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[from JudahJudah
. 1 In the Bible he is the fourth son of Jacob and Leah and the eponymous ancestor of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. In the Book of Genesis, Judah emerges as a leader.
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], traditionally, descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob, whose tribe, with that of his half-brother Benjamin, made up the kingdom of Judah; historically, members of the worldwide community of adherents to JudaismJudaism
, the religious beliefs and practices and the way of life of the Jews. The term itself was first used by Hellenized Jews to describe their religious practice, but it is of predominantly modern usage; it is not used in the Bible or in Rabbinic literature and only rarely
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. The degree to which national and religious elements of Jewish culture interact has varied throughout history and has been a matter of considerable debate. There were approximately 17.8 million Jews in the world in 1990, with 8 million in the Americas (of which about 5.7 million were in the United States), 3.5 million in Israel, and 3.5 million in Europe.

Biblical Period

According to the biblical account, much of which is impossible to verify in the archaeological record until late in the monarchial period, Jewish history begins with the patriarchs AbrahamAbraham
[according to the Book of Genesis, Heb.,=father of many nations] or Abram
[Heb.,=exalted father], in the Bible, progenitor of the Hebrews; in the Qur'an, ancestor of the Arabs.
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, IsaacIsaac
[Heb.,=laughter], according to the patriarchal narratives of the Book of Genesis, Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sara. He married Rebecca, and their sons were Esau and Jacob. Ishmael was his half-brother.
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, and JacobJacob
, in the Bible, ancestor of the Hebrews, the younger of Isaac and Rebecca's twin sons; the older was Esau. In exchange for a bowl of lentil soup, Jacob obtained Esau's birthright and, with his mother's help, received the blessing that the dying Isaac had intended for his
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, who considered Canaan (an area comprising present-day Israel and the West Bank) their home. Their history continues in Goshen, NE Egypt, where they settled as agriculturists many centuries before the Christian era. Under Ramses II the Jews were severely persecuted and, finally, Moses led them out of Egypt; at Mt. Sinai he delivered to them the Ten Commandments.

Many years of wandering in desert wildernesses followed before the Israelites conquered Canaan. SaulSaul,
first king of the ancient Hebrews. He was a Benjamite and anointed king by Samuel. Saul's territory was probably limited to the hill country of Judah and the region to the north, and his proximity to the Philistines brought him into constant conflict with them.
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 became the first king. Initially successful against the Philistines, he was finally defeated at Gilboa. DavidDavid,
d. c.970 B.C., king of ancient Israel (c.1010–970 B.C.), successor of Saul. The Book of First Samuel introduces him as the youngest of eight sons who is anointed king by Samuel to replace Saul, who had been deemed a failure.
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, of the tribe of Judah, ruled, conquered the enemies of the Jews, expanded his territory across the Jordan River, and brought prosperity and peace to his people. The reign of his son SolomonSolomon,
d. c.930 B.C., king of the ancient Hebrews (c.970–c.930 B.C.), son and successor of David. His mother was Bath-sheba. His accession has been dated to c.970 B.C. According to the Bible.
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, who built the first Templetemple,
edifice or sometimes merely an enclosed area dedicated to the worship of a deity and the enshrinement of holy objects connected with such worship. The temple has been employed in most of the world's religions. Although remains of Egyptian temples of c.2000 B.C.
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, was the last before a period of disruption. The tribes of the north formed the kingdom of Israel; those of the south formed the smaller but more strongly united kingdom of Judah.

In 722 B.C., Sargon II captured Samaria, capital of Israel, and most of the Israelites (the lost tribeslost tribes,
10 Israelite tribes that, according to the Bible, were transported to Assyria by Tiglathpileser III or Shalmaneser after the conquest of Israel in 722 B.C. Numerous conjectures have been advanced as to the fate of these tribes: they have been identified with the
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) were exiled. Judah passed under Assyrian domination, then under Egyptian, and in 586 B.C., under Babylonian, when the Temple was destroyed and the people were exiled until their return was permitted by Cyrus the GreatCyrus the Great
, d. 529 B.C., king of Persia, founder of the greatness of the Achaemenids and of the Persian Empire. According to Herodotus, he was the son of an Iranian noble, the elder Cambyses, and a Median princess, daughter of Astyages.
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 (538 B.C.). The rebuilding of the Temple was completed in 516 B.C. The Jews remained a strong religious group during the period of Hellenism, but regained political independence only under the MaccabeesMaccabees
or Machabees
, Jewish family of the 2d and 1st cent. B.C. that brought about a restoration of Jewish political and religious life. They are also called Hasmoneans or Asmoneans after their ancestor, Hashmon.
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. A rebellion, led by Bar KokbaBar Kokba, Simon,
or Simon Bar Cochba
[Heb.,=son of the star], d. A.D. 135, Hebrew hero and leader of a major revolt against Rome under Hadrian (132–135). He may have claimed to be a Messiah; the Talmud relates that Akiba ben Joseph credited him with this title.
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 against the Romans in the 2d cent. A.D., ended in defeat. In 63 B.C. Rome conquered Palestine, and the second Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.


As political aspirations subsided, the Jewish community was increasingly led by scholars and rabbis. Even during the period of Jewish sovereignty in Palestine, large Jewish communities developed in Egypt and Babylonia. After the fall of the Temple, Babylon's Jewish community became the most important in world Jewry and its academies the most influential centers of Jewish learning. In 8th-century Iberia, a large Jewish community played an important part in intellectual and economic life. From the 9th to the 12th cent., Spanish Jewry enjoyed a golden age of literary efflorescence marked by a highly creative interaction between Jewish and Islamic culture.

From the Crusades to the Enlightenment

From the time of the CrusadesCrusades
, series of wars undertaken by European Christians between the 11th and 14th cent. to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. First Crusade

In the 7th cent., Jerusalem was taken by the caliph Umar.
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 date the persecutions that persisted until the 18th cent. During this period the ownership of land and most occupations other than petty trading and moneylending were forbidden to European Jews; the ghettoghetto
, originally, a section of a city in which Jews lived; it has come to mean a section of a city where members of any racial group are segregated. In the early Middle Ages the segregation of Jews in separate streets or localities was voluntary.
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 came into existence. The Jews, who had earlier been an agricultural people, became an urban population. The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 and from France in 1306. In 1391, forced conversions began in Spain; in 1492 all remaining Jews were expelled. Many of the exiles perished; others found asylum in the Netherlands and in the Turkish possessions. The German Jews, who experienced periodic explusions throughout the 15th cent., fled to Poland, where, although subject to persecution, they build a thriving culture.

After 1492, Spanish Jews (see SephardimSephardim
, one of the two major geographic divisions of the Jewish people, consisting of those Jews whose forebears in the Middle Ages resided in the Iberian Peninsula, as distinguished from those who lived in Germanic lands, who came to be known as the Ashkenazim (see
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) spread throughout the Mediterranean world, often absorbing smaller Jewish communities they encountered. In some places a few continued to speak a Judeo-Spanish language known as Judezmo or Ladino into the 21st cent. Some Sephardim also migrated to Western Europe. The other large branch of the Jewish people, known as Ashkenazim, formed in the 9th cent. with the settlement of Jews in the Rhine valley. Marked by their use of Yiddish, a German-Jewish language, the Ashkenazim also migrated east into Poland. The Polish-Lithuanian community became a major center of world Jewry in the 16th cent., distinguished by its high level of Talmudic scholarship. The political vulnerability and religious faith of the Jews led to the rise of several messianic movements; one of the most important was led by Sabbatai ZeviSabbatai Zevi
, 1626–76, Jewish mystic and pseudo-Messiah, founder of the Sabbatean sect, b. Smyrna. After a period of study of Lurianic kabbalah (see Luria, Isaac ben Solomon), he became deeply influenced by its ideas of imminent national redemption.
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. In the 18th cent. HasidismHasidism
or Chassidism
[Heb.,=the pious], Jewish religious movement founded in Poland in the 18th cent. by Baal-Shem-Tov. Its name derives from Hasidim. Hasidism, which stressed the mercy of God and encouraged joyous religious expression through music and dance, spread
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 arose among the Jews of Eastern Europe.

Emancipation and Secularization

Modern political emancipation of the Jews began with the American and French revolutions. In Germany and Austria emancipation of the Jews was proclaimed after the Revolution of 1848. Simultaneously, the HaskalahHaskalah
, [Heb.,=enlightenment] Jewish movement in Europe active from the 1770s to the 1880s. Beginning in Germany in the circle of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and spreading to Galicia and Russia, the Haskalah called for increased secularization of Jewish
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 encouraged the secularization of Jewish life, and the integration of the Jews into the societies in which they lived. Especially in Western Europe, this led to considerable acculturation, and even assimilation, of Jewish communities. The religious Reform movement advocated a form of Judaism shorn of its national elements and emphasizing ethical content rather than adherence to traditional Jewish law.

Zionism and Mass Migration

In Eastern Europe in the late 1800s, new secular movements arose, particularly after a wave of pogromspogrom
, Russian term, originally meaning "riot," that came to be applied to a series of violent attacks on Jews in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th cent. Pogroms were few before the assassination of Alexander II in 1881; after that, with the connivance of, or at least
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 in 1881. These movements sought to ameliorate the Jewish condition and establish Jewish life on a new national basis. ZionismZionism,
modern political movement for reconstituting a Jewish national state in Palestine. Early Years

The rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th cent.
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 advocated the return of the Jews to Palestine. The Zionist movement was formally established in Basel in 1897. During the 19th and early 20th cent., there was a mass migration of Jews westward from Eastern and Central Europe and the Ottoman Empire. During the period 1880 to 1924 some 2.5 million Jews emigrated to the United States, which after 1939 was home to the largest Jewish community in the world. Smaller numbers, under the influence of Zionism, settled in Palestine.

Between 1933, when the Nazis rose to power in Germany, and 1945, when Germany was defeated in World War II, the Jews faced persecution of unprecedented scope and violence; thousands were driven into exile and close to 6 million were systematically slaughtered (see anti-Semitismanti-Semitism
, form of prejudice against Jews, ranging from antipathy to violent hatred. Before the 19th cent., anti-Semitism was largely religious and was expressed in the later Middle Ages by sporadic persecutions and expulsions—notably the expulsion from Spain under
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; HolocaustHolocaust
, name given to the period of persecution and extermination of European Jews by Nazi Germany. Romani (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled, and others were also victims of the Holocaust.
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). After the war, great numbers of Jews sought refuge in Palestine. The Jewish state of IsraelIsrael
, officially State of Israel, republic (2015 est. pop. 8,065,000, including Israelis in occupied Arab territories), 7,992 sq mi (20,700 sq km), SW Asia, on the Mediterranean Sea.
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 was established in 1948 from portions of Palestine, and in succeeding years absorbed many Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. Arab-Jewish relations have been complicated by the hostilities that have resulted in and from the Arab-Israeli WarsArab-Israeli Wars,
conflicts in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973–74, and 1982 between Israel and the Arab states. Tensions between Israel and the Arabs have been complicated and heightened by the political, strategic, and economic interests in the area of the great powers.
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 of 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982.


See H. Graetz, History of the Jews (6 vol., tr. 1926; repr. 1956); A. L. Sachar, A History of the Jews (5th ed. 1965); C. Roth, The Jewish Contribution to Civilization (3d ed. 1956) and A Short History of the Jewish People (rev. ed. 1969); H. Feingold, Zion in America (1974); R. Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought (1981); S. W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews (27 vol., 1952–83); S. Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews (2 vol., 1997–2007); A. Hertzberg and A. Hirt-Manheimer, Jews (1998); D. Vital, A People Apart (1999); M. Konner, Unsettled: An Anthropology of the Jews (2003); H. M. Sachar, A History of the Jews in the Modern World (2005); M. Brenner, A Short History of the Jews (tr. 2010), S. Schama, The Story of the Jews (2 vol., 2014–17); J. R. Baskin and K. Seeskin, The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the common ethnic name of the national groups historically derived from the ancient Hebrews. Jews live in different countries and share the same economic, social, political, and cultural life with the basic population of these countries. The overwhelming majority of Jewish believers practice Judaism.

Two ancient Jewish states existed in the first millennium B.C.: the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judea. The conquest of Israel by Assyria in 722 B.C. and of Judea by Babylon in 586 B.C. set the beginning of the dispersion of the Jews throughout the countries of the world, which was intensified after the conquest of Judea by Rome in 63 B.C. Large groups of Jews settled in the countries of the Near East, North Africa, and southern Europe.

During the Middle Ages, Jews also settled in many other countries of Europe and Asia. The development of trade in the European countries also contributed to the migration of the Jews. They adopted the language and culture of the local population but retained their religion and some elements of their culture and mores, which set them apart from the surrounding population. Many European countries had laws imposing on Jews legal and occupational restrictions, particularly with respect to the right of the possession and use of land. As a rule Jews settled in cities, where they usually lived in closed communities in special quarters called ghettoes and engaged primarily in trade and crafts. The richer Jews practiced money lending. The dogmas of the Jewish religion provided for separate Jewish communities, a development that was furthered by the policy of the ruling classes and the Christian church. Jews were not admitted to shops and guilds. The competition of the Jews with the local merchants and artisans contributed to the spread of anti-Semitism.

The bourgeois revolutions of the 17th through the 19th century removed the restrictions on the rights of Jews in a number of European countries, and Jews were drawn into the general economic and cultural life of their countries of residence; a process of assimilation with the local population began. However, under the conditions of the bourgeois system the rights of Jews, as of other national minorities, remained curtailed. In addition to national oppression, poor Jews were also subject to the class oppression of the capitalist and clerical elite (rabbis) of the Jewish community. In a number of countries of Eastern Europe, including Russia, there were legislative restrictions on Jewish residence (the so-called pale of settlement), as well as legal and economic restrictions. In the late 19th and the early 20th centuries the tsarist government organized a number of mass pogroms of Jews through the Black Hundreds. Many Jews, especially those from Central and Eastern Europe, emigrated to the United States and other countries of America. In the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century the Jewish working masses actively participated in the revolutionary movement in Russia and Western Europe.

In the late 19th century a reactionary nationalist movement, Zionism, arose among the Jewish bourgeoisie of several countries. Zionism proclaimed as its aim the re-settlement of all Jews to Palestine and preached the idea of the class cooperation of all Jews, an idea that was profoundly inimical to the labor movement. Jewish nationalists tried to split the Jewish proletariat from the general revolutionary struggle by setting up separate nationalist parties such as the Bund. The Bolsheviks, headed by V. I. Lenin, vigorously opposed the separatism of the Bund and called on the Jewish working people to unite in the all-Russian social democratic movement.

The Great October Socialist Revolution opened a new era in the history of all the peoples of Russia, including the Jews. The legislation of the Soviet government abolished all restrictions on the rights of Jews and proclaimed a vigorous struggle against anti-Semitism. In 1934 the Jewish Autonomous Oblast was set up as part of Khabarovsk Krai. United by common economic, political, and ideological interests and the principles of proletarian internationalism, Jews participated with all the peoples of the USSR in the building of a new society. All restrictions on Jews have also been fully abolished in the other socialist countries.

In the capitalist countries anti-Semitism continues to exist; this found its most extreme expression in fascist Germany. The Nazis carried out a policy of mass extermination of the Jews; about 6 million Jews were murdered in World War II (1939–45).

After World War II, chauvinist tendencies and Zionist ideology, with its antiscientific assertion of the “messianic” role of the Jews and the idea of the “chosen people,” were artificially revived among Jews in the developed capitalist countries. Zionism has become an ideology of militant chauvinism and anticommunism, acting in the interests of international imperialism.

The Jewish state of Israel, which was created in 1948 on the basis of a decision of the United Nations General Assembly, has proclaimed Zionism its official ideology.

In 1967 there were about 13.5 million Jews in the world, of whom 5.7 million live in the United States, over 2,5 million in Israel (1970 estimate), 2.151 million in the USSR (1970 census), over 500,000 in France, about 480,000 in Great Britain, about 450,000 in Argentina, about 270,000 in Canada, about 130,000 in Brazil, about 110,000 in the Republic of South Africa, and about 110,000 in Rumania. Most Jews speak the language of their country of residence. Some Jews in Europe and America also speak Yiddish, a language in which there is a literature; in the USSR, according to 1970 census, 17.7 percent of Jews declared Yiddish as their native language. The official language of the Jews of Israel is Hebrew, which developed on the basis of the ancient Hebrew of the scriptures and which Jews in other countries use only in religious worship. Some Jews in the Mediterranean coun-tries (the so-called Sephardim) speak Ladino, a language that is similar to Spanish.


Marx, K. “K evreiskomu voprosu.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 1.
Marx, K., and F. Engels. “Sviatoe semeistvo, ill Kritika kriticheskii kritiki.” Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2.
Lenin, V. I. “Polozhenie Bunda v partii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 8.
Lenin, V. I. “K evreiskim rabochim.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 10.
Lenin, V. I. “Kriticheskie zametki po natsional’nomu voprosu.’ Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 24.
Lenin, V. I. “Zakonnoproekt o natsional’nom ravnopravii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 25.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Had there been painters in those days capable to execute such a subject, the Jew, as he bent his withered form, and expanded his chilled and trembling hands over the fire, would have formed no bad emblematical personification of the Winter season.
Meanwhile the Abbot and Cedric continued their discourse upon hunting; the Lady Rowena seemed engaged in conversation with one of her attendant females; and the haughty Templar, whose eye wandered from the Jew to the Saxon beauty, revolved in his mind thoughts which appeared deeply to interest him.
The Prior of Jorvaulx crossed himself and repeated a pater noster, in which all devoutly joined, excepting the Jew, the Mahomedans, and the Templar; the latter of whom, without vailing his bonnet, or testifying any reverence for the alleged sanctity of the relic, took from his neck a gold chain, which he flung on the board, saying ``Let Prior Aymer hold my pledge and that of this nameless vagrant, in token that when the Knight of Ivanhoe comes within the four seas of Britain, he underlies the challenge of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, which, if he answer not, I will proclaim him as a coward on the walls of every Temple Court in Europe.''
``Unbelieving dog,'' said the Templar to Isaac the Jew, as he passed him in the throng, ``dost thou bend thy course to the tournament?''
``Not a shekel, not a silver penny, not a halfling so help me the God of Abraham!'' said the Jew, clasping his hands; ``I go but to seek the assistance of some brethren of my tribe to aid me to pay the fine which the Exchequer of the Jews*
'You were not awake an hour ago?' said the Jew, scowling fiercely on the boy.
'Are you sure?' cried the Jew: with a still fiercer look than before: and a threatening attitude.
'Tush, tush, my dear!' said the Jew, abruptly resuming his old manner, and playing with the knife a little, before he laid it down; as if to induce the belief that he had caught it up, in mere sport.
'Did you see any of these pretty things, my dear?' said the Jew, laying his hand upon it after a short pause.
"The object of our expedition?" the Jew queried quickly.
Here, with the Jew healing the breach with the wheat-farmer whose agents still cabled money, was the time to take advantage.
"At three o'clock to-morrow afternoon, at the shipping commissioner's," the Jew agreed.