The Jews of Europe
A cluster of 24 Jewish groups in 18 European countries.
The Jews of Europe arrived on the continent at least 2,000 years ago during the early days of the Roman empire. Since then, they have been a significant influence in the history and culture of Europe. Much of what is considered "Jewish" today finds its roots among the European Jews.
One of the unique features among European Jews is the distinction between the Ashkenazic Jews and the Sephardic Jews. The word Ashkenaz is derived from a biblical word for the larger Germanic region of Europe. Therefore, Ashkenazim Jews are those whose ancestry is linked to that area. This group traditionally speaks the Yiddish language, which is a German dialect that has Hebrew and Slavic elements. The word Sephard was the name used by Jews in medieval times for the Iberian peninsula. Sephardim Jews, then, are the descendants of the Jews who lived in Spain or Portugal prior to expulsion in 1492 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Sephardim also have a distinctive language called Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish. This is a dialect of Castilian Spanish with Hebrew and Turkish elements.
What are their lives like?
As a result of the Holocaust, thousands of Jewish survivors and their descendants have emigrated from Eastern Europe to Israel, the United States, or Western Europe. The recent memories of the Holocaust as well as the centuries of discrimination and persecution play a strong part in modern Jewish identity. European Jews are strong supporters of "Zionism," a revival of Jewish culture and support of Israel as a national, secure, Jewish homeland.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet empire, former Soviet Jews no longer live under oppressive government rule. Anti-Semitism is still a concern, but Jewish life has been revitalized in recreated countries like the Ukraine. Synagogues are functioning and kosher (traditional, acceptable) food is once again available.
The Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe is cause for concern among the remaining aged Jewish population. As the older Jews die, the Jewish community dwindles. Many of the younger Jews are unlearned in their Jewish identity. They are either non-observant or have assimilated into the prevailing culture. However, strong efforts are being made to maintain a Jewish presence and clarify their identity. Jewish schools are being opened and Judaic studies are being promoted in universities. Jewish hospitals and retirement homes are being built. Community centers also promote cultural events such as the Israeli dance, theater, Yiddish and Hebrew lessons, and sports.
Western Europe now has the largest concentration of European Jewish residents. The Netherlands received a large influx of Sephardic Jews from Portugal in the late 1500's, and another contingent of Ashkenazic Jews after World War II. They have been very influential in the development of Dutch commerce. England's Jews are concentrated in the Greater London area and have been politically active for over 100 years. They have been avid supporters of Zionism and solidly committed to the settlement of Diaspora Jews in Israel. A large percentage of England's Jews are affiliated with the traditional Orthodox synagogues. Italy's Jewish population is primarily Sephardic due to its absorption of Spanish Jews in the 1500's. France's Ashkenazic community received 300,000 Sephardic Jews from North Africa in recent decades.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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