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Review of Science Writing and News Reports on DNA Testing and Popular Genetics

Khazarian Hypothesis of European Jewish Origins Vindicated

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Genetic Study Shows Rhineland Hypothesis False, 'Thirteenth Tribe' Theory Correct After All

In "Heretical History" and numerous other posts, we have argued that the contributions, genetic and cultural, of the Turkic-Iranic Khazars deserve much more attention than the cosseted theories of European Zionist Jews and the official views of the state of Israel on Jewish history. A new study by Eran Elhaik titled "The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypothesis," (Genome Biol. Evol. 5.1:61-74) bears out our thinking with hard evidence that seems likely to settle that rancorously-fought-over question once and for all. 

According to Science Daily (Jan. 16, 2013), "Despite being one of the most genetically analysed groups, the origin of European Jews has remained obscure . . . but the new study . . . sets to rest previous contradictory reports of Jewish ancestry." Elhaik's findings strongly support the Khazarian Hypothesis, as opposed to the Rhineland Hypothesis, of European Jewish origins. 

Ashkenazi ("Germanic") Jews embraced a Western European origin myth not only because it presented Jews as very white, at the top of the race pyramid, but because of the prestige it brought them of being a spin off of the Roman Empire. 

The Khazarian thesis acknowledges that the most important element is Middle Eastern among "brown" peoples, and that the period of efflorescence of Judaism in Europe began in the late Middle Ages under the influence of migrating Khazars. 

That's an entirely different version of history, one much closer to Arthur Koestler's "Thirteenth Tribe" account, a theory for which he was castigated by fellow Jews and especially Zionists. 

The new study was not possible until recently, when many of the gaps in Caucasian and Jewish genetics were filled for the first time, using autosomal approaches rather than sex-linked haplotype surveys. Elhaik's masterwork examines a comprehensive dataset of 1,287 unrelated individuals in 8 Jewish and 74 non-Jewish populations genotyped over a range of half a million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or markers. These data were adapted from a study by Doron Behar and colleagues from three years ago.

The central role of Khazaria was also not wanted or wished for among Eurocentric scholars, who tended to denigrate Ostjuden or Eastern Jews. Few historians conceded even the fact that Khazaria was a Jewish state that lasted nearly a millennium, where Hebrew was spoken, preferring to think of it as a sort of travelers tale or land of religious fiction.  

Elhaik used seven measures of ancestry, relatedness, admixture, allele sharing distances, geographical origins and migration patterns to identify the Caucasus-Near Eastern and European ancestral signatures in European Jews' genome along with a smaller, but substantial Middle Eastern genome. "The results were consistent in depicting a Caucasus ancestry for all European Jews," according to Science Daily

Heresy in a Nutshell

Elhaik wrote:  "The most parsimonious explanation for our findings is that Eastern European Jews are of Judeo-Khazarian ancestry forged over many centuries in the Caucasus. Jewish presence in the Caucasus and later Khazaria [a Hebrew-speaking Central Asian empire] was recorded as early as the late centuries BCE and reinforced due to the increase in trade along the Silk Road, the decline of Judah (1st-7th centuries), and the rise of Christianity and Islam. Greco-Roman and Mesopotamian Jews gravitating toward Khazaria were also common in the early centuries and their migrations were intensified following the Khazars' conversion to Judaism… The religious conversion of the Khazars encompassed most of the Empire's citizens and subordinate tribes and lasted for the next 400 years until the invasion of the Mongols. At the final collapse of their empire in the 13th century, many of the Judeo-Khazars fled to Eastern Europe and later migrated to Central Europe and admixed with the neighbouring populations."

According to Science Daily, Elhaik's findings explain otherwise conflicting results describing high heterogeneity among Jewish communities and relatedness to Middle Eastern, Southern European, and Caucasus populations not accounted for under the Rhineland Hypothesis. Although the study links European Jews to the Khazars, there are still questions to be answered. How substantial is the Iranian ancestry in modern day Jews (Khazars were themselves mixed)? Since Eastern European Jews arrived from the Caucasus, where did Central and Western European Jews come from, those usually called Sephardic?

Finally, if there was no mass migration out of Palestine at the 7th century, what happened to the ancient Judeans? --Shlomo Sand, the author of The Invention of the Jewish People, has maintained that there never were any expulsions or exoduses out of Palestine, only wholesale conversions to Islam. Thus, the true heirs of Judah are the persistent inhabitants who still occupy Jerusalem and the Holy Land, that is, Palestinians. 

It is ironic, to say the least, that these ancient Judeans are dispossessed by a nationalist colonial power with roots no deeper than nineteenth century Europe which exercises a force majeur based on mistaken notions of genetics and history. 

Photo above:  Arthur Koestler, the arch-heretic and persona non grata in the eyes of Jewish authorities, was unorthodox politically, religiously and sexually. 


Lee commented on 06-Jun-2013 09:23 PM

Your comments re: Rhineland vs Khazar theories are confused and wrong. Rhineland theory asserts that Jews origin is found in Palestine, firmly in the Middle East, not Europe. In fact, this belief is the basis for Jews returning to Palestine to claim what they see as their true ancestral land. This, of course, was critical in touching off the ongoing conflict in Palestine. The Kharzar theory posits that Jews are mostly descended from Turkic peoples, those who occupied the Caucus Mountain range. These people would be much closer to what you refer to as the "top of the race pyramid" because they would be far whiter than the "brown people" of Palestine aka the Middle East. So, you have your theories arse-backwards, if you will.

Hezakiah Levinson commented on 21-Nov-2013 06:59 PM

Hogwash. Archaeology shows Jews in Europe over three hundred years before the Khazarian Monarchy even converted.The Köln Synagogue in Cologne, Germany has been excavated 2007/2012 and dates clearly pre Carolingian (bef. 780/90). There is at the moment some strong evidence that it dates back to the early 4th century when emperor Constantine in 321 issued a privilege for the Cologne Jews. This has been confirmed recently by the find of a rainwater mikveh of the 4th century inside the building complex). The oldest synagogue in Western Europe uncovered in an archaeological dig to date is the Ostia Synagogue in the ancient Roman port of Ostia, in Italy. The present building, of which partial walls and pillars set upright by archaeologists remain, dates from the 4th century. However, excavation revealed that it is on the site of an earlier synagogue dating from the middle of the 1st century CE, that is, from before the destruction of the Temple.The Main Synagogue of Barcelona, built in the 3rd or 4th century, has been described as the oldest synagogue in Europe.

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Elizabeth Hirschman, Modern Pioneer

Friday, December 07, 2012
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Behind the Numbers:  Elizabeth Hirschman

  (Part Two of a Series)

We interviewed Rutgers marketing professor Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, author of several books and articles incorporating DNA in her research, to hear her personal story in our continuing series about the people behind the scenes in the field of DNA testing.


Elizabeth Hirschman with MBA students at Rutgers in December 2009.

When did you first get interested in DNA?

ECH: I got interested in DNA testing around 2000 when I discovered I was Melungeon after reading Brent Kennedy's 1994 book. Brent suggested several different ancestries that possibly contributed to the Melungeon population and I wanted to find out which of these were correct and which ones I had. I already suspected Jewish ancestry because of the naming patterns in my family over the past 300 years, as well as some of their habits --e.g., not eating pork, getting married in a home instead of a church, cleaning house on Friday afternoon, no eggs with blood spots, washing all meat, etc. We also had some genetic anomalies -- shovel teeth (sinodonty), palatal tori and large rear cranial extensions, as well as polydactylism.

Tell us more.


ECH:  Over the course of the past decade I have been found to have Native American, Spanish, Ashkenazi Jewish, African, Mediterranean and Gypsy/Northwestern India ancestry. My Dad turned out to have substantial Gypsy and African ancestry. He and I share a large cranial rear extension that I believe likely comes from the African ancestry -- the photos I have seen of the !Kung Bushmen look just like our head shapes. My Mom has Native American and/or Sino-Siberian ancestry. She also possessed the Asian teeth and palatal tori found in this group.

You've written several books and articles with Donald Yates; how did that come about?

ECH:  We shared ancestry from the Coopers, a prominent pioneer family in Daniel Boone’s time. In 2000, I wrote him out of the blue when he was a professor in Georgia and introduced myself and asked if possibly the Coopers were Jewish. We began to correspond by email. I told him I was sure one of the reasons I was working so hard to figure out the Melungeon story was because I had to figure out who I am. “Up until last year,”  I remember telling him, “I thought I was Scotch-Irish, English , white and Presbyterian.” It was a big transition to Sephardic, brown and Jewish. It turned out that we were distant cousins and had numerous links in our Melungeon ancestry.

What was a typical publication?

ECH: One article was called “Suddenly Melungeon! Reconstructing Consumer Identity Across the Color Line.” This was published by Routledge in 2007 in a handbook on consumer culture theory edited by Russell Belk.  


How did the Jewish findings play out?


ECH:  On a personal level, both Don and I, as well as his wife Teresa, returned to Judaism, he and Teresa in Savannah and I in New Jersey. On a professional level, we started the Melungeon Surname DNA Project, which focused on Scottish clan and Melungeon surnames (i.e., male or Y chromosome lines), and later included Native American mitochondrial DNA.  Initially, many people in the genetic genealogy community were frustrated that the incoming Jewish DNA results were not originating in the Middle East, as they had strongly believed and hoped, but were showing a lot of Khazar, Central Asian, Eastern European and Western European/Spanish/French input.

Can you elaborate?

ECH:  Critics were not happy that DNA was proving a wider and more inclusive picture of the Jewish people. Where Don and I have performed a service, I believe, is by just following the DNA trail and accepting new findings (e.g., the Gypsy/Roma) when they come in, instead of clinging to an a priori theory/belief/wish, for instance, the claim of a Middle Eastern origin for the majority of Jews.

What tests have you ordered from DNA Consultants?


ECH: I ordered every test as they became available over the years, first the Y chromosome and mitochondrial or male-line and female-line tests and later the autosomal or DNA fingerprint tests that analyze your total ancestry.  I helped organize the first autosomal Melungeon study by contributing samples from my mother and brother and obtaining samples from well-known Melungeons like Brent Kennedy and his brother Richard. Increasingly, our testing took on the aspect of a family group study. For instance, I was able by comparing multiple results from relatives to reconstruct my father’s ancestry quite satisfactorily, even though he died many years ago. I took the Rare Genes from History for all available family members. There is a streak of the Thuya Gene and First Peoples Gene in all of us, as well as the Sinti Gene (which is Gypsy), while my brother Dick got our father’s Khoisan Gene, which is African. Incidentally, it has the same source as the !Kung people and head shape I mentioned before.

If you had H. G. Wells' time machine where would you go?


ECH: I would love to be able to visit my ancestors and see what they looked like, where they lived, how they lived and learn how they got to Appalachia from such disparate parts of the world. I wish I could talk with them. My project now is to visit all the places they are known to have come from and see what the architecture, climate, food, and people are like. That is about as close to "meeting" them as I will be able to get. So far, I’ve traveled to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Spain, Tunisia and Morocco on the trail of my Sephardic Jewish ancestors. I am trying to get to the Silk Road to see Central Asia, Turkey and Northwest India in the near future.

Professor Hirschman has published over 200 journal articles and academic papers in marketing, consumer behavior, sociology, psychology and semiotics. She is past President of the Association for Consumer Research and American Marketing Association-Academic Division. Professor Hirschman was named one of the Most Cited Researchers in Economics and Business by the Institute for Scientific Information in 2009; this recognition is given to the top .5% of scholars in a given field.  


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Video Book Review: Jon Entine in Israel

Tuesday, July 31, 2012
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We previously reviewed Jon Entine's masterful book on Jewish DNA:  Rounding Up the Usual Suspects. But Arlene Belzer has now sent us a new video on the subject with an interview of the author from Israel. The Israeli video is perhaps the latest word on this controversial subject, and everyone with an interest in the genetic character of the Jewish people should watch it.



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Tatar/Khazar Marker Renamed Jewish IV

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DNA Consultants' fourth Jewish marker, Tatar/Khazar, has been renamed Jewish IV, bringing it into line with European, Asian and Sub-Saharan African marker groups. All these populations have four markers in acknowledgment of their complexity, age and diversity.

Native American has only two markers.

Jewish IV can be expected to be more sensitive following the addition of Altai Turkic, Caucasus, Southern Russian and Khazak population data to the company's computer program atDNA.

The four Jewish markers may be described as follows:

JEWISH I. This is the most common of the three markers. It can occur without known Jewish ancestry for a variety of reasons including an ancestor’s conversion to Christianity during the centuries of persecutions against Jews in Europe. Its frequency is highest in Poles, Russians, Germans, Hungarians, Romanians and Slavic peoples who intermarried with Ashkenazi Jews. It also appears in Spanish, Portuguese and Moroccan Jews (Sephardim).

JEWISH II. This marker is the strongest. It is found in Jewish families who have intermarried with other Jews down through the centuries. It is characteristic of Ashkenazi Jews.

JEWISH III.  This marker is an indication of Middle Eastern roots. Preserved by Jews, it is also borne by Kurds, Syrians, Arabs, Berbers, Basques, Turks, Greeks, Italians and other populations from the ancient world.

JEWISH IV. A marker indicative of Tatar or Khazar heritage. Khazars were a Central Asian people of Turkic, Hunnish and Iranian elements that arose in the Caucasus region. After converting to Judaism in the early Middle Ages, they moved westward into Russia and the Ukraine under pressure from Islam, eventually becoming a large component of Eastern and Central European Jewry. Many Ashkenazi Jews now find they have some Khazar (or intermingled Tatar) ancestry.

As can be seen, these divisions reflect the three major convert populations of Judaism, Sephardim, Ashkenazim and Khazars (often referred to as "the thirteenth tribe") in addition to the original Middle Eastern Israelites and related people of the Bible (Jewish III), which forms the core genetic element of solidarity.

Khazar rabbis.


Melanie Snyder commented on 14-Sep-2011 02:01 PM

2 ideas: #1 I was at a family reunion when a man mentioned being descended from the Levites in his family Levett from Germany. I asked if he knew of the Leavitt family from England--sounded the same to me. #2 I condensed the royal families in my and my
husband's families, for my daughter who was going to visit England. These lines came to Joseph of Arimathea whose daughter married King Lear. Doesn't the standing Lion of England reflect the Lion of David? So are we not recognizing the Jews in England?

Steve commented on 28-Jun-2012 10:18 PM

To the best of my knowledge on this subject, there are no Jews in Europe in the past. The Khazars simply took Talmud Judaism as their official religion. What appears as Jews in Europe can be attributed to the movement of Khazars westward. Jewish people
of Abraham lineage are the only Jewish people. They are mostly found alongside their brothers, the muslims in the middle east.

Mihovski commented on 16-Jul-2012 10:09 AM

Russian Jews are Khazar Turks, but this does not make us any less Jews than anyone else. While we should accept our ancestry as Turks, it doesn't give us any less claim to have our own country like any other nationality. Jew haters will kill us the same
as Jews from other racial origins so we're in it together.

Anonymous commented on 28-Sep-2013 10:11 PM

Georgians and Circassians also have these markers, and Georgia is a prominent country in the Caucasus and Christian since the 4th century. Khazars fled to Georgia and the N. Caucasus in the 13th century when their capital was taken by the Mongols, married Circassian and Georgian women, and were noted to be still practicing Judaism by a traveler who knew St. Francis of Asisi and visited their former capitol on the Caspian Sea. So almost everyone in the N. Caucasus of any religion would have these markers. Also Khazaria was partially populated by Jews fleeing the Byzantine Empire to Khazaria which had freedom of worship for 400 years.

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Rounding Up the Usual Suspects

Thursday, October 07, 2010
Book Review:  Abraham's Children. Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People, by Jon Entine (New York:  Grand Central, 2007).

Jewish DNA is full of controversies and the journalist Jon Entine shies away from none of them in this bestselling compendium. Interesting for our readers may be to note where he falls out on some of the more vexed issues after taking the trouble to interview genetic news makers such as Karl Skorecki ("Genes of Old Testament Priests") and Father William Sanchez, the cause celebre for New Mexico crypto-Jews.

Is there a Jewish "race"? That is probably not the right word, but yes, writes Entine, there is definitely a Jewish ethnicity that has been been preserved in exile from the beginnings of Judaism in the Middle East over 3,000 years ago. Even Ashkenazi Jews are, genetically speaking, more similar to themselves and Middle Easterners than they are to Czechs, Poles and other Central and East European neighboring populations.

Is the Bible a true and accurate history of the Jews? No, for one thing, events in the Old Testament are corroborated by only a handful of contemporary records, including one Egyptian document and one Assyrian proclamation. The early books were rewritten several times, most famously by the Patriarch scribe Ezra. The Jews returning from Babylonian Exile burnished the existing scriptures and introduced political themes that put the Northern Kingdom in a bad light. The word "Jew" was not actually used of the inhabitants of ancient Israel until around 520 B.C.E., when the "battered capital city, Jerusalem, surrounded by a scattering of towns" (p. 107) was called Yehud, the Aramaic name of a new province in the Persian Empire. 

Do the Samaritans retain the closest genetic resemblance to Abraham's descendants? Here is what Entine writes:

The scientists speculate that not only are today's Samaritans likely descended from the Israelites, they may be the ancestral remnants of a breakaway group of Jewish priests that did not go into exile when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom in 721 B.C.E. Instead, these Cohanim may well have stayed, "but married Assyrian and female exiles relocated from other conquered lands, which was a typical Assyrian policy to obliterate national identities." It may just be that the tiny clan of Samaritans are a rare surviving branch of the ancient Israelites.

Among Entine's sources are Batsheva Bonne-Tamir, an Israeli geneticist who began studying Samaritan DNA when the population had dwindled to only a few families in the 1950s. Other authorities interviewed include: 

Karen Avraham (deafness in Jews), Doron Behar (Jewish founding mothers), Neil Bradman (Lemba Jews), Luca Luigi Cavalli-Sforza (Stanford's grand old man of DNA), Jared Diamond, David Goldstein (Jewish diseases), Michael Hammer (Y chromosomes), Mary-Claire King (disease studies), Jonathan Marks (critic), Tudor Parfitt (African and Indian Jews) and Mark Thomas (Cohanim).

What happened to the ten Lost Tribes? Entine adopts a wry and caustic attitude toward this subject, beginning his chapter "Wandering Tribes" with a piece on the Worldwide Church of God, a Pasadena, California sect founded by an ex-advertising agent, Herbert W. Armstrong, in the early 1930s. Armstrong was a proponent of British-Israelism, the belief that England is the heir to ancient Israel, the tribe of Ephraim having settled in Britain and the word "British" being derived from the ancient Hebrew word beriyth, which means covenant. "When Armstrong died in 1986, the WWCG claimed more than 150,000 members and an annual budget of $130 million" (p. 130). 

Are Ashkenazi Jews really Khazars (i.e. non-Semitic)? Their genetic mix contains some Turkic elements from the Khazars, but even the Khazars were not 100% Turkic. Entine does not believe in the mass conversion portrayed in works such as Judah Halevi's medieval account The Kuzari: A Book of Argument in Defense of a Despised Religion. Following the author Kevin Brook ("not a formally trained historian but an impressively self-taught scholar...creator of the Web site khazaria.com," p. 199), Entine says "the number of Khazarian Jews probably numbered no more than 30,000 out of a total population of 100,000, including a few thousand nobles and royalty" (p. 201).

Do you have to have a Jewish mother to be Jewish? Entine investigates this ruling very thoroughly and shows that Judaism was spread primarily by men with Middle Eastern roots who married local women of non-Semitic ancestry who converted to the husband's religion. The Jewish mother criterion came about in rabbinical times under the influence of Roman law. In Biblical times, Jewishness always came from a Jewish father. 

Is there an "intelligence gene" among Ashkenazi Jews? Yes, it emerged in the age of the ghetto when survival selected for males who could earn a livelihood with their wits rather than hands or bodies.

Having touched on these questions, I would like to point out that many of the solutions are rather superficial. Entine's research is not very deep or wide ranging. Nowhere in the chapter on mass conversions does he speak about the Babylonian principality of Narbonne in the South of France during Carolingian times. His treatment of Sephardic Jews is meager. There are other limitations in the scope of the work, but in general, Abraham's Children is to be recommended as a solid, reliable, seemingly effortless account of a subject on which blood, sweat and tears have been spilled on every page in the past. That is no small feat.


Anonymous commented on 07-Oct-2010 09:11 PM

The book sounds interesting.

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Heretical History

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Ashkenazi Jews May Have Founded Israel,

But Hebrew-Speaking Khazars Created Ashkenaz

Yes, the Khazars spoke Hebrew. It was the official language of the medieval kingdom, just as it is today in Israel. That is one of the surprising revelations of a book titled The Invention of the Jewish People, by Tel Aviv history professor Shlomo Sand, who devotes half a chapter to the “strange empire in the East” (London:  Verso, 2009).

Judaism has not always been a closed society. During all but the last four or five centuries of its existence, it has been a proselytizing (and stabilizing) force in world events. Great states like the now-forgotten Khazaria played a role in the balance of powers and destiny of world civilization. The policies of the Kagan and his viceroy the Bey were praised everywhere for creating a prosperous, multi-ethnic, multi-faith state that held sway over the lives of millions for five centuries (700-1200).

Out of the Mists of Time

In an older book, Catastrophe (New York:  Ballatine), David Keys pursues a wider theme. He also has a chapter on Khazaria, “The Jewish Empire.” In it, after reviewing what we know about the medieval state, he concludes:  “The Khazar empire prevented the westward spread of Islam. If it had not been for the military might of the empire, Islam would likely have rolled west into pagan eastern Europe and possibly even into pagan Scandinavia in the eight and ninth centuries A.D.” He postulates that the Vikings could well have become Muslim, as well as Poland, Hungary, Romania, eastern Austria, the Czech and Slovak lands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Danelaw, the Viking state that emerged in eastern England.

“If the Khazar empire had not prevented Islamic expansion, it is even possible that the Normans (originally Vikings from Denmark) might have already been Muslims for two hundred years by the time they conquered England in 1066. What’s more, if the Arabs had occupied what is now the Ukraine and Russia [rather than the Khazars, who founded Kiev, Russia’s first capital], a Viking people known as the Rus would never have been able to push south and east from the Baltic to establish Russia” (p. 98).

An “investigative archeologist,” Keys attributes the rise and spread of the Khazar state to a devastating volcanic explosion in Java in 535 that caused worldwide darkness, crop loss, famine, droughts, floods, migration of peoples and destabilization of regimes. Among the losers in what has passed into history as the Dark Ages were the Byzantines, Britons, French, Spanish, south Arabs, Tang Chinese, Teotihuacan and Peruvians. The winners were Avars, Huns, Koreans, Japanese, Toltecs, Incas, Mohammedans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings and Visigoths. The global disaster had far-reaching effects that formed the modern world.

Sand is a professor in the department of European history (separated, curiously, from “Jewish” history in his country, Israel) and is concerned, as all historians are, with books. On the basis of records and written accounts, he reveals Khazaria’s rise as no opportunistic accident to adorn a schoolboy’s tale but as a historical phenomenon central to the formation of world Jewry. What Sand and Keys have in common is their iconoclastic, multi-disciplinary approaches. Independently, they assign a prominent role to Khazaria in world history. Both attack taboo subjects with relish and finesse and are soundly ignored, no doubt, in the balkanized institutional world of learning.

Physical Evidence in Genes

Sand was apparently unaware of Keys or the global catastrophe of 525, but Keys has an excellent genetic summary of the heritage of the Khazars, one that is consistent with the latest research into the unity and diversity of the Jewish people(s).

“The Jewish empire’s other legacy was the creation of a large pool of Jews of ethnically non-Jewish origin who subsequently became a major part—perhaps even the numerically dominant part—of northeast European Jewry and subsequently of world Jewry,” Keys writes (p. 99). He goes further and substantiates and characterizes the convert origin of the Ashkenazi community in the ascendancy in modern Israel and the United States.

“This group, according to tradition, comprises the majority of the descendants of the ancient Israelite tribe of Levi—people who today still bear the name Levi or Levy. Significantly, it does not include a Levite subgroup—the Priests themselves—who often have the name Cohen. . . . This genetic marker does not even show up among the Cohens (descendants of the ancient Israelite Chief Priests)—but only among the descendants of Assistant Priests [Levites]. And then only within Ashkenazi (northern European) Jewry . . . . If some top Khazars were adopting Cohenic Levitical status (i.e., Chief Priest status), then it is more than likely that others—a larger number—were adopting ordinary Levitical status (i.e., Assistant Priest status). Adoption of Cohenic or ordinary Levitical status by converts was and is expressly forbidden by rabbinical law, so the Khazars had to develop a mythic national history that gave them the right to Levitical status” (p. 100).

Kaftans and Yarmulkes

Both Keys and Sand write of the revealing role of Yiddish, the lingua franca of medieval European Jewry and first language of 80% of the settlers in the modern-day Land of Israel. They agree that Yiddish, even though it has a medieval German base, has more elements that are Slavic, Romance, Hebrew, Aramaic and even Turkic and is more accurately to be regarded as the result of a relexification process by originally mixed Sorbs, Magyars, Khazars and others, not as the dialect of west German or Rhineland Jews. In conventional Jewish teaching, Yiddish is regarded as a prestigious import from the Rhadanite and other Romano-Frankic Jews (who were Judean merchants under the Romans, according to most, hence retaining the desired link to ethnic origins in the Middle East). In the new view, Yiddish loses a lot of its special historical claims and becomes simply a language of convenience in the polyglot Khazar domain of former times.

The two books attribute also a superabundance of anthropological characteristics of Ashkenazi Jews to Khazar predominance, including shtetls (townlets), silk kaftans, fur headdresses, naming individuals after Jewish holidays (we have an Aunt Hanukkah and Uncle Pesach in our family tree) and innumerable place-names in Eastern Europe. Finally, Sand notes that the word yarmulke is derived from a Turkic word (p. 247).     

Although the “Khazar thesis” is largely ignored or silenced by Israeli leaders and Jewish scholars, it is unlikely that the rulers of the modern state of Israel will make any constructive impact on the course of world events on the scale of Khazaria. Jews should study Khazaria's intellectual and international model of statecraft instead of the tired and chauvinistic histories of nineteenth-century Zionists. As Sand says, “Why not begin to dream its future afresh, before it becomes a nightmare?”



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