Jew (Hebrew: יְהוּדִי, Yehudi (sl.); יְהוּדִים, Yehudim (pl.); Ladino: ג׳ודיו, Djudio (sl.); ג׳ודיוס, Djudios (pl.); Yiddish: ייִד, Yid (sl.); ייִדן, Yidn (pl.)) is a member of the Jewish people, an ethnoreligious group originating from the Israelites or Hebrews of the ancient Middle East. The ethnicity and the religion of Judaism, the traditional faith of the Jewish nation, are strongly interrelated, and converts to Judaism are both included and have been absorbed within the Jewish people throughout the millennia.
By traditional accounts, Jewish history began with the Biblical patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, during the second millennium BCE. The Jews enjoyed two periods of political autonomy in their national homeland, the Land of Israel, during ancient history. The first era, which encompassed the periods of the Judges, the United Monarchy, and the Divided Monarchy (the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah), ended with the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. The second era was the period of the Hasmonean Kindgom (140–37 BCE). Since the destruction of the First Temple, the diaspora has been the home of most of the world's Jews. Except in the modern State of Israel, established in 1948, the Jews have been a minority in every country in which they have lived and they frequently experienced persecution, resulting in a population that fluctuated both in numbers and distribution over the centuries.
According to the Jewish Agency, as of 2007 there were 13.2 million Jews worldwide; 5.3 million in Israel, 5.3 million in the United States, and the remainder distributed in communities of varying sizes around the world; this represents 0.2% of the current estimated world population. These numbers include all those who consider themselves Jews whether or not affiliated, and, with the exception of Israel's Jewish population, do not include those who do not consider themselves Jews or who are not Jewish by halakha. The total world Jewish population, however, is difficult to measure. In addition to halakhic considerations, there are secular, political, and ancestral identification factors in defining who is a Jew that increase the figure considerably.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion based on principles and ethics embodied in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), as further explored and explained in the Talmud and other texts. Judaism is among the oldest religious traditions still being practiced today. Jewish history and the principles and ethics of Judaism have influenced other religions, such as Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith.
In modern Judaism, central authority is not vested in any single person or body, but in sacred texts, traditions, and learned Rabbis who interpret those texts and laws. According to Jewish tradition, Judaism begins with the Covenant between God and Abraham (ca. 2000 BCE), the patriarch and progenitor of the Jewish people. Throughout the ages, Judaism has adhered to a number of religious principles, the most important of which is the belief in a single, omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, transcendent God, who created the universe and continues to govern it. According to Jewish tradition, the God who created the world established a covenant with the Israelites and their descendants, and revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. Judaism has traditionally valued Torah study and the observance of the commandments recorded in the Torah and as expounded in the Talmud.
Leftist (Radical) Terrorism
While Judaism has seldom, if ever, been monolithic in practice, it has always been fiercely monotheistic in theology - although the Tanakh records significant periods of apostasy among many Israelites from Judaism's beliefs.
Historically, Judaism has considered belief in the divine revelation and acceptance of the Written and Oral Torah as its fundamental core belief, but Judaism does not have a centralized authority dictating religious dogma. This gave rise to many different formulations as to the specific theological beliefs inherent in the Torah and Talmud. While some rabbis have at times agreed upon a firm formulation, others have disagreed, many criticizing any such attempt as minimizing acceptance of the entire Torah. Notably, in the Talmud some principles of faith (e.g., the Divine origin of the Torah) are considered important enough that rejection of them can put one in the category of "apikoros" (heretic).
Over the centuries, a number of formulations of Jewish principles of faith have appeared, and though they differ with respect to certain details, they demonstrate a commonality of core ideology. Of these formulations, the one most widely considered authoritative is Maimonides' thirteen principles of faith.
These principles were controversial when first proposed, evoking criticism by Hasdai Crescas and Joseph Albo. Maimonides thirteen principles were ignored by much of the Jewish community for the next few centuries. Over time two poetic restatements of these principles ("Ani Ma'amin" and "Yigdal") became canonized in the Jewish prayer book, and eventually became widely held.
Joseph Albo and the Raavad have criticized Maimonides' list as containing too many items that, while true, were not fundamentals of the faith, and thus placed too many Jews in the category of "heretic", rather than those who were simply in error. Many others criticized any such formulation as minimizing acceptance of the entire Torah (see above). As noted however, neither Maimonides nor his contemporaries viewed these principles as encompassing all of Jewish belief, but rather as the core theological underpinnings of the acceptance of Judaism. Along these lines, the ancient historian Josephus emphasized practices and observances rather than religious beliefs, associating apostasy with a failure to observe Jewish law and maintaining that the requirements for conversion to Judaism included circumcision and adherence to traditional customs.
Today most Orthodox authorities hold that Maimonides' 13 principles of faith are obligatory, and that Jews who do not fully accept each one of them are potentially heretical.
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