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The term "diaspora" comes from the Greek word for "dispersion." The phrase "living in the diaspora" is now used to describe religious and ethnic groups that at some stage left the country of their ancestors—mostly involuntarily—and now live as minorities scattered across various countries or regions but still try to preserve their traditions and faith.

The Jewish Diaspora (the term is often capitalized when referring to Jews) is thought to have begun in the sixth century BCE at the latest, after the decline of the Kingdom of Judah in the south of present-day state Israel. At that time, a large part of the Jewish population was forced to go into exile in Egypt or Babylon. This shows the original meaning of the word "diaspora": the scattering of Jews throughout the world and the establishment of Jewish communities outside Israel.

The Jewish Diaspora continues to be an important issue today. Of the estimated 13 million Jews in the world, just over five million Jews live in Israel, while the rest continue to live in the Diaspora, which is now called "galut" in Hebrew.

© Jewish Museum Berlin, illustration: Gesine Grotrian-Steinweg
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The dreidel (also dreidl, dreidle, dreydel and draydel; sevivon in Hebrew) is a spinning top used to play the dreidel game during Hanukkah. The four sides of the top, which is shaped like a die, bear the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, hay and shin (or peh). These are the first letters of the words in the sentence "Nes gadol hayah sham" (or "Nes gadol hayah poh"), which means: "A great miracle happened there" (or "A great miracle happened here").

The dreidel game

To play the dreidel game, each player first puts an agreed number of playing pieces in the middle of the table. These pieces can be chocolate Hanukkah coins or any countable object. Usually the youngest player begins. The players take turns spinning the top and the letter that faces up when it stops determines the player's next action. "Nun" means "nothing": the player forfeits his turn. "Gimel" means "good" or "complete": the player is in luck and gets to keep everything in the pot. "Hay" means "half": the player gets half of what is in the pot. "Shin" or "peh" means "bad": the player must place one or two coins from his play money in the middle of the table. When a player has lost all his money, he is out of the game.

Kunststoff, Pappe, bedruckt; USA 2003 (Foto: Jens Ziehe)
Dreidel; Israel 2003 (Foto: Jens Ziehe)
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