Baltimore, MD – New Study Sheds Light On The Origin Of The European Jewish Population


    FILE - Ashkenazi Jews (pictured in 1876) Baltimore, MD – Despite being one of the most genetically analysed groups, the origin of European Jews has remained obscure. However, a new study published online today (Thursday) in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution by Dr Eran Elhaik, a geneticist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, argues that the European Jewish genome is a mosaic of Caucasus, European, and Semitic ancestries, setting 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. This could have a major impact on the ways in which scientists study genetic disorders within the population.

    The Rhineland Hypothesis has been the favoured explanation for the origins of present-day European Jews, until now. In this scenario Jews descended from Israelite-Canaanite tribes left the Holy Land for Europe in the 7th century, following the Muslim conquest of Palestine. Then, in the beginning of the 15th century, a group of approximately 50,000 left Germany, the Rhineland, for the east. There they maintained high endogamy, and despite wars, persecution, disease, plagues, and economic hardships, their population expanded rapidly to around 8 million in the 20th century. Due to the implausibility of such an event, this rapid expansion was explained by Prof Harry Ostrer, Dr Gil Atzmon, and colleagues as a miracle. Under the Rhineland Hypothesis, European Jews would be very similar to each other and would have a predominant Middle Eastern ancestry.

    The rival explanation, the Khazarian Hypothesis, states that the Jewish-convert Khazars โ€“ a confederation of Turkic, Iranian, and Mongol tribes who lived in what is now Southern Russia, north of Georgia and east of Ukraine, and who converted to Judaism between the 7th and 9th centuries โ€“ along with groups of Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman Jews, formed the basis of eastern Europe’s Jewish population when they fled eastward, following the collapse of their empire in the 13th century. European Jews are thus expected to exhibit heterogeneity between different communities. While there is no doubt that the Judeo-Khazars fled into Eastern Europe and contributed to the establishment of Eastern European Jewry, argument has revolved around the magnitude of that contribution.

    Dr Elhaik’s paper, ‘The missing link of Jewish European ancestry: contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses’, examined a comprehensive dataset of 1,287 unrelated individuals of 8 Jewish and 74 non-Jewish populations genotyped over 531,315 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This was data published by Doron Behar and colleagues in 2010, which Elhaik used to calculate seven measures of ancestry, relatedness, admixture, allele sharing distances, geographical origins, and migration patterns. These identified the Caucasus-Near Eastern and European ancestral signatures in the 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. The analysis showed a tight genetic relationship between European Jews and Caucasus populations and pinpointed the biogeographic origin of the European Jews to the south of Khazaria, 560 kilometers from Samandar โ€“Khazaria’s capital city. Further analyses yielded a complex multi-ethnical ancestry with a slightly dominant Caucasus -Near Eastern, large South European and Middle Eastern ancestries, and a minor Eastern European contribution.

    Dr Elhaik writes, “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 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 Judaismโ€ฆ 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.”

    Dr Elhaik’s findings consolidate, otherwise conflicting results describing high heterogeneity among Jewish communities and relatedness to Middle Eastern, Southern European, and Caucasus populations that are not explained under the Rhineland Hypothesis. Although Dr Elhaik’s study linked European Jews to the Khazars, there are still questions to be answered. How substantial is the Iranian ancestry in modern day Jews? Since Eastern European Jews arrived from the Caucasus, where did Central and Western European Jews come from? If there was no mass migration out of Palestine at the 7th century, what happened to the ancient Judeans?

    And crucially for Dr Elhaik, how would these new findings affect disease studies on Jews and Eurasian populations?

    “Epidemiologists studying genetic disorders are constantly struggling with questions regarding ancestry, heterogeneity, and how to account for them,” he says. “I hope this work will open up a new era in genetic studies where population stratification will be used more correctly.”

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      • It’s 8 “populations” of jews (most probably defined by community or something like that) not 8 individual jews. Next time read the article before deciding that people who have studied this their entire lives just “make no sense”.

      • Why do you feel the need to put our brothers and sister down in order to elevate yourself? Whats with the constant bashing of secular Jews I see on this site? The fact is that according to our religion, a Jew is a person who’s mother is Jewish regardless of practice. To suggest that a Jew who does not practice Judaism is worthless, is beyond reproach. All Jews are born with a spark of the divine, and It is our job to reach out to those who were not given a Jewish upbringing and bring them closer to Judaism.You are no more worthy than any other Jew.

    1. Typical anti-Semitic drivel. Today’s Jews aren’t really descendants of the original Jews, no right to eretz yisroel, etc. etc. It’s on the same scientific level as studies “showing” that Palestinians are descendants of the Canaanites, American Indians are the ten lost tribes, and so on.

      • The question is, is it true. So far all you’ve done is screech that you don’t want it to be true and brought up a bunch of pseudo-scientific garbage that others have said in the past. These are well-respected scientists using well-understood, provable techniques. If they’re right, they’re right. And if they are we’ll just have to live with the truth.

      • then purpose of the study is

        And crucially for Dr Elhaik, how would these new findings affect disease studies on Jews and Eurasian populations?

        to help Jews

      • This is absolutely correct. Anti semites love to use the “Khazar” theory to say that today’s Jews are not really the “chosen people” and that they (who ever they call themselves, are the true descendants of the Jews. It is anti semitic garbage, right up there with the “tri-lateral commission”, the USS Liberty, and all those other vile canards.

    2. Anti-semites seize on this issue to claim that Jews are not the same people as in the Bible, and so on. These studies are not just simple curiosity. There is much behind them. Take with a grain of salt.

      • If the research is sound – and it’s passed all the hurdles so far – then it doesn’t matter what anti-Semites think or what Jews want to believe. Truth is truth. Denying it doesn’t make it go away.

    3. This is rubbish. There are studies that say the exact opposite. First of all, you have the Cohen and Levy genes that have been identified. Then you have countless Jews who have a family history coming from the House of David.

      It’s just like archeology. If you start out with a certain perspective, you are most likely to find proof to back that up.

      ABSENT from this study is any comparison of Ashkenazi Jews to Jews from other places around the world. Because if they do match up, then oops, suddenly, the study’s author is left arguing that all Jews around the world come from the Kahazars… ๐Ÿ™‚

      When study says that Ashkenazim don’t compare strongly to middle easterners, which middle easterners are they using as their sample? You mean we don’t have close genetic match to Arabs?

      Then the question can also be asked in the reverse: How many of the non Jews in their sample actually might have Jewish genes in them?

      Of course there are descendents of the Khazars AMONG the Jews, but that’s it. To argue that Ashkenazi Jews descend primarily from the Khazars is just rubbish. This study will be debunked.

    4. LETS SAY..this study is correct
      LETS SAY..the other study is correct
      SO WHAT !
      Doest it change anything today?

      and so do thousands of JEWS today for generations have said the same thing
      by doing in the ONLY WAY….. OF ‘ONE G-D’.


      This study is wonderful in the way of intellectual pursuit.
      JEWS also have a spiritual pursuit.
      and there are thousand if not millions of

    5. The study may be right, but I suppose that the conclusion is wrong. Jews were monolithic-or at least tried to be. The dilution of the gene-pool was due to the pogroms (they didn’t call them that then) and the subsequent raping of the Jewish women.

      There is evidence of a Jewish presence in Europe during Roman times.

    6. with Amsellem in Israel trying to have 330,000 Russians go thru a fast tract conversion and with past history in Israel where thousands have already gone thru conversions and are considered fully Jewish in about 100 years their descendants will be perhaps like the Jews this article seems to be talking about that live today in Boro Park and Bnei Brak.

      Is it really not possible the big Rebbes themselves and the groiseh Chassidim are descendants of savages in the khazar rhineland areas???

      Just asking ???

      • If their looking for the true history of Eastern European Jews they should not just be looking at Germany but they should also look at Italian Jews. The great Torah centers of Italy ended in the mid 1500s and they became a fraction of what they once were. Eastern European Jews are descended primary from the Jewish flight East from the Rhineland but also the Jewish flight North from Italy. in 1555 they started to force Jews of Rome to wear the Yellow badges. Also many areas of Italy become under the control of the Spanish rule or put in their own expulsion edict forcing Jews out. With out taking the Italian Jewish community in to account their of course is a miraculous growth rate of Eastern European Jews because they are missing around half of the Jews that came to those areas.

        (I’m sure there was a slight Khazar influence but not all that much)

    7. Wow!! ……and all these years I’ve been listening to the I-slime-ists telling me that we come from “pigs & apes”. I guess we’re not related to moohamed after all!!!

    8. It is better than Morsi’s the Jews are descended from pigs and apes. However, will this bother my machatena who is Sephardi? Will some of the Rabbonim be a little less stringent on someone who is a ger?
      The answers to these questions may be answered over Shabbos, but don’t hold your breath. Bottom line we are Jews and are descended from Avraham religiously, and atleast to some extent genetically. We still daven to return to Jerusalem.

    9. The “scientists” that propagate this and similar quackery still have one thing to explain: why is it then that Ashkenazi Jews score way, way higher that any other group on any psychometric test ever devised? I mean ANY, and not just most widely used Stanfordโ€“Binet Intelligence Scales test, aka IQ test. If we are descendant from some other people, khazars or any other ancestry quackery du jour, the how is it that we are so superior to all other people?

      The ones that are in the second place are of course the Asians, but even the aren’t close to us. Maybe we descended from the Indians or the Japanese? ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reasonably close to them are whites. And here is something surprising. Sephardi Jews score roughly even with the whites. (I would expect them to be closer to us.)

      And then of course there are Arabs and other people with particularly low scores…

      Food for thought, and Gut shabbos.

    10. How are there so many conflicting studies?

      Other studies show that there is a stronger genetic similarity between Jews of all backgrounds than any similarities between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors, or between Jews of different backgrounds and any non-Jewish population. Jews from Poland have more in common with Jews from Morocco than either group has with Polish or Moroccan non-Jews.

      Studies also show that both Ashkenazi and Sephardi populations have strong similarities to Middle Eastern populations.

      Dr Elhaik did not conduct a new study, but came up with a new interpretation of an older study. The issue with his analysis is that he used Armenians as proxies for the Khazars, and Palestinian Arabs as proxies for Jews, and found that there are greater similarities to the Armenians than to the Arabs… Although similarities exist to both. Who says these are the two groups that should be used as a basis for comparison?

      This whole Khazar thing is getting old already. If they ever formed any majority, why would we not have any mesorah about it? Why would “millions” or at least hundreds of thousands of Khazars adopt Yiddish as a language? Where do the Kohanim come from?

    11. Thank you Dr. Elhaik. Now please explain to me about the absence of any Khazar linguistic patterns, loan words, etc. in Yiddish. As has been pointed out by earlier posters, there is the problem of the Cohain gene. If you are correct, why is there no shortage of Cohanim and Levyim with their respective genetic markers among the Eastern European Jews? Sorry Doc, I am not buying what you are selling. However, Mr. Abbas will probably consider you his favorite scientist.


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