The history of the Jews in South Africa mainly began under the British Empire, following a general pattern of increased European settlement in the 19th century. The early patterns of Jewish South African history are almost identical to the history of the Jews in the United States but on a much smaller scale, including the period of early discovery and settlement from the late 17th century to the early 19th century. The community grew tenfold between 1880 and 1914, from 4,000 to over 40,000. Jews were instrumental in promoting the extension of diplomatic military ties between Israel and South Africa. South Africa's Jewish community differs from its counterparts in other African countries in that the majority have remained on the continent rather than emigrating to Israel (62% of the maximum 120,000 still remain). Among potential Jewish emigrants, many were likelier to select a destination popular among other South Africans, such as Australia.
History of the Jews of South Africa. (Wikipedia)
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or simply Ashkenazim are a Jewish diaspora population who coalesced as a distinct community in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the first millennium. The traditional diaspora language of Ashkenazi Jews is Yiddish (which incorporates several dialects), with Hebrew used only as a sacred language until relatively recently. Throughout their time in Europe, Ashkenazim have made many important contributions to philosophy, scholarship, literature, art, music, and science.
Ashkenazim originate from the Jews who settled along the Rhine River, in Western Germany and Northern France. There they became a distinct diaspora community with a unique way of life that adapted traditions from Babylon, The Land of Israel, and the Western Mediterranean to their new environment. The Ashkenazi religious rite developed in cities such as Mainz, Worms, and Troyes. The eminent French Rishon Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki (Rashi) would have a significant impact on the Jewish religion.
In the late Middle Ages, the majority of the Ashkenazi population shifted steadily eastward, moving out of the Holy Roman Empire into the Pale of Settlement (comprising parts of present-day Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine). In the course of the late 18th and 19th centuries, those Jews who remained in or returned to the German lands experienced a cultural reorientation; under the influence of the Haskalah and the struggle for emancipation, as well as the intellectual and cultural ferment in urban centers, they gradually abandoned the use of Yiddish, while developing new forms of Jewish religious life and cultural identity.
The genocidal impact of the Holocaust (the mass murder of approximately six million Jews during World War II) devastated the Ashkenazim and their culture, affecting almost every Jewish family. It is estimated that in the 11th century Ashkenazi Jews composed only three percent of the world's total Jewish population, while at their peak in 1931 they accounted for 92 percent of the world's Jews. Immediately prior to the Holocaust, the number of Jews in the world stood at approximately 16.7 million. Statistical figures vary for the contemporary demography of Ashkenazi Jews, oscillating between 10 million and 11.2 million. Sergio DellaPergola in a rough calculation of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, implies that Ashkenazi Jews make up less than 74% of Jews worldwide. Other estimates place Ashkenazi Jews as making up about 75% of Jews worldwide.
Genetic studies on Ashkenazim—researching both their paternal and maternal lineages—suggest a significant proportion of Middle Eastern ancestry. Those studies have arrived at diverging conclusions regarding both the degree and the sources of their European ancestry, and have generally focused on the extent of the European genetic origin observed in Ashkenazi maternal lineages. Ashkenazi Jews are popularly contrasted with Sephardi Jews (also called Sephardim), who descend from Jews who settled in the Iberian Peninsula, and Mizrahi Jews, who descend from Jews who remained in the Middle East. There are some differences in how the groups pronounce certain Hebrew letters, and in points of ritual.
Ashkenazi Jews (Wikipedia)