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As a result, Sephardic Jews spread out to Mediterranean countries, while the majority of Ashkenazic Jews moved east to Poland, which became the center of European Jewry.

In Poland, Jews were permitted to create a series of councils and courts that together represented a minority self-government within the country.

On the whole, however, Jews have enjoyed greater acceptance in America than in any other country and have figured prominently in American culture and politics.

Jewish history dates back 4,000 years to the time of Abraham, the biblical figure credited for introducing the belief in a single God.

In 135 the Romans officially banned Judaism, which marked the beginning of the diaspora, or the dispersal of Jews.

Forced out of Palestine, Jews in exile concentrated less on establishing a unified homeland and more on maintaining Judaism through biblical scholarship and community life.

European Jews are divided mainly between the Jews of Spain and Portugal, the Sephardim, and the Jews from German-speaking countries in central and eastern Europe, the Ashkenazim.