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On the whole, however, Jews have enjoyed greater acceptance in America than in any other country and have figured prominently in American culture and politics.

In Poland, Jews were permitted to create a series of councils and courts that together represented a minority self-government within the country.

In individual Jewish communities, the kehillah was the governing structure comprised of elected leaders who oversaw volunteer organizations involved in all aspects of social and religious life in the community.

The disintegration of the Polish state in the eighteenth century, however, disrupted community life and caused many to emigrate.

Jewish populations were driven from England and France in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

By the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, Jews from Spain faced similar oppression, violence, and expulsion from Spanish Christians.

By contrast, Ashkenazic Jews in the north lived uneasily among Christians, who saw Jews as "Christ killers" and who resented Jews for thinking of themselves as a chosen people.

Christians subjected Jews to violence and destroyed Jewish communities beginning with the First Crusade in 1096.Subsequently, Hebrews referred to themselves as "God's chosen people." After Abraham, the Hebrews were led by Abraham's son Isaac, then by Isaac's son Jacob.Jacob, also known as "Israel" ("Champion of God"), was the father of 12 sons, who became leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel.For many Jews, the binding force is Judaism, a term usually referring to the Jewish religion but sometimes used to refer to all Jews.There are, however, Jewish atheists and agnostics, and one does not have to be religious to be Jewish.Fifty years later Jews returned to Palestine after the Persians defeated the Babylonians.