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ASHKENAZ (אַשְׁכְּנַז), designation of the first relatively compact area of settlement of Jews in N.W. Europe, initially on the banks of the Rhine. The term became identified with, and denotes in its narrower sense, Germany, German Jewry, and German Jews ("Ashkenazim"), as well as their descendants in other countries. It has evolved a broader connotation denoting the entire Ashkenazi Jewish cultural complex, comprising its ideas and views, way of life and folk mores, legal concepts and formulations, and social institutions. The Ashkenazi cultural legacy, emanating from the center in northern France and Germany, later spread to Poland-Lithuania, and in modern times embraces Jewish settlements all over the world whose members share and activate it. The term "Ashkenaz" is used in clear contradistinction to , the Jewish cultural complex originating in Spain. It is difficult to determine when the term Ashkenaz was first applied to Germany. In the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 10a) the biblical Gomer, the father of Ashkenaz, is rendered as "Germania," although in its original context the reference is to Germanikia in northwestern Syria (cf. Gen. R. 37:1; TJ , Meg. 1:11, 71b). In addition to this incorrect identification, a possible source of explanation may be in the name Scandza or Scanzia, the designation of Scandinavia in several sources, which was regarded as the cradle of some Germanic tribes. The association of Ashkenaz with Scandza is found as early as the sixth century in the Latin addendum to the chronology of Eusebius. According to another theory, the present connotation derives from the phonic resemblance of "Ashkenaz" to "Saxons" who during the period of Charlemagne constituted the predominant Germanic element in the Frankish kingdom. During the 11 th and 12 th centuries the province incorporating Mainz and Worms was still known as "Lothar" (Lotharingia; Rashi, Sefer ha-Pardes , 35:1; Tos. to bb 74a). The rabbis of Regensburg were referred to as "Rabbanei Reinus" (i.e., "of the Rhine"; Responsum of Eliezer b. Nathan, in: She'elot u-Teshuvot Maharam mi-Rothenburg (Lemberg, 1860), no. 81). At the same time, however, the term "Ashkenaz" established itself as the accepted Hebrew rendering of Germany. Thus in 's (1040–1105) commentary on the Talmud, German expressions appear as leshon Ashkenaz (Suk. 17a; Git. 55b; BM 73b). Similarly when Rashi writes: "But in Ashkenaz I saw…" (Ket. 77b) he no doubt meant the communities of Mainz and Worms in which he had dwelt. Thus also it is certain that...
Source Citation (MLA 8 th Edition)
"Ashkenaz." Encyclopaedia Judaica, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2007, pp. 569-571. Academic OneFile, Accessed 23 Feb. 2019.
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