutions throughout Jewish history. During late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages the Roman Empire (in its later phases known as the Byzantine Empire) repeatedly repressed the Jewish population, first by ejecting them from their homelands during the pagan Roman era and later by officially establishing them as second-class citizens during the Christian Roman era.[78][79] 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."[80] Of course, there are many other complex demographic factors involved; the rate of population growth, epidemics, migration, assimilation, and conversion could all have played major roles in the current size of the global Jewish population.

Later in medieval Western Europe, further persecutions of Jews in the name of Christianity occurred, notably during the Crusades—when Jews all over Germany were massacred—and a series of expulsions from England, Germany, France, and, in the largest expulsion of all, Spain and Portugal after the Reconquista (the Catholic Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula), where both unbaptized Sephardic Jews and the ruling Muslim Moors were expelled.[81][82] In the Papal States, which existed until 1870, Jews were required to live only in specified neighborhoods called ghettos.[83] In the 19th and (before the end of World War II) 20th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church adhered to a distinction between "good antisemitism" and "bad antisemitism". The "bad" kind promoted hatred of Jews because of their descent. This was considered un-Christian because the Christian message was intended for all of humanity regardless of ethnicity; anyone could become a Christian. The "good" kind criticized alleged Jewish conspiracies to control newspapers, banks, and other institutions, to care only about accumulation of wealth, etc.[84]

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 to administer their internal affairs, but subject to certain conditions.[85] They had to pay the jizya (a per capita tax imposed on free adult non-Muslim males) to the Islamic state.[85] 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.[86] Many of the disabilities were highly symbolic. The one described by Bernard Lewis as "most degrading"[87] was the requirement of distinctive clothing, not found in the Qur'an or hadith but invented in early medieval Baghdad; its enforcement was highly erratic.[87] 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.[88] Notable exceptions include the massacre of Jews and/or forcible conversion of some Jews by the rulers of the Almohad dynasty in Al-Andalus in the 12th century,[89] as well as in Islamic Persia,[90] and the forced confinement of Morrocan Jews to walled quarters known as mellahs beginning from the 15th century and especially in the early 19th century.[91] In modern times, it has become commonplace for standard antisemitic themes to be conflated with anti-Zionist publications and pronouncements of Islamic movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas, in the pronouncements of various agencies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and even in the newspapers and other publications of Turkish Refah Partisi."[92]

Throughout history, many rulers, empires and nations have oppressed their Jewish populations or sought to eliminate them entirely. Methods employed ranged from expulsion to outright genocide; within nations, often the threat of these extreme methods was sufficient to silence dissent. The history of antisemitism includes the First Crusade which resulted in the massacre of Jews;[81] the Spanish Inquisition (led by Torquemada) and the Portuguese Inquisition, with their persecution and Auto de fé against the New Christians and Marrano Jews;[93] the Bohdan Chmielnicki Cossack massacres in Ukraine;[94] the Pogroms backed by the Russian Tsars;[95 ] as well as expulsions from Spain, Portugal, England, France, Germany, and other countries in which the Jews had settled.[82] The persecution reached a peak in Adolf Hitler's Final Solution, which led to the Holocaust and the slaughter of approximately 6 million Jews from 1939 to 1945.[96]According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics 19.8% of the modern Iberian population has Sephardic Jewish ancestry,[97] indicating that the number of conversos may have been much higher than originally thought.[98]

The most notable modern day persecution of Jews remains the Holocaust — the state-led systematic persecution and genocide of European Jews (and certain communities of North African Jews in European controlled North Africa) and other minority groups of Europe during World War II by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.[99] The persecution and genocide were accomplished in stages. Legislation to remove the Jews from civil society was enacted years before the outbreak of World War II.[100] Concentration camps were established in which inmates were used as slave labour until they died of exhaustion or disease.[101] Where the Third Reich conquered new territory in eastern Europe, specialized units called Einsatzgruppen murdered Jews and political opponents in mass shootings.[102] Jews and Roma were crammed into ghettos before being transported hundreds of miles by freight train to extermination camps where, if they survived the journey, the majority of them were killed in gas chambers.[103] Virtually every arm of Germany's bureaucracy was involved in the logistics of the mass murder, turning the country into what one Holocaust scholar has called "a genocidal nation."[104]


Etching of the expulsion of the Jews from Frankfurt on August 23, 1614. The text says: "1380 persons old and young were counted at the exit of the gate"
Jewish refugees in Shanghai, China during World War II. Shanghai offered unconditional asylum for tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from Europe escaping the Holocaust.[105]

Throughout Jewish history, Jews have repeatedly been directly or indirectly expelled from both their original homeland, and the areas in which they have resided. This experience as both immigrants and emigrants (see: Jewish refugees) have shaped Jewish identity and religious practice in many ways, and are thus a major element of Jewish history.[106] An incomplete list of such migrations includes:


Israel is the only country with a consistently growing Jewish population due to natural population increase, though the Jewish populations of other countries in Europe and North America have recently increased due to 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.[126]

Orthodox and Conservative Judaism discourage proselytization 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.[127] 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 twenty-five years, there has been a trend of secular Jews becoming more religiously observant, known as the Baal Teshuva movement, though the demographic implications of the trend are unknown.[128] Additionally, there is also a growing movement of Jews by Choice by gentiles who make the decision to head in the direction of becoming Jews.[129]

Jewish leadership

There is no single governing body for the Jewish community, nor a single authority with responsibility for religious doctrine.[130] 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.[131]

Notable Jews

Jews have made contributions in a broad range of human endeavors, including the sciences, arts, politics, and business.[132][133] The number of Jewish Nobel prize winners is far out of proportion to the percentage of Jews in the world's population.[134][133]

See also

More complete guides to topics related to the Jews is available from the guide at the top or bottom of this page. Some topics of interest include:


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  2. ^ a b (PDF) Statistical Abstract of Israel, Central Bureau of Statistics, 2009, p. 88,  
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  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad "The Jewish Population of the World (2006)". Jewish Virtual Library.  , based on American Jewish Year Book. 106. American Jewish Committee. 2006.  
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