“Sunshine” by Mastiyahu
According to Jewish tradition, Jewish ancestry is traced back to the Biblical patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the Biblical matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel, who lived in Canaan around the 18th century BCE. Jacob and his family migrated to Ancient Egypt after being invited to live with Joseph (who rose to the rank of Pharaoh's Vizier) in the Land of Goshen region by Pharaoh himself. The patriarchs' descendants were later enslaved until the Exodus led by Moses, which is commonly dated to the 13th century BCE. from the tribes of Judah and Simeon, and partially from the tribes of Benjamin and Levi, who had all together formed the ancient southern Israelite Kingdom of Judah.
A closely related group is the Samaritans, who according to their tradition trace their ancestry back to the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, while according to the Bible their origin is in the people brought to Israel by the Neo-Assyrian Empire and some Cohanim (Jewish priests) who taught them how to worship the "native God". The Jewish ethnicity, nationality and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation. Converts to Judaism typically have a status within the Jewish ethnos equal to those born into it. Conversion is not encouraged by mainstream Judaism, and is considered a tough task, mainly applicable for cases of mixed marriages.
The modern State of Israel was established as a Jewish state and defines itself as such in its Basic Laws. Its Law of Return grants the right of citizenship to any Jew who requests it. Israel is the only country where Jews are a majority of the population. According to the Bible Israelites enjoyed political independence twice in ancient history, first during the periods of the biblical judges followed by the United Monarchy. After the fall of the United Monarchy the land was divided into Israel and Judah. The term Jew originated from the Roman Judean and denoted someone from the southern kingdom of Judah. The shift of ethnonym from "Israelites" to "Jews" (citizens of Judah), although not contained in the Torah, is made explicit in the Book of Esther (4th century BCE), a book in the Ketuvim, the third section of the Jewish Tanakh. The kingdom of Judah ended with the Siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar II. In 539 BCE the Persians conquered Babylon and Cyrus the Great allowed the exiled Jews to return to Yehud and rebuild their Temple, which was completed in 515 BCE. Yehud province was a peaceful part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire until the fall of the Empire in c. 333 BCE to Alexander the Great. Jews were also politically independent during the Hasmonean dynasty spanning from 140 to 37 BCE and to some degree under Herodians from 37 BCE to 6 CE. Since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, most Jews have lived in diaspora. As an ethnic minority in every country in which they live (except Israel), they have frequently experienced persecution throughout history, resulting in a population that has fluctuated both in numbers and distribution over the centuries.
The world Jewish population reached a peak of 16.7 million prior to World War II, or less than 0.2% of the total world population (roughly one in every 514 people). According to this report, about 43% of all Jews reside in Israel (6 million), and 39% in the United States (5.3–6.8 million), with most of the remainder living in Europe (1.5 million) and Canada (0.4 million). The exact world Jewish population, however, is difficult to measure. In addition to issues with census methodology, there are halakhic disputes regarding who is a Jew and secular, political, and ancestral identification factors that may affect the figure considerably. [...]
Ilana Abramovitch & Sean Galvin, eds., Jews of Brooklyn, Brandeis University, 2002.
Aviva Ben-Ur, Sephardic Jews in America, New York University Press, 2009.
Sue Fishkoff, The Rebbe's Army. Inside the world of Chabad-Lubavitch, 2003.
Carol Harris-Shapiro, Messianic Judaism, Beacon Press, 1999.
Samuel C. Heilman, Sliding to the Right. The contest for the fture of American Jewish Orthodoxy, University of California Press, 2006.
Irving Howe, World of our Fathers, Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1975.
Deborah Dash Moore, ed., City of Promises: A History of the Jews of New York, vols. 1-3, New York University Press, 2013.
Cynthia Ozick, The Puttermesser Papers, 1997.
Chaim Potok, The Chosen, Simon and Schutser, 1967.
Jonathan Rieder, Canarsie. The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn against Liberalism, 1985.
Moses Rischin, The Promised City: New York's Jews, 1870-1914, Harvard University Press, 1962.
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