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The term Jew is usually used to refer to a follower of Judaism, the Jewish religion. There is a very close connection between the followers of Judaism and those descended from Abraham's grandson Jacob who was also called Israel and thus the word Jew is also often used in a racial sense, similar to the word Hebrew, to refer to the all the descendants of the patriarch, Jacob (who was also known as Israel) whose life story was recorded in the Book of Genesis. All of the major Western religions find their roots in Judaism.

Jewish ancestry is traced back to the Biblical patriarch Abraham and his son Isaac and grandson Jacob and their wives Sarah (wife of Abraham), Rebecca (wife of Isaac) and Leah and Rachel (wives of Jacob) who lived in the ancient land of Canaan probably around the 18th century BC.

Judaism is the first recorded religion that recognized the existence of only one God, a God who revealed himself by the name Yahweh. Christianity of course has its roots in Judaism, with Jesus himself being Jewish. The first Christians were Jewish but the early church quickly incorporated non-Jewish people known as Gentiles. Although some Jews became followers of Jesus, many did not and the distinct Jewish religion and ethnic race continued even when the Jewish homeland was razed by the Roman Empire.

Sadly there has been animosity between the Jewish people and many other peoples, including Christians throughout history. The Jewish people have perhaps been one of the most persecuted group of people throughout history, with the greatest and most terrible of these persecutions occurring under the Nazi rule

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