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Ashkanaz, or Ashkenazi Jews, are a segment of the Jewish people descended from central and eastern Europe. As an ethnic group, they constitute the largest segment of the Jewish population in the world today, with estimates varying between 8 and 11 million people, or about 80% of the global Jewish population. Now living throughout the Jewish Diaspora as well as in Israel, they developed into a distinct group in western Germany and northeastern France, near the banks of the Rhine River, in the eighth and ninth centuries. Literally meaning “German Jews,” the term Ashkanaz comes from the old Hebrew word for Germany.

Together with Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews (who are usually grouped together demographically), Ashkenazi Jews make up nearly the entire population of Jews in the ...

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