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 *Sepharad , the Jewish cultural complex originating in Spain.
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