Origins of Sephardi and Ashkenazi

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After the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE many Jews were taken captive to Babylon. After the Return to Palestine a large number remained and became the Mizrachi Jews. They spread over many parts of the Orient. Their descendants were to be found until recently in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, India, and the Far East.

Those Jews who returned, remained in Palestine until the conquest of Judea by the Romans. Jews were dispersed over all the Mediterranean and were to be found in Spain, in the Rhineland, and the Balkans.

Sephardi Jews: The Jews of Spain prospered under Muslim rule for many generations but eventually they were expelled from Spain and Portugal and went all over the globe to North Africa, Italy, Turkey, Amsterdam, and South and Central America.

Ashkenazi Jews: The Jews in the Rhineland evolved their own variants upon traditional practice, building up great schools of Jewish learning, and expanding continuously into Eastern Europe. By the end of the Middle Ages the Ashkenazi Jews represented numerically the largest body of Jews and had been officially invited into Poland and Lithuania by the Kings of Poland, who had given them a considerable degree of autonomy. But with the Partitions of Poland during the eighteenth century the Jews of Eastern Europe had fallen under the rule of the Tsars who confined them to a small part of the Russian Empire, officially termed the Pale of Settlement.

During the late nineteenth century official oppression by the Russian government and a population explosion resulted in the migration of millions of Jews all over the world and an increase of the Jewish population in those Western countries where Jews already resided. This migration included also Jews from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and from Rumania where Jews suffered less from persecution than from extreme poverty.

Romaniot Jews: This group had, at an early date, taken up residence in the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople and were known as Romaniot Jews.

Religious practices amongst each of these groups developed differently but one of the things that they all have in common is the denial of cremation, insisting that the body should be buried reverently and that after a due period of time a tombstone should be erected and dedicated.