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Study Finds No Evidence of Khazar Origin for Ashkenazi Jews

A group of Caucasus Jews circa 1876. While there were many Jews living in Georgia, Armenia and the Caucasus, the claims that all of European Jewry stemmed from the 8th century Khazar empire is not only baseless, it is politically motivated.

A group of Caucasus Jews circa 1876. While there were many Jews living in Georgia, Armenia and the Caucasus, the claims that all of European Jewry stemmed from the 8th century Khazar empire is not only baseless, it is politically motivated.

Doron M. Behar of Rambam Health Care Campus, Israel, Mait Metspalu and Bayazit Yunusbayev of Estonian Biocentre, Evolutionary Biology Group, Estonia, Yael Baran and Naama M. Kopelman of Tel-Aviv University, Israel, and several other scientists, have recently published a study suggesting there is no evidence from genome-wide data of a Khazar origin for Ashkenazi Jews.

The Khazars were a Turkic nation whose semi-nomadic empire stretched from Southern Russia to the Caucasus mountains, and from Eastern Europe to Central Asia. There is a tradition that, in the 8th or 9th centuries, their king converted to Judaism.

In the late 19th century, Ernest Renan and others proposed that the Ashkenazi Jews of Europe had fled from Khazaria. This theory has been used by antisemites to suggest that European Jews stem from a barbaric Asiatic race, and to disprove their ancestral connection to the land of Israel.

Only a year ago, many enemies of the Zionist success story, both Jews and gentiles, rejoiced in the findinggs of a Dr. Eran Elhaik, a half-Italian, half-Iranian Israeli Jew, a molecular geneticist working for the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, that “the dominant element in the genetic makeup of European Jews is Khazar. Among Central European Jews, this makes up the largest part of their genome, 38%. For East European Jews it does the same, at 30%.”

The only thing missing for Dr. Elhik’s work to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jews are actually Khazars, is the fact that there are no Khazars out there. There are only folks who live nowadays where there may have been Khazars 1200 years ago.

So, in the absence of genetic data for the long-lost Khazars themselves, Elhaik used data from populations living there now: Georgians, Armenians and Caucasians.

“When doing so Elhaik discovered what he calls the Khazar component of European Jewry,” concluded the news reports in January, 2013.

In short, Elhaik says he has proven that Ashkenazi Jews came from the Caucasus, not the Middle East. And the obvious conclusion is: kindly pack your bags and move on to your real homeland.

Naturally, one of Elhaik’s biggest supporters was Shlomo Sand, who teaches his own kind of history at Tel Aviv University, and wrote the bizarre book “The Invention of the Jewish People.” Sand said the study vindicated his long-held ideas.

”It’s so obvious for me,” Sand said in an interview. “Some people, historians and even scientists, turn a blind eye to the truth. Once, to say Jews were a race was anti-Semitic, now to say they’re not a race is anti-Semitic. It’s crazy how history plays with us.”

So now, not for the first time, a new study, available here, the work of a large group of scientists, finds once again that the Khazar theory is baseless, driven, like Prof. Sand, by a burning desire to invalidate the Jewish Zionist narrative. The new study also clears, once and for all, hopefully, the popular confusion regarding the possibility of there being a unique Khazar race that woke up one morning, declared itself Jewish and moved on to settle in Germany.

“The origin and history of the Ashkenazi Jewish population have long been of great interest, and advances in high-throughput genetic analysis have recently provided a new approach for investigating these topics,” states the study’s abstract. “We and others have argued on the basis of genome-wide data that the Ashkenazi Jewish population derives its ancestry from a combination of sources tracing to both Europe and the Middle East.

“It has been claimed, however, through a reanalysis of some of our data, that a large part of the ancestry of the Ashkenazi population originates with the Khazars, a Turkic-speaking group that lived to the north of the Caucasus region roughly 1,000 years ago. Because the Khazar population has left no obvious modern descendants that could enable a clear test for a contribution to Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, the Khazar hypothesis has been difficult to examine using genetics.”

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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34 Responses to “Study Finds No Evidence of Khazar Origin for Ashkenazi Jews”

  1. Sand is a repulsive crook. Very dishonest in his method of argumentation.
    see link:

  2. Steven Plaut says:

    Shlomo Sand is a hardcore Stalinist whose expertise is on the French cinema, and he knows nothing at all about Jewish history. He adopted many of his "ideas" from Neo-Nazi web sites.

  3. what difference does it make? Judaism is a religion. If you believe in Torah, your religion is Judaism. If your religion is Judaism and you either convert halachically or are born to a bona fide Jewish mother, then you are a Jew. Judaism isn't about racism. No matter what race you are from, you can convert, as long as you believe in Torah and accept it.

  4. Joels Davidi says:

    1. There is no record of mass migration of Jews from Khazaria (modern day-Daghestan) to Eastern Europe ever.

    2. The Khazars themselves were an amalgamation of various races. The ruling classes are sometimes referred to as half-mongol, half-turkic. The citizens of Kahzaria were like any other cosmopolitan city of that era; a mishmash of various races, ethnicities and creeds.

    3. The surnames of many Ashkenazim denote their places of origin and they almost never point to Khazaria. In fact the origins of Ashkenaz are in Northern and Southern Italy. For instance DNA studies have consistently shown a strong genetic affinity between EE Ashkenazim and Romaniote and Italki Jews (the first Jews of Europe, often referred to as 'Titus's Jews').

    4. There are no elements of the Turkic Khazarian language and or names among the EE Ashkenazim. The EE Ashkenazim spoke Yiddish, a form of Judeo-German, clearly indicating that they migrated from the German-Polish border region (Silesia or 'shlezia') along with many non-Jews in the great 'pull toward the east' (drang nach 'osten).

    5. A not insignificant number of EE Jews can trace their immediate origins to the former Ottoman Empire and or the Iberian Peninsula. This is evident via their surnames (a subject I have spent much time researching), their customs, and even their facial features and DNA.

  5. Cristian Bökös says:

    This debate is only relevant for people who think Jews are a race.Otherwise,debates concerning genetics are pointless.

  6. Sara Chana Mandell says:

    What do you say?!? Jews are actually a Semitic people with Middle Eastern/Near East/West Asian/North African origins??? Not the offspring of the Khazarians?? LOL, did we need to waste valuable funds to research this? Shouldn't we be investing our funds in science and research to find out things we don't already know? Next we will spend money to research wether or not the earth is indeed flat!

    "Of course, the fact that a major study finds no basis to the Khazar theory won't make it go away. But next time you run into some academic promoting it, check their motives."

  7. Kjeld Hesselmann says:

    Rightly spoken Judaism isn’t about racism; that said everybody else tries to prove something racial for one reason or another. The latest is to “prove” Jews out of Israel. It’s futile there’s loads of artefacts, inscriptions et al which connects the Jewish people to this specific strip of land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. Anti-Zionist Jews and unambiguous anti-Semites will hopefully drop their remedies – but, unfortunately not likely.

  8. Sadly, it makes a difference to anybody looking to remove Israel from the map. They want to prove that the Jews living in Israel now have less DNA linking them to Abraham than the Palestinians or other arabs. And since both sides make the claim that it's their land based on their links to Ishmael or Isaac for being the first born son or the first born "legitimate" son, this DNA argument won't go away.

  9. Sara Chana Mandell says:

    Judaism is **NOT** a religion! Jews are an ancient nation, a peoplehood, one of the oldest in the world. We have an ancient legal requirement regarding how membership is granted to the individual, and like many indigenous peoples in the world we have stories, text, and rituals which developed as an aspect of the indigenous peoplehood! Many MANY Jews are atheist and they have no religion, furthermore there is no actual world in ancient Hebrew for "Judaism" or for "religion" – and Judaism was the portable rituals and heritage of the indigenous people of the land of Israel which only came to resemble what is referred to as a religion several hundred years ago. Judaism is the indigenous culture and heritage of the indigenous people of the land of Israel. A "conversion" is a horrible translation since like "converting to religion" you have a recital of faith, or a baptism, while ritual is a minor part of joining into the Jewish people, the real crux of a "conversion" appears to be a legal process similar to gaining citizenship into any nation… One appears before a legal court which represents the Jewish nation in said community, the court hears their request for membership, they hear testimony for or against the member being granted membership into the Jewish people, and basically they are being "naturalized" into an **existing** Jewish community. Much like many Native American legal procedures that grant outsiders membership into the tribe, a "conversion" to Judaism is based on the ancient legal requirements for an outsider to join into the nation! As a rabbi I sincerely hope you are not misleading your community and teaching these horrible lies which erase the Jewish identity from the millions of secular and atheist Jews worldwide!

  10. Much ado about nothing. The Jewish People are direct descendants of ancient Sumerian. Period. Sumerian DNA is available for alignment.Period.
    Sapienti sat, as the Romans said. Michael Lerman, M.D., Ph.D.

  11. I was going to add a reply about Jews being a tribe, with a set of spiritual and cultural views attached, but Sara Chana Mandell did a much better job than I could have. I think one of our educational goals for non-Jews is to teach them that we are a nation, not a religion. Most of them get their ideas from Christianity, which very intentionally IS a religion, and where you gain membership by accepting Jesus as your savior, and which has nothing to do with your nationality. That is why Christianity (and Islam) are widespread, whereas Judaism, even at its population peak, was never more than a minority. The Navajo, being a similar tribe with unique spiritual and cultural views, are also a minority, because they don't seek people to join their tribe, just as we don't. I think this lack of understanding is a major barrier to true communication between us and the rest of the world.

  12. The stage is being set right now. YA the MOST HIGH GOD will settle ALL of this very soon.

  13. It is well known that Jews intermix with the populations where ever they are. So it is to be expected that there is a genetic soup. However let us go back to Torah. Avram's family lived in Ur, were Semites, and had camels. Camels were a rare possession for that time in the Middle East but far more common to the east in the Caucuses where they were domesticated. Semites were originally strangers to the Middle East and likely came from the Caucuses originally as camel caravan traders. Ur was on the east-west camel route. Time wise, Ur was probably just finishing five generations of Semitic kings [before the Elamite invasion] when Avram's family decided to move west. Semites were not native to the Middle East. However after the Exodus they did spread throughout the Middle East, especially in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Along the way they mixed with the locals. During exiles in Egypt, Persia, etc. they mixed with the locals. Genetics therefor can not be a tool to determine who belongs to what part of the globe. It would be interesting to do Y chromosome and mitochondrial genome tracing. However we even do not know if the Arabs today are Semitic. A broad genetic study might or might not tell anything useful on that question. In short, genetics is not a tool for determining where people came from unless there is overall purity of genome. 38% is not an overwhelming part. Rabbi Dr. [of Genetics] Adele Plotkin

  14. Phyllis Kosen says:

    What journal was this study published in? No link in the article.

  15. Ahron Ebert says:

    If we are from the Kazars then why do we have Cohanim and Levyim? The conspireracy to exile the Jews in Israel is to use our talents for the benifit of the goyim instead of having to pay us billions of dollors for the technoligy our people are devolping. The goyim outside of Israel make money off of Jewish inovations and they like it that way. Gorbachav on Jews leaveing The USSR/Russia commented on the brain drain if the Jews went home to Israel. All these people who want to see the end of Israel have the same interest lets milk the Jews for their talents and the benifits should go to us.

  16. @rabbi Joseph kolakowski, I know for sure, 100% that I am a decendant of אדם, the first human. The rest is all a list story they the generations……. Past Poland in the late 1800's is hard to trace…….. But I hope I am Jewish all the way back to a gut neshama……. Cause the lukshun kigal. Tastes so good…..

  17. Sara Chana Mandell I agree with your assessment I am a christian by faith but am Halachally Jewish through my mom….

  18. The Hebrews were instructed by God to accept those that wanted to integrate with the Hebrews. They were also instructed to drive those out of the promised land that didn't accept Gods teaching, or destroy them, but that didn't get finished either, now did it?

  19. I'm skeptical of scientist. Corruption is running rampant almost everywhere. Like how Darwin even doubted his theory of evolution, yet it's taught as a fact/law in the U.S.S.A.

  20. Very good article Yori Yanover. It boggles the mind to see to what extent those anti-Semites will go to try to prove what they want to believe.

  21. Elhaik’s study is garbage. His model for the Khazars were Georgians and Armenians. There are two problems with this that anyone who had even read the Khazar page in Wikipedia would have known. The first is that neither were part of the Khazar Empire/Khaganate. The second is that neither group are Oghur Turks, like the Khazars. The proper groups to study would have been Chuvashes/Volga Tatars, the descendants of the Volga Bulghars and Oghuric Turks who had been the same or a brother tribe to the Khazars until 620CE, when they broke apart during the collapse of the Gok Turkic Empire. The other group to look at would be Crimean Karaylar, Turkic Karaite Jews who claim to be Khazars.
    What Elhaik actually showed is that Ashkenazi Jews have genes from Ashkenaz, Armenia!

  22. Alan Lattke says:

    A gevaldig comment :-)

  23. Rob Illman says:

    GOD BLESS JERUSALEM

  24. Phyllis Kosen says:

    Alan Lattke Thanks, I found it.

  25. Matt McLaughlin says:

    Yakov M Rabkin : Secularization also revolutionized Jewish identity from within: traditional Jews can be distinguished by what they do or should do; the new Jews by what they are. While they practice the same religion, it would be truly daring to assume that Jews from Poland, Yemen and Morocco belong to the same ethnic group, let alone are descendents of the Biblical Hebrews.

  26. Sara Chana Mandell, if a person has neither ancestral links nor religious links to the Jewish people, aren't they really just wearing a label? In most conversion proceedings, I believe the convert must show some dedication to the religious text and the teachings within them, indicating that it's a religion as well.

    And on the genetic side, if a guy says he's 1/32 Cherokee on his mother's side, is he really a member of the Cherokee nation if he does not share the culture or history? So then what about a person who is 0/32 Jewish/Abrahamic? How can they be Jewish if they don't share the same culture or history? Isn't the religion what binds most modern Jewish people? Or is it the label?

    How many dentists out there converted just for the jokes?

  27. judaism YES!!! zionism NO!!!… judaism is a religion… NOT a nationality.

  28. I agree with Dr. Lerman. Period.

  29. Gene Shagal says:

    My families history is that we are direct descendants of the Khazar king who converted to Judaism. Furthermore, we do nit look Semitic at all, but typical white people with straight res hair, with some Asiatic facial features and green/blue eyes. As a matter if fact anyone whos last name is a variation of Segal and can trace his/her ancestry to Belarus can consider him/herself a prince or princes. And we are 100% Jews. The people who wroye this article and did the study are buased and only motivated to discredit the enemies of Israel and nit seek the real truth!

  30. Gene Shagal says:

    If that study is true then how do you explain all the white, red haired Jews from Russia with some Asiatic features, while no other group besides Udmurt arround has red hair, a feature written about by Arabic travelera who visites and lived among our Khazar ancestors?

  31. David Weber says:

    Jews in Spain had red hair. And they came there with the Muslims, direct from the middle east. King David in the bible had red hair too.

  32. Gene Shagal says:

    David, The Jews of Spain came from the ME, that is correct, but the red heads among them came from Khazaria. I'm not a Semite, I do not look like one, and majority of the Segal Clan of Belarus (biggest clan of Russian Jews) also look like me. And we are Khazars, no matter how hand u claim we are not. But if it's easier for you to claim that our Aryan features come from the Slavs, that our red hair come from Kings David and Solomon, and Our Asian eyes come from Mongols… them by God go ahead! But many genetic studies of the past 3 years suggest otherwise!

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