Then name Ashkenaz (Bereishit 10:3) has since the 10th century been identified with Germany. As the German and French Jews of the medieval period formed a uniform group in culture and religious customs, they were all referred to as Ashkenazim in contradistinction to the Sefardim or Spanish- Portuguese Jews. Ashkenazim are the people who use Nusach Ashkenaz, the prayer arrangement adopted by the medieval Franco-German Jews, including certain variations described as belonging to the Polish custom (Minhag Polin). In the 18th century, the Chasidic movement adopted the Sefardic arrangement of prayers; hence, the Chasidim have been called Sefardim on many occasions. The Ashkenazim in Eastern Europe developed an intense religious life, disseminating Talmudic scholarship among the people to a degree never before surpassed in Jewish history. A high Jewish literacy existed in an illiterate non-Jewish environment. The vitality of the Ashkenazim still dominates wherever they are transplanted.
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