The Jewish Diaspora (Galut in Hebrew) refers to the state of Jews living outside the land of Israel. The Diaspora began when the Neo-Babylonian Empire overthrew the Kingdom of Judah, destroyed the First Temple, and took the Jews into captivity in Babylon beginning in 597 BCE. After Persian emperor Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 538 BCE, he permitted the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. However, most of the Jews decided to remain in Babylon, leaving the Jewish people geographically split. The Diaspora was radically exacerbated by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE, after which Jewish communities scattered across Europe, Asia, and Africa. The establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 reined in much of the Diaspora as many Jews returned to their biblical homeland. Today, the term is used to describe the Jewish communities residing outside of the state of Israel.
The Diaspora shaped Judaism into the tradition it is today. Whereas Jewish religion had been based around the Temple in Jerusalem prior to its destruction by the Romans, the Diaspora required a new approach to religious practice. Jewish scholarship that had previously been transmitted orally was codified into the Talmud, now one of the primary texts of mainstream Judaism. The creation of the Talmud quickly led Rabbinic Judaism to become the dominant form of the tradition from the second century CE and synonymous with mainstream Judaism from the sixth century onward. The abundant source of religious leadership inherent within Rabbinic Judaism has led to denominational differences, such as Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism. The Diaspora has also given Judaism its current ethnic diversity, including Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi Jews. In the political realm, diasporic communities often act as international sources of support for the state of Israel.
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