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The Origins of Ashkenazi Jews

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  • The Origins of Ashkenazi Jews

    Published online 2017, Jun 21

    The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish

    Ranajit Das,1 Paul Wexler,2 Mehdi Pirooznia,3 and Eran Elhaik4,*


    “Ashkenaz” is one of the most disputed Biblical placenames. It appears in the Hebrew Bible as the name of one of Noah's descendants (Genesis 10:3) and as a reference to the kingdom of Ashkenaz, prophesied to be called together with Ararat and Minnai to wage war against Babylon (Jeremiah 51:27). In addition to tracing AJs to the ancient Iranian lands of Ashkenaz and uncovering the villages whose names may derive from “Ashkenaz,” the partial Iranian origin of AJs, inferred by Das et al. (2016), was further supported by the genetic similarity of AJs to Sephardic Mountain Jews and Iranian Jews as well as their similarity to Near Eastern populations and simulated “native” Turkish and Caucasus populations.

    There are good grounds, therefore, for inferring that Jews who considered themselves Ashkenazic adopted this name and spoke of their lands as Ashkenaz, since they perceived themselves as of Iranian origin.


    AJs were localized to modern-day Turkey and found to be genetically closest to Turkic, southern Caucasian, and Iranian populations, suggesting a common origin in Iranian “Ashkenaz” lands (Das et al., 2016). These findings were more compatible with an Irano-Turko-Slavic origin for AJs and a Slavic origin for Yiddish than with the Rhineland hypothesis, which lacks historical, genetic, and linguistic support (Table (Table1)1) (van Straten, 2004; Elhaik, 2013). The findings have also highlighted the strong social-cultural and genetic bonds of Ashkenazic and Iranian Judaism and their shared Iranian origins (Das et al., 2016).

    Thus far, all analyses aimed to geo-localize AJs (Behar et al., 2013, Figure 2B; Elhaik, 2013, Figure 4; Das et al., 2016, Figure 4) identified Turkey as the predominant origin of AJs, although they used different approaches and datasets, in support of the Irano-Turko-Slavic hypothesis (Figure (Figure1A,1A, Table Table1).1). The existence of both major Southern European and Near Eastern ancestries in AJ genomes are also strong indictors of the Irano-Turko-Slavic hypothesis provided the Greco-Roman history of the region southern to the Black Sea (Baron, 1937; Kraemer, 2010). Recently, Xue et al. (2017) applied GLOBETROTTER to a dataset of 2,540 AJs genotyped over 252,358 SNPs. The inferred ancestry profile for AJs was 5% Western Europe, 10% Eastern Europe, 30% Levant, and 55% Southern Europe (a Near East ancestry was not considered by the authors). Elhaik (2013) portrayed a similar profile for European Jews, consisting of 25–-30% Middle East and large Near Eastern–Caucasus (32–-38%) and West European (30%) ancestries. Remarkably, Xue et al. (2017) also inferred an “admixture time” of 960––-1,416 AD (≈24––-40 generations ago), which corresponds to the time AJs experienced major geographical shifts as the Judaized Khazar kingdom diminished and their trading networks collapsed forcing them to relocate to Europe (Das et al., 2016). The lower boundary of that date corresponds to the time Slavic Yiddish originated, to the best of our knowledge.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	fgene-08-00087-g0001.jpg Views:	1 Size:	104.4 KB ID:	1442259

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  • #2
    Ashkenaz durbatulûk, Ashkenaz gimbatul,
    Ashkenaz thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
    Most people think as they are trained to think, and most people make a majority.


    • #3
      Originally posted by huginn ok muninn View Post
      ashkenaz durbatulûk, ashkenaz gimbatul,
      ashkenaz thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
      click image for larger version  name:	image_113350.png views:	1 size:	41.8 kb id:	1442321

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      • #4
        Burzum? Count Grishnack would be proud!

        Ashkenazim are German Jewry, plain and simple, wherever they came from before. Sephardim came from Roman North Africa, but I'm sure Ashkenazim were in pre-Christian Roman Europe, explaining phenotype variations of the Jewry.