JEWS – Mizrahi, Sephardim, Ashkenazi, etc.
For most of their 5700+ year history, Jews have been ruled by other temporal powers – Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans, Muslims, and various Christian nations. Often, foreign rule resulted in exile from Israel, to nations as far-flung as Spain,India and China . Although their religion was kept remarkably uniform, Jewish customs, attitudes, and even language evolved in contact with other peoples.
Mizrahi is the Hebrew word for “Eastern”, and refers to Jews native to Syria, Iraq, & Kurdistan, and is often extended to mean Jews in all Moslem countries, from Morocco to India. Most speak a Hebrew-infused form of Arabic, Aramaic, or Persian, & are culturally similar to their neighbours.
Sephardim are Jews from “Sepharad”, the Hebrew term for the Iberian peninsula – Portugal and Spain. They were settled in Sepharad by Roman times, and their language, a mix of Early Castillian with borrowings from Turkish, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and French, is variously termed Judeo-Spanish, Judezmo, or Ladino.
As the Moors spread their rule over Iberia, many Sephardim chose to stay under “the Crescent” and participate in a cultural flowering that was one of the great civilizations of its time. Other Sephardim retreated with the Christians and were influential in their courts.
When the Moors were finally driven out in 1492, Christian fervor incited Spanish rulers to force all Jews to choose between conversion and expulsion. Many fled to France, Italy, & the Netherlands; but even more fled to Ottoman lands – Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, & the Balkans.
Ashkenazi, from “Ashkenaz”, a biblical kingdom of the far north. By about 1000 CE Jewish scholars used Ashkenaz to refer to the Germanic lands, and as they began to populate the area, to the Jews of central & eastern Europe. The language of the Ashkenazi is Yiddish, based on High German, blended with Hebrew and Aramaic. About 90% of North American Jews are Ashkenazim, but less than half of Israeli Jews.