Jewish people are best described in modern terms as an ethnoreligious group, defining their rules of membership as well as their rules of practice. Modern concepts of ethnicity, religion, and nationality are not entirely sufficient to capture the millennia-long meaning of Jewishness. Being Jewish is a mix of being born into a Jewish community, and of behavior according to the regulations of the community. Judaism is the religious practice of Jewish people.
Judaism comes from
Judah-ism and means means
of the people of Judah — referring to people from the tribe of Judah. This was one of the twelve tribes which constituted the nation when it came into existence. The word
Jewish comes from
Judah as well. This is used in many languages, and by Jews, to refer to Jewish people, although other terms exist as well.
The Jewish view is that Jews have a common ancestor: Jacob, and before Jacob, of course, going back to Adam. Jacob's condensed family tree is below, including the twelve tribes of Jacob, who gained the second name Israel. The tree below uses the notation of
personal name +
ben (son of) +
father’s personal name for clarity.
אברהם בן תרח Abraham ben Terah
Abraham was born with the name Abram.
יצחק בן אברהם Isaac ben Abraham
יעקב בן יצחק Jacob ben Isaac
Jacob was given the name Israel by an angel, hence the phrases
Twelve Tribes of Israelor
Land of Israeland terms such as
ראובן בן יעקב Reuben ben Jacob
סימאון בן יעקב Simeon ben Jacob
לוי בן יעקב Levi ben Jacob
יהודה בן יעקב Judah ben Jacob
איזכר בן יעקב Isacchar ben Jacob
זבולון בן יעקב Zebulun ben Jacob
גד בן יעקב Gad ben Jacob
אשר בן יעקב Asher ben Jacob
דן בן יעקב Dan ben Jacob
נפתלי בן יעקב Naphtali ben Jacob
יוסף בן יעקב Joseph ben Jacob
Joseph's tribe was split into two
half tribesout of respect from his sons, who were each given elevated designation as their own tribes, unlike other grandchildren of Jacob.
אפרים בן יוסף Ephraim ben Joseph
מנשה בן יוסף Manasseh ben Joseph
בנימין בן יעקב Benjamin ben Jacob
Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people. It is descended from ancient Aramaic, which was the lingua franca of West Asia in antiquity. The term
Hebrew is also used to refer to the Jewish people, sometimes. It is etymologically related to words meaning
to cross — it may refer to Jewish people immigrating, or it may refer to Jewish people standing across from the idolatrous nation. Abraham is sometimes referred to as Abram Ha-Ibri, meaning Abram the Hebrew, before his name was changed to Abraham.