The Diaspora

The Diaspora is a concept which grew out of necessity. Without a homeland, the existence and continuation of Judaism was shaky. In the middle of the second century, Jewish leaders created systems to keep Judaism alive for centuries and over great distances. Codifying the common language to insure that Jews everywhere could communicate with each other was a priority. To prevent the Hebrew language from either fragmenting into hundreds of dialects or disappearing altogether, Jewish scholars wrote the first Hebrew dictionary and grammar book. This strategy has worked; Israel revived the spoken language and today Hebrew is used both in prayer and speech all aver the world.

Religious and social principles were created. For example, to insure that all Jews could participate in religious services wherever they were, the liturgy of the synagogues was standardized. If ten or more Jewish men older than 13 years old lived within traveling distance of each other, they were deemed a religious community, (a minyan in Hebrew). When 120 or more Jewish men lived within commuting distance of each other, a social community was established. This included a court to settle disputes among themselves, which did not conflict with the laws of the nation within which they were living. This community taxed itself for funding, education and charity.

Without the Diaspora, the Judaism would probably have faded away as a distinct religion by gradual assimilation into the surrounding cultures. Today, the word diasporameans the population of all Jews living outside Israel, throughout the world.

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.

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