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Near East Collections: Jewish Studies Resources at Princeton University and Beyond: ETHNIC STUDIES

This guide will introduce you to the multi-faceted discipline known as Jewish Studies and a few of its related fields. The guide also includes information on collections and links to resources found here at Princeton University and beyond.


The word antisemitism means prejudice against or hatred of Jews. The Holocaust, the state-sponsored persecution and murder of European Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945, is history’s most extreme example of antisemitism. In 1879, German journalist Wilhelm Marr originated the term antisemitism, denoting the hatred of Jews, and also hatred of various liberal, cosmopolitan, and international political trends of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often associated with Jews. The trends under attack included equal civil rights, constitutional democracy, free trade, socialism, finance capitalism, and pacifism. 

-Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


The word Diaspora, from the Greek διασπορά ("dispersion"), is used in the present context for the voluntary dispersion of the Jewish people as distinct from their forced dispersion, which is treated under Galut. As such it confines itself to Jewish settlement outside Ereẓ Israel during the periods of Jewish independence or compact settlement in their land. It therefore applies to the period of the First Temple, the Second Temple, and that subsequent to the establishment of the State of Israel. The only dispersion during the period of the First Temple of which there is definite knowledge is the Jewish settlement in Egypt referred to in Jeremiah 44. (That in Babylon following the capture of Jehoiachin in 597 B.C.E., since it was forced and was the prelude to the complete Exile after the destruction of the Temple in 586, can be classified as an exile.) By the same definition, the Jewish communities in the world at present, after the establishment of the State of Israel, constitute a Diaspora, and since that event the custom has developed of referring to them in Hebrew as the tefuẓot, the Hebrew equivalent of Diaspora, in preference to the word previously used, golah, or galut ("exile"; for the concept of exile, see Galut).

- Encyclopaedia Judaica (see Diaspora)


Ashkenazi Jews are Jews of European but non-Spanish origin. Originally this term was applied to the Jews of Germany. Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the Jews who were taken to Rome as slaves and later radiated out throughout Europe, settling first in France and Cologne and being expelled from there, and settling in Holland, Germany, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. The term "Ashkenazi" was first applied about the tenth or eleventh century. 

- Zionism and Israel Encyclopedic Dictionary


Also "aydot hamizrah". Mizrachi refers to Sephardic Jews (Jews who originated in Spain) and Jews from various Muslim and Arab countries collectively, including Egypt, the Maghreb, Iraq, Persia, Turkey, Palestine, Central Asia (Georgia, Uzbekistan, Bukhara) etc. Mizrahi Jews are of varied backgrounds and histories. The Jewish communities of Iraq and Persia existed there since the destruction of the first temple, about 2,500 years ago.  Some of the Jews of Muslim countries, especially those of Turkey and Palestine are Sephardic Jews who migrated from Europe at the invitation of the Turkish Sultans after they were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition.

- Zionism and Israel Encyclopedic Dictionary


Properly, Sephardic Jews are Jews who originally lived in the Iberian peninsula, apparently arriving with the Arab conquerors, and were expelled in 1492 from Spain, and in 1497 from Portugal. These Jews settled in Holland and various parts of Europe, South America, Turkey and Palestine. Many Sephardic Jews, forced to convert to Catholicism by the Roman Catholic  Inquisition, became secret crypto-Jews to avoid persecution, and many Catholic families in South America still remember this tradition. The Jews of Belmonte, Portugal, preserved their Jewish faith in secret, revealing it only in the twentieth century.  Sometimes used to refer to all non-Ashkenazic Jews, including those from Arab lands whose ancestors were never in Spain. When eastern ("Mizrahi") Jews use Sephardi in this way, they sometimes refer to descendants of Spanish Jews as "Spaniolim."

- Zionism and Israel Encyclopedic Dictionary