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Detail of ‘Ashkenazi Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb)

Where are Ashkenazi Jews from? Their Origins May Surprise You

Ashkenazi Jews are a Jewish ethnic group who have their earliest ancestors from the indigenous tribes of Israel…at least on one side of the family tree. A study published in 2013 in Nature Communications has shown their maternal lineage comes from a different, and possibly unexpected, source.

The research shows the origins of the matrilineal line for the Ashkenazi Jews comes from Europe. This goes against the common belief that Jewish people first arrived in central Europe after the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 and only began settling in Germany in the Medieval period.

Ashkenazi Jews is the term used today to describe these Jewish people – individuals who built religiously-based communities centuries later in Central and Eastern Europe. One of the things they are recognized for is the use of Yiddish – a High German language written in the Hebrew alphabet and influenced by classical Hebrew and Aramaic. 

The Yiddish calligraphic segment in the Worms Mahzor. (Public Domain)

The Yiddish calligraphic segment in the Worms Mahzor. ( Public Domain )

The 2013 study co-author Martin Richards, an archaeogeneticist at the University of Huddersfield in England, said that while Ashkenazi Jews have lived in Europe for many centuries, the results of the study using DNA samples show that most European Jews descend from local people who converted to Judaism, not individuals who left Israel and the Middle East around 2,000 years ago.

Ashkenazi Jews were declared a clear, homogeneous genetic subgroup following a 2006 study. Ashkenazi Jews come from the same genetic group, no matter if their ancestors were from Poland, Russia, Hungary, Lithuania, or another place with a large historical Jewish population. They are all in the same ethnic group.

How could it be that Ashkenazi Jews are just one genetic group? The answer is a relatively simple one: they didn’t reproduce at a noticeable level with others outside their group (not even with other Jewish people). Researchers have shown Ashkenazi Jews were a reproductively isolated population in Europe for about 1000 years.

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch ben Yaakov Ashkenazi (1714). (Public Domain)

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch ben Yaakov Ashkenazi (1714). ( Public Domain )

Previous studies have found that 50-80% of the Ashkenazim DNA from the paternal lineage originated in the Near East. It is not surprising that there was a common belief that Israel and the Near East was their ancient homeland.

But the 2013 study showed 80% of Ashkenazi Jews’ maternal line comes from Europe - only a few people had genes originating in the Near East. As Professor Richards said at the time, “This suggests that, even though Jewish men may indeed have migrated into Europe from Palestine around 2000 years ago, they seem to have married European women.”

A Jewish couple from Worms, Germany, with the obligatory yellow badge on their clothes. The man holds a moneybag and bulbs of garlic, both often used in the portrayal of Jews. 16th century. (Public Domain)

A Jewish couple from Worms, Germany, with the obligatory yellow badge on their clothes. The man holds a moneybag and bulbs of garlic, both often used in the portrayal of Jews. 16th century. ( Public Domain )

It appears that the majority of the European converts to Judaism during the early years of the Diaspora were women. That helps explain why the Ashkenazim can trace their female lineage to southern and western Europe.

In conclusion, Richards said , “The origins of the Ashkenazim is one of the big questions that people have pursued again and again and never really come to a conclusive view.”

Top Image: Detail of ‘Ashkenazi Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb) Source: Public Domain

 By April Holloway

Comments

An interesting hypothesis is raised by Robert Lomas & Christopher Knight in the Hiram Key.
The stone circles (Stonehenge) & Joshua's Gilgal (Bethel & original Bothal as well)
In the land of old, The hill of Tara in Ireland was where the law was proclaimed. The law of Jew's is the torah. There are also similarities between Phoenician and the early Irish Celtic language

The sacred tree of Shechem & the Druids Oak tree worship

It is fashionable today to say that you are a Sephardic and not to admit you are an Ashkenazi.

Another answer to the article is that perhaps Israel did not actually exist then. Israel is a 70 year old country and the part of the world we know today was not called Israel previously. Is = Isis = moon Ra = Sun and El = Deity.

 

Readers of Ms. Holloway's article may find themselves confused regarding her summary of the current genetic research. An imperfect but relatively clear summary of the genetic evidence can be found here: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Genetic_studies_on_Jews. The overwhelming genetic evidence demonstrates that the ancient origin for the Y (male) chromosome of Ashkenazim is Western Asia in and around the current land of Israel. The point of entry for Ashkenazi Jews into Central Europe was through N. Italy no later than the Carolingian era. There are some studies that have argued for a European or a Turkish origin for Ashkenazim but the data have not supported these claims.

"Judging from the similarity of the membership proportion distributions, admixture demonstrates the connection of Ashkenazi, North African, and Sephardi Jews, with the most similar non-Jewish populations to Ashkenazi Jews being Mediterranean Europeans from Italy (Sicily, Abruzzo, Tuscany), Greece and Cyprus. When subtracting the k5 component, which perhaps originates in Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews from admixture with European hosts, the best matches for membership patterns of the Ashkenazi Jews shift to the Levant: Cypriots, Druze, Lebanese, and Samaritans."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25079123

"Ashkenazi Jews are nearly identical to Sephardi Jews and cluster extremely close to them (often overlapping with them as well) whilst the other groups they cluster closest to are Sicilians, the Maltese, certain Greeks (i.e. Cretans) and Cypriots. Mostly Mediterranean islander populations and not Northeastern Anatolians or Northern Caucasians.

Ashkenazim are basically, from a genetic perspective, a Mediterranean population who seem to be a mixture between Southern Europeans (Italian or Greek related) and Hebrew speaking Levantines (I'd say more of the latter than the former) and they're, at a basal level, of mostly Near Eastern origins (i.e. Anatolian Neolithic & Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer type ancestries) and we have an array of studies and data supporting this but Elhaik still seems hellbent on preaching this type of gobbledygook with a straight face. Whatever floats his boat, I guess."

http://anthromadness.blogspot.com/2016/05/elhaiks-at-it-and-wrong-again....

Would like to see that. Also people don't mention that after the 213 Richards study there was the 2014 Fernandez study that was critical of the results:

"A 2014 study by Fernandez et al. found that Ashkenazi Jews display a frequency of haplogroup K which suggests ancient Middle Eastern origins, stating that this observation clearly contradicts the results of the study led by Richards which suggested a predominantly European origin for the Ashkenazi community's maternal line. However, the authors also state that definitively answering the question of whether this group was of Jewish origin rather than the result of a Neolithic migration to Europe would require the genotyping of the complete mtDNA in ancient Near Eastern populations.[30] On the study by Richards:

According to that work the majority of the Ashkenazi mtDNA lineages can be assigned to three major founders within haplogroup K (31% of their total lineages): K1a1b1a, K1a9 and K2a2. The absence of characteristic mutations within the control region in the PPNB K-haplotypes allow discarding them as members of either sub-clades K1a1b1a or K2a2, both representing a 79% of total Ashkenazi K lineages. However, without a high-resolution typing of the mtDNA coding region it cannot be excluded that the PPNB K lineages belong to the third sub-cluster K1a9 (20% of Askhenazi K lineages). Moreover, in the light of the evidence presented here of a loss of lineages in the Near East since Neolithic times, the absence of Ashkenazi mtDNA founder clades in the Near East should not be taken as a definitive argument for its absence in the past. The genotyping of the complete mtDNA in ancient Near Eastern populations would be required to fully answer this question and it will undoubtedly add resolution to the patterns detected in modern populations in this and other studies."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_studies_on_Jews

"Another interesting case are the Ashkenazi Jews, who display a frequency of haplogroup K similar to the PPNB sample together with low non-significant pairwise Fst values, which taken together suggests an ancient Near Eastern origin. This observation clearly contradicts the results of a recent study, where a detailed phylogeographical analysis of mtDNA lineages has suggested a predominantly European origin for the Ashkenazi communities."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4046922/

The study was criticized by geneticist Doron Behar, who stated that while the Mt-DNA of Ashkenazi Jews is of mixed Middle Eastern and European origins, the deepest maternal roots of Ashkenazi Jews are not European.

Karl Skorecki of the Rambam Health Care Campus stated that there were serious flaws of phylogenetic analysis.[62] Both Behar and Skorecki claim that the Mt-DNA used in the study did not represent the full spectrum of mitochondrial diversity.

David B. Goldstein, the Duke University geneticist who first found similarities between the founding mothers of Ashkenazi Jewry and European populations, said that, although Richards' analysis was well-done and 'could be right,'[62] the estimate that 80% of Ashkenazi Jewish Mt-DNA is European was not statistically justified given the random rise and fall of mitochondrial DNA lineages.

A 2014 study by Fernandez et al. found that Ashkenazi Jews display a frequency of haplogroup K which suggests ancient Middle Eastern origins, stating that this observation clearly contradicts the results of the study led by Richards which suggested a predominantly European origin for the Ashkenazi community's maternal line. However, the authors also state that definitively answering the question of whether this group was of Jewish origin rather than the result of a Neolithic migration to Europe would require the genotyping of the complete mtDNA in ancient Near Eastern populations.[30] On the study by Richards:

According to that work the majority of the Ashkenazi mtDNA lineages can be assigned to three major founders within haplogroup K (31% of their total lineages): K1a1b1a, K1a9 and K2a2. The absence of characteristic mutations within the control region in the PPNB K-haplotypes allow discarding them as members of either sub-clades K1a1b1a or K2a2, both representing a 79% of total Ashkenazi K lineages. However, without a high-resolution typing of the mtDNA coding region it cannot be excluded that the PPNB K lineages belong to the third sub-cluster K1a9 (20% of Askhenazi K lineages). Moreover, in the light of the evidence presented here of a loss of lineages in the Near East since Neolithic times, the absence of Ashkenazi mtDNA founder clades in the Near East should not be taken as a definitive argument for its absence in the past. The genotyping of the complete mtDNA in ancient Near Eastern populations would be required to fully answer this question and it will undoubtedly add resolution to the patterns detected in modern populations in this and other studies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_studies_on_Jews

"Another interesting case are the Ashkenazi Jews, who display a frequency of haplogroup K similar to the PPNB sample together with low non-significant pairwise Fst values, which taken together suggests an ancient Near Eastern origin. This observation clearly contradicts the results of a recent study, where a detailed phylogeographical analysis of mtDNA lineages has suggested a predominantly European origin for the Ashkenazi communities."

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4046922/

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