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Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Hasidic Jews: What’s The Difference? (Explained)

Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Hasidic Jews: What’s The Difference? (Explained)

Jews found a new life in Europe after their communities collapsed in the Holy Land and Babylon. They were divided into different ethnic groups based on the place of their settlement.

There have been two significant categories of Jewish people for the last 1,000 years: Ashkenaz and Sepharad. The Hasidic Jews are a further sub-class of Ashkenaz.

The main difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews is that Ashkenazim today are Yiddish-speaking Jews and descendants of Yiddish-speaking Jews. They’re primarily inhabitants of Germany and Northern France.

The Sephardim are descendants of the Iberia and the Arab world. Sephardim originated from the Hebrew word “Sepharad,” which means Spain. So the Sephardic Jews were mainly those settled in Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and the Middle East.

The Hasidic Jews, on the other hand, are a subculture of Ashkenazis that adhere to an insular form of Judaism that evolved in Eastern Europe in the mid-18th century.

If you want to know more about these ethnic groups of Judaism, keep reading.

An image of decorations organized for the day of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is celebrated with great vigor throughout the Jewish community.

All You Need To Know About Ashkenazi Jews

Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazim, are Jews from the Jewish diaspora who settled in the Roman Empire at the end of the first millennium CE. 

They developed Yiddish as their traditional diaspora language during the Middle Ages after moving from Germany and France to Northern Europe and Eastern Europe. After widespread persecution during the late Middle Ages, the Ashkenazi population slowly migrated eastward into what is now Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine. 

It wasn’t until 20th-century Israel that Hebrew became a common language for Ashkenazim in Europe. The Ashkenazim have contributed significantly to Western philosophy, scholarship, literature, art, and music during their many centuries living in Europe.

An image of a table showing people having a feast in the Hanukkah festival.
Hanukkah celebrations also include a huge feast.

All You Need To Know About Sephardic Jews

Jewish diaspora residents of the Iberian Peninsula are Sepharadi Jews, also known as Sephardic Jews or Sepharadim. 

Mizrahi Jews of North Africa and Western Asia are also called Sepharadim, a term derived from Hebrew Sefarad (lit. ‘Spain’). Even though the millennia-old established latter groups are not descended from Iberia’s Judaized communities, most have adopted Sephardi liturgy, law, and customs. 

Through the centuries, many Iberian exiles found refuge in preexisting Jewish communities, resulting in their integration. Spanish and Portuguese have historically been the vernacular languages of Sephardim and their descendants, although they adopted other languages as well.

However, Judeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino or Judezmo, is the most common traditional language among Sephardim. 

All You Need To Know About Hasidic Jews

Hasidic Judaism is the denomination of Ashkenazis. In the 18th century, Hasidic Judaism emerged as a spiritual revival movement in Western Ukraine, spread rapidly to the rest of Eastern Europe, and became a mainstream religion.

It was founded by Israel Ben Eliezer, the “Baal Shem Tov,” and developed and disseminated by his disciples. Religious conservatism and social isolation characterize this subgroup within Haredi Judaism in present-day Hasidism. The movement adheres closely to Orthodox Jewish practice, as well as Eastern European Jewish traditions. 

What’s The Difference Between Ashkenazi, Sephardic, And Hasidic Jews?

Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Hasidic are the denominations of the Jews that inhabit different areas worldwide. Apart from their classification based on location, some differences exist in Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Hasidic observance.

However, the fundamental beliefs of all remain the same.

  • The food preference for both Ashkenazis and Sephardic is different. Some commonly Jewish foods, such as gefilte fish, kishke (stuffed derma), potato kugel (pudding), knishes, and chopped liver, come from the Ashkenazi Jewish community.
  • Their beliefs related to the Pesach holidays are also pretty different. Rice, corn, peanuts, and beans are permitted in Sephardic Jewish homes during this holiday, while not in Ashkenazic homes.
  • There are a few Hebrew vowels and one Hebrew consonant pronounced differently among Sephardic Jews. Still, most Ashkenazim are adopting Sephardic pronunciation since it is the pronunciation used in Israel today. For example, Ashkenazis refer to the Sabbath day as SHAH-biss, while Sephardic Jews use sha-BAT.
  • In today’s world, most Jews speak English or Modern Hebrew. Before the Holocaust, however, most Ashkenazim (the majority) spoke Yiddish, while Sephardim spoke mostly Arabic, Ladino, or Portuguese.
  • In Ashkenazim culture, Torah scrolls are stored in velvet covers, which are taken off for reading. Whereas it is common for Sephardim to keep their scrolls in hard cylinders that can be accessed for reading (but not removed)  
  • The prayer rituals for both groups are also different. On Yom Kippur night, reciting Kol Nidrei with the cantor is a highlight for any Ashkenazi. However, Sephardic doesn’t do any such thing.
  • From the early morning of the first of Elul until Yom Kippur, Sephardim recited penitential prayers called Selichot. In contrast, the Ashkenazim begin saying these just before Rosh Hashanah, just a few days earlier than most Jews.

In case of Hasidic Jews, although they’re the subgroup of Ashkenzis, their beliefs are much orthodox and conservative as compared to any other Jewish group.

The Hasidim are Ashkenazi Jews originating in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia. Hasidic teachings are mystic as Kabbalistic teachings such as those of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Rabbi Isaac Luria are incorporated into Hasidic teachings.

They incorporate songs into their teachings asnd are well-versed about latest technology. They get thier powers from Rebes whom they consider in strong relation with God.

Here’s a short video clip giving an overview of different Jewish communities worldwide:

Types of Jews.

What Are the Three Sects Of Judaism?

According to historians, there are three sects of Judaism, namely the Essenes, Sadducees, and Pharisees.

JewsNames Of Sects
Name of the three sects of Jews.

Who Is the Founder of Judaism?

A man named Abraham is known as the father of Judaism.

According to the text, Abraham, the founder of Judaism, was the first to receive revelation from God. According to Judaism, God made a covenant with Abraham, and Abraham’s descendants will create a great nation through their descendants.

What Is the Holiest Day In Judaism?

Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day in Judaism.

During Yom Kippur, Jews fast, pray, and repent annually to commemorate the Day of Atonement.

What Is the Holy Land for Jews?

In the Jewish religion, the land of Israel is considered the holy land.

Where Did the Jews Come From?

Jewish ethnicity and religion originated in a region of the Levant called the Land of Israel during the second millennium BCE.

An image of a blow horn used during the celebrations of Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is the most important holy day for Jews.

Is It Correct to Say Happy Yom Kippur?

Although Yom Kippur is one of the Holy days for Jews, you can still not say greet anyone on Yom Kippur. Immediately following Rosh Hashanah, it’s considered a high holiday.

Final Takeaway

  • Jews have different sects, groups, and subgroups in their community. They all have the same basic sets of beliefs. Still, there are few differences in their practices and ways of living.
  • Ashkenazis are the Jews inhabiting the areas of north Germany and France. Sephardim live in Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and the Middle East. In comparison, Hasidic are located mainly in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia.
  • Sephardim and Ashkenazim differ in pronunciation of Hebrew, synagogue cantillation, and cultural traditions.
  • Ashkenazis mostly speak the Yiddish language, while Sephardic speaks Ladin and Arabic.
  • The Hasidic, on the other hand, are the orthodox and conservative Jewish group that’s the sub-group of the Ashkenazim.

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