as Jews (hebr. יהודים, Jehudim transliteriert) designates one both the members of the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. However the term is not to be regarded „Jewish people “ as nationality; rather the Jews see themselves not only as a member of a religious community, but as the people in the sense that they understand themselves by the majority as descendants of its master father Ja'akob.

In the historical sense the term designates only the members of the trunk Juda, one of the twelve trunks of Israel. The German word „Jew “comes from the Hebrew jehudi יהודי, which means as much as „inhabitants of the country Juda “.

Due to the Verwobenheit of the terms „“and „Jewish religion “on the one hand as well as „Jewish tradition “and „Jewish history “on the other hand purely civilization, ethnical or religious starting points seize Jewish people too briefly, in order to describe the term exactly. In the following today the most frequently used definitions of the affiliation to the Judentum are pointed out briefly.

To table of contents

emergence of the Judentums

as Urvater of the Jews possibly applies for Abraham, around 1800 v. Chr lived. He was probably the leader of a westsemitischen Nomadenstammes, which lived somewhere between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamien. As founders of the Jewish religion (one called it in approx. 5. Century v. Chr „Israeli tables religion “) applies for Mose (therefore it also „mosaische religion “). Around 1200 v. Chr. the today's basic statements were specified. As actual founders of the today's Judentums Esra is considered (around 6. /5. Century v. Chr.).

Term in the Jewish tradition

after the orthodox interpretation of the Halacha, the Jewish obligating religion regulations, is considered to each humans as a Jew, who has a Jewish nut/mother, independently of whether, or like much he obeys the Jewish faith regulations or not. With the fact it is condition that the nut/mother with receipt-sneeze Jewess after the Halacha be must. If thus a not-Jewish after woman receipt-sneeze, but still before the birth of the child to the Judentum, are the children no Jews are converted. If it before receipt-sneeze however briefly to the Judentum converted, the child is Jewish. In addition is considered as a Jew, who carried out formally conversion to the Judentum ( Gijur called). Simple faith in the Jewish religion is not sufficient.

The principle of the Halacha is attributed in the Talmud to Tora. Thus a culture, over long time remained stable and to the Jews its own identity developed retained, although they had no own State of, above all no own national territory, over nearly two millenia. Their homeland was and is the eternal federation of God with Abraham and to Moses and other prophets announced the eternal law of God. A same phase of the Diaspora (scatter) had already gotten over the people Israel in Babylonian banishing. Returned home to Jerusalem, the children of Israel limited their völkische unit again to the physical descendants Abrahams, Isaaks and Jakob (Israel). At that time the prophet reached Esra that Jews, who had connected themselves with not-Jewish women had to offend these and the half-breed children witnessed with them.


in the age of the clearing-up it came also within the Judentums to the discussion over the sense of some laws that Tora. Reform Jews or liberal so mentioned Jew began, older customs, among other things also the question, who Jew is and who not to question. Thus it, particularly into west and Central Europe, came where the assimilation efforts were by far stronger than in the east, to a gradual loosening that so far in such a way confines definition of „Jew “. Most modern Jewish municipalities - e.g. in the USA or Great Britain - represent today another, less strict version of the term „Jew “.

In the Reformjudentum in the USA and in the liberal Judentum Great Britain will become a simpler conversion accepted and it also children of a Jewish father and a not-Jewish nut/mother than Jews regarded, if these children were Jewish educated. This deviation from the traditional aspect led to tensions with traditional (conservative, orthodox) Jews.

In the State of Israel

the parliament of the State of Israel, which Knesset, has in a first version of the home coming law 1950 determined: „Each Jew is entitled to immigrate to the country. “With it it was however not regulated who as a Jew may be considered. Official and judicial arguments forced the Knesset in the year 1970 however to it, home coming law („the Law in such a way specified OF Return “), to formulate new. Since that time as a Jew in Israel that , whose nut/mother or grandmother, great-grandmother or Ururgrossmutter (in each case mütterlicherseits, is considered) religious Jewesses were, or that, which is converted to the Judentum according to the orthodox religious rules. This definition follows that of the Talmud, however the exclusion characteristic adds „not another religion belonging “. Jew is not after official Israeli understanding designation of a nationality, because all Jews of the world belonged independently from their nationality to the Jewish people. Israel is after zionistischem understanding „the state of the Jewish people “.

Geographical distribution

the numbers are a careful estimation of the Jewish population. This places about 0.2% to the population of world. Other estimations speak of approximately 15 million world-wide.

State/region Jewish population
United States 5.671.000
Israel 1) 5.300.000
Europe < 2.000.000
France 600,000
Russia 2) 400,000
united Kingdom of 3) 267,000
Germany 4) 100,000
Turkey 3) 30,000
Italy 30,000
Canada 371,000
Argentina 250,000
Brazil 130,000
South Africa 106,000
Australia 100,000
Asia (without Israel, Russia and Turkey) 50,000
Mexico 40.000-50.000
Iran 11,000
entirely 14.000.000


1) about 76% of the population of Israel
2) area of the former Soviet Union; soot. Census 1993; other estimations clearly more highly
3) census 2001
4) estimations vary between 60.000 and 100.000 (2004)


  • Salcia land man: Who are the Jews? History and anthropology of a people, Dtv, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-423-00913-6
  • Eisak Schlomer, Peter Guttkuhn: Dear, old, jüd'sches Moisling, 3. Aufl., self publishing house, Luebeck 1988 <Repr. D. Expenditure. Luebeck 1909>

See also

Web on the left of

Commons: Jew - pictures, videos and/or audio files

  > German to English > (Machine translated into English)