For over 2000 years the history of the Jews has combined external dispersal with internal cohesion. The decisive dispersal of the Jewish people took place under Rome. Although the Jewish revolts of AD 66 – 73 and 132 – 5 and their vigorous supression by the Romans, as well as Hadrian’s measures to de –Judaize Jerusalem, caused rapid deterioration in the position of the Jews in Judaea, elsewhere in the Roman world their legal and economical status and the viability of their communities remained unaffected.
This stimulated a constant flow of migration from Palestine, Mesopotamia and Alexandria to the western and northern shores of Mediterranean. Consequently, widely scattered by internally cohesive Jewish communities developed all over the west and north of the Roman empire: in Italy, in Spain and as far north as Cologne. The Cairo community was a major element in Mediterranean commerce and has left its detailed records (the Cairo ‘Genizah’) of life there during the Middle Ages.
Medieval Jewry and the expulsion
The resilience of Judaism can be chiefly ascribed to the evolution of the Jewish religion following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC, and the gradual emergence of a faith based on synagogue and communal prayer. New local leaders of Jewish life, the men of learning, or rabbis, emerged. Jewish religious and civil law was gradually codified in the Mishnah (AD 200) and the commentary and discussions systematized as the (AD 500).
|Jewish slaves and stolen goods shown on Titus column in Rome|
|A Jew as a moneylender|
The revival of Jewish life
After the disruption of the Thirty Years’s War (1618-48), Jews from eastern and central Europe, as well as Near East, were once again able to settle, usually in ghettos, with the permission of both trading cities and princely governments, in northern Italy, Germany, Holland, and, from the 1650s, in England and the English colonies in the New World (Caribbean and then North America).
|Persecuted Jews from manuscript Chronicles of Offa|
|1493 Jews Burned, by Hartmann Schedel from Nuremberg|
Nevertheless until the 1940s by far the greater proportion of world Jewry continued to live in eastern Europe. The small Jewish populations in Hungary and Romania in 1700 increased in the 18th and 19th centuries through immigration from Poland and the Czech lands. Under the tsars, the bulk of the Jewish population in the Russian empire was confined by law to western areas (the ‘Pale of Settlement’).
|Jewish couple in Galicia|
|Adolf Jonas, rabbi in Russia under Alexander II|
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