[Greek, "scattering", galut (Hebrew), golus (Yiddish, "exile")] - A term used to describe the groups of Jews who live outside the Holy Land.

The diaspora began in the sixth century B.C., when Jews were sent into exile in Babylon. After the fall of the Second Temple (first century A.D.), the Jews lived throughout the Roman Empire-in Rome, the Iberian Peninsula, southern Gaul, Alexandria, Northern Africa, as well as in Mesopotamia, in the Caucasus, Persia, Central Asia and India.

A group of Jews known in Polish as the krymczacy settled in the Crimea during the first centuries after Christ. These Jews learned the Tatar language and formed their own local culture. In the Caucasus, they were a pastoral, agricultural, and warlike mountain tribe that spoke a Judeo-Tatar dialect, practiced polygamy and believed in the Persian origins of their group.

The universalistic elements in Judaism, particularly strong during the first centuries after Christ, resulted in the foundation of Judaized groups such as the Khazars or the Ethiopian Falasha, whose origins probably lie with a heretical faction of the Coptic Church.

Several separate groups of Jews lived in India until recently. Bnei Israel [Hebrew, "The Sons of Israel"], who speak the Marathi language, believed their roots reached back to the Ten Tribes deported by the Assyrians. They were divided into two castes - black and white. Jews from the city of Kochin believed their origins were linked with the trading activities of King Salomon, though it is more likely they were related to the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula, from whence they were expelled in the late fifteenth century.

A group of Jews also settled in China, in the city of Kaifeng, no earlier than after the destruction of the Second Temple in the ninth century; they would have come to China from Persia at that time. Losing contact with other Jews for centuries, their own culture took shape, blending Chinese customs with those of Persian Judaism of the early Middle Ages. Its members were ethnically Chinese. Persecuted by the communist authorities, they virtually ceased to exist during the Cultural Revolution.

The two largest Jewish cultural branches, the Sephardim and the Ashkenazim, settled during the Middle Ages and later in the Near East, the Balkans, and in Western and Eastern Europe. While the tendency was for Jewish centers to shift towards the east during this period, during the mid-seventeenth century the migration once again turned towards the west. Jews also arrived with the first settlers to the newly discovered American continents. The Jewish Community of New Amsterdam (now known as New York) was founded as early as the mid-seventeenth century. The largest phase of Jewish emigration to both North and South America took place during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, they also settled in Australia and other colonies.
Currently, the largest concentrations of Jews are found in the United States (about 6 million), Israel (over 3 million), the countries of the former Soviet Union (about 2 million), France (670,000), South America (Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, where they total 500,000), Great Britain (approx. 400,000) and South Africa (approx. 100,000). In Poland, which until 1939 was home the largest group of Jews in the world (somewhat more than 3 million), there are currently 5,000 to 6,000 people of Jewish ancestry; not all of them keep in contact with Jewish culture, however.

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