Jewish ethnic divisions refers to a number of distinctive communities within the world's ethnically Jewish population. Although considered one single self-identifying ethnicity, there are distinctive ethnic subdivisions among Jews, most of which are primarily the result of geographic branching from an originating Israelite population, mixing with local populations, and subsequent independent evolutions.
As long ago as Biblical times, cultural and linguistic differences between Jewish communities, even within the area of Ancient Israel and Judea, are observed both within the Bible itself as well as from archeological remains. In more recent human history, 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
DIASPORA FOLLOWING THE FAILURE OF THE SECOND REVOLT AGAINST THE ROMANS IN 135 CE
Following the failure of the second revolt against the Romans and the exile, Jewish communities could be found in nearly every notable center throughout the Roman Empire, as well as scattered communities found in centers beyond the Empire's borders in northern Europe, in eastern Europe, in southwestern Asia, and in Africa. Farther to the east along trade routes, Jewish communities could be found throughout Persia and in empires even farther east including in India and China. In the Early Middle Ages of the 6th to 11th centuries, theRadhanites traded along the overland routes between Europe and Asia earlier established by the Romans, dominated trade between the Christian and the Islamic worlds, and used a trade network that covered most areas of Jewish settlement.
In western Europe, following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476, and especially after the re-orientation of trade caused by the Moorish conquest of Iberia in the early 8th century, communications between the Jewish communities in northern parts of the former western empire became sporadic. At the same time, rule under Islam, even with dhimmistatus, resulted in freer trade and communications within the Muslim world, and the communities in Iberia remained in frequent contact with Jewry in North Africa and the Middle East, but communities further afield, in central and south Asia and central Africa, remained more isolated, and continued to develop their own unique traditions. For the Sephardim in Spain, it resulted in a "Hebrew Golden Age" in the 10th to 12th centuries. The 1492 expulsion from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs however, made the Sephardic Jews hide and disperse to France, Italy, England, the Netherlands, parts of what is now northwestern Germany, and to other existing communities in Christian Europe, as well as to those within the Ottoman Empire, to the Maghreb in North Africa and smaller numbers to other areas of the Middle East, and eventually to the Americas in the early 17th century.
In northern and Christian Europe during this period, financial competition developed between the authority of the Pope in Rome and nascent states and empires. This dynamic, with the Great Schism, recurrent fervid religious Crusades, Episcopal Inquisition and later protestations and wars between Christians themselves, caused repeated periods and occurrences of persecution against the established Jewish minority in "Ashkenaz" in modern Hebrew means Germanic Jews and with Ancient Hebrew it included the areas that are now northern France, Germany and Switzerland—masses of Jews began to move further to the east. There, they were welcomed by the king of Poland, and with Lithuania, grew greatly, and relatively flourished to the end of the 18th century. In western Europe, the conditions for Jewry differed between the communities within the various countries and over time, depending on background conditions. With both pull and push factors operating, Ashkenazi emigration to the Americas would increase in the early 18th century with German-speaking Ashkenazi Jews, and end with a tidal wave between 1880 and the early 20th century with Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazim, as conditions in the east deteriorated under the failing Russian Empire. With the Holocaust and the destruction of most European Jewry, North America would hold the majority of world Jewry.
Historically, European Jews have been classified into 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 "Hispania" or "Iberia" in Hebrew), denoting their Spanish and Portuguese base. A third historic termMizrahim, or "Easterners" ("Mizrach" being "East" in Hebrew) has been used to describe other non-European Jewish communities to the east, but its usage has changed both over time and relative to the location where it was used. A similar three-part distinction in the Jewish community of 16th-century Venice is noted by Johnson as being "divided into three nations, the Penentines from Spain, the Levantines who were Turkish subjects, and the Natione Tedesca or Jews of German origin..." The far more recent meaning of the term, to include both Middle Eastern and North African Jews in a single term, developed within Zionism in the mid-1940s, when Jews from these countries were all combined in one category as the target of an immigration plan. According to some sources, the current sense of the term, as an ethnic group distinct from European-born Jews, was invented at this time. The term constitutes a third major layer to some, and following the partition of Palestine and Israeli independence, the Mizrahim's often-forced migration, led to their re-established communities in Israel.
Smaller Jewish groups include the Georgian Jews and Mountain Jews from the Caucasus; Indian Jews including the Bene Israel,Bnei Menashe, Cochin Jews and Bene Ephraim; the Romaniotes of Greece; the ancient Italian Jewish community; the Teimanim from the Yemen; various African Jews, including most numerously the Beta Israel of Ethiopia; the Bukharan Jews of Central Asia; 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 rough and their boundaries aren't solid. The Mizrahim for example, are a heterogeneous collection of North African 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 evolutions from Sephardim proper. Thus, among Mizrahim there are Iranian Jews, Iraqi Jews, Egyptian Jews, Sudanese Jews, Tunisian Jews, Algerian Jews, Moroccan Jews, Lebanese Jews, Kurdish Jews, Libyan Jews, Syrian Jews, and various others. The Yemenite Jews ("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. Additionally, there is a difference 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 in 1497 from the expulsion decreed in Portugal.
Despite this diversity, Ashkenazi Jews represent the bulk of modern Jewry, estimated at between 70% and 80% of all Jews worldwide; prior to World War II and the Holocaust however, it was 90%. While Ashkenazim developed in Europe, their massive emigration from Europe for better opportunities, and during periods of civil strife and warfare, they also became the overwhelming majority of Jews in the New World continents and countries, which previously were without native European or Jewish populations. These include the United States, Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Africa, but with Venezuela and Panama being exceptions since Sephardim still compose the majority of the Jewish communities in these two countries. In France, more recent Sephardi Jewish immigrants from North Africa and their descendants now outnumber the pre-existing Ashkenazim. 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.
Diaspora, ( Greek: Dispersion) Hebrew Galut (Exile), the dispersion of Jews among the Gentiles after the Babylonian Exile; or the aggregate of Jews or Jewish communities scattered “in exile” outside Palestine or present-day Israel. Although the term refers to the physical dispersal of Jews throughout the world, it also carries religious, philosophical, political, and eschatological connotations, inasmuch as the Jews perceive a special relationship between the land of Israel and themselves. Interpretations of this relationship range from the messianic hope of traditional Judaism for the eventual “ingathering of the exiles” to the view of Reform Judaism that the dispersal of the Jews was providentially arranged by God to foster pure monotheism throughout the world.
The first significant Jewish Diaspora was the result of the Babylonian Exile of 586 BCE. After the Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah, part of the Jewish population was deported into slavery. Although Cyrus the Great, the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, permitted the Jews to return to their homeland in 538 BCE, part of the Jewish community voluntarily remained behind.
The largest, most significant, and culturally most creative Jewish Diaspora in early Jewish history flourished in Alexandria, where, in the 1st century BCE, 40 percent of the population was Jewish. Around the 1st century CE, an estimated 5,000,000 Jews lived outside Palestine, about four-fifths of them within the Roman Empire, but they looked to Palestine as the centre of their religious and cultural life. Diaspora Jews thus far outnumbered the Jews in Palestine even before the destruction of Jerusalem in CE 70. Thereafter, the chief centres of Judaism shifted from country to country (e.g., Babylonia, Persia, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and the United States), and Jewish communities gradually adopted distinctive languages, rituals, and cultures, some submerging themselves in non-Jewish environments more completely than others. While some lived in peace, others became victims of violent anti-Semitism.
Jews hold widely divergent views about the role of Diaspora Jewry and the desirability and significance of maintaining a national identity. While the vast majority of Orthodox Jews support the Zionist movement (the return of Jews to Israel), some Orthodox Jews go so far as to oppose the modern nation of Israel as a godless and secular state, defying God’s will to send his Messiah at the time he has preordained.
According to the theory of shelilat ha-galut (“denial of the exile”), espoused by many Israelis, Jewish life and culture are doomed in the Diaspora because of assimilation and acculturation, and only those Jews who migrate to Israel have hope for continued existence as Jews. It should be noted that neither this position nor any other favourable to Israel holds that Israel is the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy regarding the coming of the messianic era.
Although Reform Jews still commonly maintain that the Diaspora in the United States and elsewhere is a valid expression of God’s will, the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1937 officially abrogated the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, which declared that Jews should no longer look forward to a return to Israel. This new policy actively encouraged Jews to support the establishment of a Jewish homeland. On the other hand, the American Council for Judaism, founded in 1943 but now moribund, declared that Jews are Jews in a religious sense only and any support given to a Jewish homeland in Palestine would be an act of disloyalty to their countries of residence.
Support for a national Jewish state was notably greater after the wholesale annihilation of Jews during World War II. Of the estimated 14 million Jews in the world today, about 4 million reside in Israel, about 4.5 million in the United States, and about 2.2 million in Russia, Ukraine, and other republics formerly of the Soviet Union.