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.

Tracing the Matrilineal Line

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 have One Genetic Group

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 .

The Origins of the Ashkenazim

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 Joanna Gillan

Updated on December 2, 2020.


Hi MountainGuardian,

Like too wish you Happy Thanksgiving an if you go for Black Friday Shopping all I can say is Be Safe!

I liked what you shared about yourself an the History of your family.

In the Old days their maybe a few who still do this but, I can't speak for everybody on this subject but, a lot of African American's often claimed Indigenous People's Heritage because old school We wanted to be anything but, Black.

Even the famous Supreme Court case of Virginia VS. Loving Mrs. Loving claimed Native American heritage as well.

It also could have been a strategy I think because Virginia's Law Books there was something there that allowed Europeans to marry Indigenous Peoples; but, I thought they had too come from Pocahantas Bloodline through John Rolfe.

Oh before I forget I'm African American. Thought I let you know I liked your dialogue too me. Goodbye for now.

MountainGuardian's picture

According to the bible and oral traditions Abrahams son Isaac is the father of Hebrew people, and Abraham’s first born son Ishmael is the father of the Arab peoples.  According to the bible all people of Jewish descent and Arab descent should be directly descended from Abraham.

I am of Sephardic Jewish descent myself, my great grandmother was a member of the Cherokee tribe.  Aunt Donna had a DNA test done expecting to prove her 33% Cherokee heritage, she was quite surprised when that 33% turned out to be a mixture of North African Berber, Egyptian, Arabic and Jewish instead… Not even 1% Native American DNA…

Interestingly grandpa was always warning about ever being prjudiced against”anyone” but especially the Jewish people after he came back from WWII.  Knowing what I do now I think he was aware that he was Jewish but careful never to publicly state that fact. I believe great grandma Stella Mae Osbourn was a criptic Jew, especially considering my families darker skin tone, black hair and blue eyes.  That never made sense to me with great grandma being Native American.  Now I am of Native American descent on my mothers side and I do have the pretty brown eyes just like my mom had…

Funny the surprises that come up with modern DNA tests..  Fascinating as well...

Hi All,

They weren't willing to say for a Fact on Dr. Henry Gates. Jr's Finding your Root's Team that they found Abraham through Norman Lear. He's A T.V. producer of Social& Political comedies on Television.

Norman Lear is a Levite which happily meant too me that Norman is an ancestor of Levi the 3rd Son of Israel and Leah, grandson of Isaac & Rebekkah, Great-grandson of Abraham & Sarah.

Dr. Gates. Jr did say is that They Think that a certain DNA structure maybe Abraham they aren't sure.

That's all I'm aware of from Dr. Gates. Jr program.

What I do know in his Finding your Root's on PBS in conducting the DNA research of George R. Martin who believed that He was italian but, after the Team did research on George R. Martin's DNA on Finding your Root's turns out that he registered as Ashkenzai Jewish.

It's only through Finding your Root's I learned of Ashkenazi since I'm not as familiar can't comment to much on the topic.

I even took Ethnic Studies in school we eventually got to our College Textbook about Jewish History but, unfortunately I can't remember if my text book even mentioned Ashkenazi.

The only other familiarity I have in learning Jewish History is through The Bible, it remains as my only reference.

I've got to go so until next time Everyone, Goodbye!

Ashkenazim and sephardic cluster closest together as they are BOTH semitic and Mediterranean. Ashkenazim are 100% Mediterranean like sephardic.

Jews are NOT European.
Upload Ashkenazim and sephardic DNa on Gedmatch and it breaks it down into levantines and Mediterranean. BOTH of are semitic and Mediterranean. Ashkenazim cluster with levantines and Samaritans as well as palestinian . You guys always forget that their is BOTH a paternal line (male) and a female line. Ashkenazim are semitic and Mediterranean. We overlap with Sicilians southern Italians Greeks (Cretans mainly) Maltese as well as Cypriots Greek ones as well as the levantines including lebanese, sephardic , syrians, palestinian, jordanians, druze, bedouins, Samaritans, Mizraim etc. By the way Samaritans descend from the tribe of Joseph. Jews descend from JUDEA (Judah Benjamin simeon and Levi) . Samaritans are from Joseph as they are like JEWS Am Y'Israel.

Nonsense it isn't absent . Ashkenazim and sephardic cluster closest together as they are BOTH semitic and Mediterranean. Ashkenazim are genetic 100 % Mediterranean. The paternal line (male) is levantines and the female line of their DNa is Mediterranean from southern Italian central Italian and Greek women. This is known as the Graeco-Roman admixture in Ashkenazim. It was roman JEWS from ITALY who settled in Germany (Ashkenaz ) and later migrated eastwards. You probably haven't seen an Ashkenazim most look levantine and southern Italian. That's why we overly with Sicilians southern Italian Greeks ( Cretans mainly) Maltese and sephardics. Ashkenazim are Italkim .
Ashkenazim and sephardic are genetically the same. Even if you upload our DNa on Gedmatch it breaks it down into levantine and Mediterranean admixture .Ashkenazim and sephardic BOTH are semitic and Mediterranean. IT was Roman jews WHO settled in Germany from italy. We Ashkenazim are EXILED Judeans and southern ITALIAN. Upload Ashkenazim and sephardic DNa on Gedmatch and it breaks IT down into levantine and Mediterranean admixture BOTH are semitic and Mediterranean. SAMARITANS are the PUREST ISRAELITES as they never left the middle East and Mizraim too. Yet Samaritans are purer.

I am 25 % Jew my dad is half atheist Jew and me , my father , his brothers look southern Italian , my grandfather looked Greek and my great grandfather looked like a dark skinned Arab and his siblings had the Jewish semitic look. Jews are genetically different than eastern Euros we lived there as a minority like gypsys or Inuits or tatars in Russia. We are exiled Semites.

Ashkenazi Jews are semites and southern Italians even tough they lived in Eastern Europe and Western Europe. After the three roman Jewish wars 66ad to 70ad , 114 to 117 ad and 132 ad to 135 ad the Roman exiled the Jews from judea on Ships and brought them to Europe (Rome) . Most of the population was exiled into slavery from Judea by the Romans. It is historically wrong to call ashkenazi European because they trace their DNA back to the Levant in Israel. Many idiots think they are European because they lived there but the reason is it is because they were exiled from the middle East 2000 years ago. In Rome those middle eastern men were scattered some left for Spain and became known later as sephardic Jews (genetically a mix of levantine from biblical Israel and Spanish/Portuguese) while their brothers the ashkenazi Jews stayed and we're scattered in other parts of southern Italy ( Sicily, Naples, Sardinia, apulia, basilicata, molise, Rome and Calabria) . These ashkenazi Jews took on local wives that's why they are a Mix of levantine Judeans from Israel and southern Italian . Generations later many Jews left Italy and migrated to the Rhineland in Germany(Ashkenaz Hebrew name for the region where the Roman Jews settled). Due to persecution, oppression and discrimination Jews were forced to flee and many of them went to Eastern Europe where later they suffered from the pogroms against them. Jews are the only ethnic group which preserved it's identity, culture, tradition and history in exile. Ashkenazi Jews are from judea (Israel) and the Mediterranean (both ashkenazi and sephardic). Even tough they lived in eastern Europe they are NOT Slavic. Slavs are Indo European and have the Haplogroup R1a from Ukraine (dnjepr and dnjestr river) and Slavic people are a mix of scythians/sarmatians and balts.

Sephardic Jews (levantine and Spanish/Portuguese)

Ashkenazi Jews (levantine and southern Italian).

Ashkenazim are semitic and southern Italian

sephardic are Israelites and Spanish / Portuguese

Mizraim and Samaritans are the purest Israelites

If the links don't work just copy and paste them

Gallery : . This how ashkenazi jews look (middle eastern and mediterrenean) like

Other famous Jews: Gina bellman, Gina gershon, oded fehr, peter falk, Paul Ben Victor, David proval who played richie aprile on the sopranos is in fact a Jew, the guy who played Bobby is half Italian and half Jewish, Sarah Silverman, Zach braff, Ben Stiller, Jeff Goldblum, David Schwimmer, Josh radnor, jermemy stoppelman, Ari arison, Josh Gad, Gal Gadot, Sasha Baron Cohen, Adam Sandler, Jon bernthal, Alan arkin, Richard Benjamin, Maggie siff, Ali McGraw, Ben Shapiro and even the guy who played Hector salamanca on breaking bad is a Jew in real life

GENETIC VERIFIED ALL PROVEN BY SERIOUS EDUCATED SCIENTIST Studies: READ ALL OF THEM . This how ashkenazi jews look (middle eastern and mediterrenean) like over 90% of modern Lebanese ancestry, a trait they share with ancient Israelites.

Years ago I read Koestler’s “The thirteenth tribe”, an interestig theory subsequently refuted. An early objection that I saw was that analysis of hair colour from the Nazi records of victims of the Holocaust showed that they conformed closely to the local hair colour patterns of the places of origin of the victims. It seemed to me at the time that made rather a large hole in Koestler’s theory.

However, this analysis is entirely in line with that. Koestler also made the valid point that it is dangerous to place too much emphasis on strict genetic origin when considering closed commuities. People have sex with who they want to, whether it is allowed or not, and in the common occurrence of rape, who they don’t want to. Genetic dillution happens to all closed communities over time.


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