The Jewish Press » » Study Finds No Evidence of Khazar Origin for Ashkenazi Jews – 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%.”
Surprise: Ashkenazi Jews Are Genetically European – [livescience.com] – The origin of the Ashkenazi Jews, who come most recently from Europe, has largely been shrouded in mystery. But a new study suggests that at least their maternal lineage may derive largely from Europe. Though the finding may seem intuitive, it contradicts the notion that European Jews mostly descend from people who left Israel and the Middle East around 2,000 years ago. Instead, a substantial proportion of the population originates from local Europeans who converted to Judaism, said study co-author Martin Richards, an archaeogeneticist at the University of Huddersfield in England. — The team found that four founders were responsible for 40 percent of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA, and that all of these founders originated in Europe. The majority of the remaining people could be traced to other European lineages. All told, more than 80 percent of the maternal lineages of Ashkenazi Jews could be traced to Europe, with only a few lineages originating in the Near East.
Virtually none came from the North Caucasus, located along the border between Europe and Asia between the Black and Caspian seas. The finding should thoroughly debunk one of the most questionable, but still tenacious, hypotheses: that most Ashkenazi Jews can trace their roots to the mysterious Khazar Kingdom that flourished during the ninth century in the region between the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire, Richards and Ostrer said.
The genetics suggest many of the founding Ashkenazi women were actually converts from local European populations.
Ashkenazi Jewish women descended mostly from Italian converts, new study asserts | Genetic Literacy Project – Are most modern Jews primarily of European or Middle and Near Eastern ancestry? That controversial subject—at the heart of the debate over the historical ‘right of return’ claimed by many religious Jews—is back in the headlines with the release of a massive new study published in Nature Communications challenging some established views of the origins of European Jewry. The total Ashkenazi population is estimated at around 8 million people. The estimated world Jewish population is about 13 million. Before the advent of advanced DNA research, it had been thought by some historians that European Jewry traced to the largely pagan population of ancient Khazaria in the Caucuses, whose leadership was believed to have converted to Judaism beginning around 700 AD. But that theory—known as the Khazarian hypothesis—has been largely discredited by DNA research. One geneticist, Eran Elhaik, has recently attempted to revive the theory, but his research has been sharply challenged. A groundbreaking paper published in 2000 by Harry Ostrer, a professor of genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and University of Arizona geneticist Michael Hammer showed that most modern Jews are descended on their male side from a core population of approximately 20,000 Jews who migrated from Italy over the first millennium and eventually settled in Eastern Europe. “All European [Ashkenazi] Jews seem connected on the order of fourth or fifth cousins,” Ostrer has said.
Known as the so-called “Rhineland hypothesis,” the consensus research holds that most Ashkenazi Jews, as well as many Jews tracing their lineage to Italy, North Africa, Iraq, Iran, Kurdish regions and Yemen, share common paternal haplotypes also found among many Arabs from Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Only a small percentage of the Y-DNA of Ashkenazi Jews—less than 25 percent—originated outside of the Near East, presumably as converts. This historical and genetic mosaic has provided support for the controversial concept of a “Jewish people.” The Law of Return, the Israeli law that established the right of Jews around the world to settle in Israel and which remains in force today, was a central tenet of Zionism. It is invoked by some religious Jews to support territorial claims (even though, based on this research, many Arabs, including Palestinians, where therefore also have a genetic ‘right of return’).
Ashkenazi Jewish Genetic Diseases | Jewish Virtual Library – A number of genetic disorders occur more frequently in certain ethnic populations. In the Ashkenazi Jewish population (those of Eastern European descent), it has been estimated that one in four individuals is a carrier of one of several genetic conditions. These diseases include Tay-Sachs Disease, Canavan, Niemann-Pick, Gaucher, Familial Dysautonomia, Bloom Syndrome, Fanconi anemia, Cystic Fibrosis and Mucolipidosis IV. Some of these diseases may be severe and may result in the early death of a child. Carrier screening is available for all of these diseases with a simple blood test.
Genetic studies on Jews – [wikipedia] – Genetic studies on the Jews are part of population genetics. This discipline is used to better understand the chronology of migration and thus complements the results provided by history, archeology, language or paleontology. The interest of these studies is to investigate the origins of various Jewish populations today. In particular, they investigate whether there is a common genetic heritage among various Jewish populations. Studies of autosomal DNA, which look at the entire DNA mixture, show that Jewish populations have tended to form relatively closely related groups in independent communities, with most in a community sharing significant ancestry in common. For Jewish populations of the diaspora, the genetic composition of Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jewish populations show a predominant amount of shared Middle Eastern ancestry. According to Behar, the most parsimonious explanation for this shared Middle Eastern ancestry is that it is “consistent with the historical formulation of the Jewish people as descending from ancient Hebrew and Israelite residents of the Levant” and “the dispersion of the people of ancient Israel throughout the Old World”. North African, Italian and others of Iberian origin show variable frequencies of admixture with non-Jewish historical host populations among the maternal lines. In the case of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews (in particular Moroccan Jews), who are closely related, the source of non-Jewish admixture is mainly southern European. Behar et al. have remarked on an especially close relationship of Ashkenazi Jews and modern Italians.
Genes Of Most Ashkenazi Jews Trace Back To Indigenous Europe, Not Middle East – A team of international researchers from Malaysia to Salt Lake City found in a study published Tuesday that most variance in mitochondrial DNA — passed from mother to daughter, like Judaism — derives from the indigenous peoples of Western and Central Europe, as opposed to the Levant, as previously thought. Four of the major “founders” of Ashkenazi Jewry derive most variance from European sources, accounting for some 40 percent of the genome. The remaining 60 percent from minor founders, too, comes mostly from Europe. “These results point to a significant role for the conversion of women in the formation of Ashkenazi communities, and provide the foundation for a detailed reconstruction of Ashkenazi genealogical history,” lead investigator, Martin Richards, and his colleagues wrote. “The origins of Ashkenazi Jews—the great majority of living Jews—remain highly contested and enigmatic to this day.”
Ashkenazi Jewish population has distinctive, yet similar genomes | Ars Technica – Ashkenazi Jews hail from Eastern Europe—”Ashkenaz” is the Hebrew word for Germany—and comprise the bulk of the Jewish population in the US. Their compatriots are Sephardi Jews, who lived in Spain until they were kicked out in 1492, and Mizrachi Jews, who lived in Arab countries for centuries until the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. Ashkenazi Jews are a genetically distinct population, and the analysis of 128 complete Ashkenazi genomes shows just how distinct they are. Compared to genomes of modern Europeans—in this case, the genomes of 26 Flemish people—the Ashkenazi genomes have 47 percent more novel DNA differences per genome. These DNA variants, while novel, are population specific; sequence sharing, where two individuals have a set of the same variants, is eight percent more abundant among the Ashkenazi Jews than it is between the two populations or even among the Flemish genomes. Using the length of the shared genetic segments, researchers determined that the current Ashkenazi Jewish population underwent a bottleneck 25-32 generations back, approximately 600-800 years ago. Caused by the Plague in the mid 1300s, perhaps? Or maybe by the decimation of Eastern European Jewish communities by roving bands of Crusaders? Whatever the cause, this bottleneck reduced the founder population to between 250 and 420 individuals.
Ashkenazi Jews Trace Ancestry To Europe Not The Near East, Ancient Jewish Men ‘Married European Women’ — “This suggests that, even though Jewish men may indeed have migrated into Europe from Palestine around 2,000 years ago, they seem to have married European women,” Professor Martin Richards from the University of Huddersfield in England said, pointing to previous studies on Y-chromosomes in Ashkenazi Jews that prove the male lines trace back to the Near East.
Using mitochondrial genomes of 3,500 people from Europe, the Caucasus and the Near East, researchers found that they originated 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. The findings suggest that ancient Jews can trace their female line to Southern and Western Europe rather than the Middle East.
Four Ashkenazi “mothers” were responsible for 40 percent of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA and all came from Europe, LiveScience reports. At least 80 percent of Ashkenazi maternal lineage came from European women, and 8 percent from the Middle East. The findings disprove the commonly held belief that Ashkenazi Jews originate from the Khazar Kingdom, a region in modern-day southern Russia and the Caucasus that in early medieval times had a large population of converted Jews.
“The simplest explanation was that it was mainly women who converted and they married with men who’d come from the Near East,” Richards told LiveScience.