A Jew is a person who is of Jewish heritage or who has converted to the Jewish religion. Jews typically consider themselves as a people, and not only as adherents of a religion, therefore a Jew is not only one that practices the religion of Judaism, but it is also one who is of Jewish heritage. According to traditional Jewish law, the Halakha, someone is Jewish if their mother was a Jew or if they have converted to Judaism.
The word Jew originally meant people from the ancient Kingdom of Judea with its capital Jerusalem, known from the Bible. After the Jews were forced out of Jerusalem and most of Judea by the Romans, the word started to mean people of the Jewish religion, and not just those from Judea.
Israel is the only Jewish country, but there are Jewish minorities in many places in the world. Most of them live in large cities in the United States, Argentina, Europe and Australia. Both Israel and the U.S. have over five million Jews. In the Soviet Union there were more than two million Jews, but many of them moved to Israel, the U.S. and other Western countries since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Jewish ethnic groups[change | change source]
There are Jewish ethnic groups. The two biggest are called Ashkenazi (originally from Central and Eastern Europe) and Sephardic (originally from the lands around the Mediterranean Sea, particularly Spain and Portugal). In Israel, those from Arab and Muslim countries are called Mizrahi Jews. There are also African Jews (Beta Israel), Indian Jews (Bene Israel) and some Chinese Jews (Kai-feng Jews). Many of these groups have moved from one place to another. For example, many Ashkenazi Jews live in the United States, and many Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews live in France.
Jews speak the languages of the countries where they live. Hebrew is the language of Judaism because it is the language in which the Bible was written. It is still used for prayers. In Israel, Ivrit, which is the name for the new Hebrew language, is the common language. There are also old Jewish languages such as Yiddish and Ladino which are still spoken and written by some Jews.
Famous Jews[change | change source]
- See also: Category:Jewish people
Many Jewish people have done great things in science, literature, business, and the arts. Some of the most famous include:
- David Ben-Gurion, Israeli politician
- Mel Brooks, movie director
- Noam Chomsky, American linguist and writer
- Aaron Copland, composer
- Bob Dylan, American singer
- Albert Einstein, scientist
- Anne Frank, diarist
- George Gershwin, composer
- Franz Kafka, writer
- Henry Kissinger, former American Secretary of State
- Emma Lazarus, author
- Moses ben Maimon, philosopher and physician
- The Marx Brothers, comedians
- Golda Meir, Israeli politician
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politician
- Philip Roth, American writer
- Mark Rothko, American painter
- Steven Spielberg, movie director
- Baruch Spinoza, philosopher
- Mark Spitz, swimmer
- Larry David, actor, producer
- Jerry Seinfeld, comedian
- Andy Samburg, comedian
References[change | change source]
- Dosick, Wayne (2007). Living Judaism. New York: HarperCollins. p. 56-57. ISBN 0-06-062179-6.
- (PDF) Annual Assessment, Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (Jewish Agency for Israel), 2007, p. 15, http://www.jpppi.org.il/JPPPI/SendFile.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&GID=489, based on American Jewish Year Book. 106. American Jewish Committee. 2006. http://www.ajcarchives.org/main.php?GroupingId=10142.
- Schmelz, Usiel Oscar; Sergio DellaPergola (2007). "Demography". Encyclopaedia Judaica (2d ed.) 5. Ed. Fred Skolnik. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 571–572.
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