Menachem Mendel

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Jews and the Khazars Again

Haaretz is reporting about a new scholarly article that claims to have shown that European Jews are indeed descended from the Khazars. The author of the article, Eran Elhaik, claims the following:

My research refutes 40 years of genetic studies, all of which have assumed that the Jews constitute a group that is genetically isolated from other nations…

The article in Haaretz goes on to say that:

His study is based on comprehensive genetic data published in other studies. In the absence of such data on the Khazars themselves, Elhaik – following a procedure commonly used by researchers in his field – relied on figures relating to populations that are genetically similar to the Khazars, such as Georgians, Armenians and Caucasians. Elhaik says “they have all emerged from the same genetic ‘soup.'” After conducting numerous analyses utilizing various techniques, some of which have never been employed before, the researcher discovered what he describes as the Khazar component of European Jewry. According to his findings, the dominant element in the genetic makeup of European Jews is Khazar. Among Central European and East European Jews, this component is the most dominant in their genome, accounting for 38 and 30 percent, respectively.

Elkhaik’s article can be found here. I can’t comment on the genetics component, although see this critique, but his information about research into Jewish history is not very strong. Most of the sources that he cites are outdated and he relies heavily on the linguistic work of Paul Wexler, whose research may not even fully support Elhaik’s claims.

While journal articles are often submitted a long time before their publication, it should be noted that Moshe Gil recently published both a newspaper (H) and a scholarly article about the legend that the Khazars converted to Judaism. Gil examined the origins of this legend and found it to be just that, legend. See this summary of Gil’s opinion. For more discussion of the question see here.

8 Responses to “Jews and the Khazars Again”

  1. 1

  2. 2

    “In plainer language the Caucasian component that is being detected in this paper may simply be a indigenous Middle Eastern ancestral element which has now been somewhat displaced northward in its modal frequency due to the expansion of the Arabs.”

  3. 3
    Wislawa Szymborska:

    A comment on your post from Eran on Facebook: Hi Nir, I don’t like to wasting my time commenting on people who didn’t bother to read my study (not you, the guy you asked about). Kindly read my study and judge yourself.

  4. 4
    Elli Fischer:

    I translated that Gil article.
    I got through a bit of the new paper. Don’t know much about genetics, but his logic is peculiar. He starts of by saying that the 2 main theories are entirely Khazar origins and entirely Rhenish origins. He shows that neither is entirely borne out by the research (shocking that zero-sum hypotheses are not borne out), and then posits that this is because Jews were moving into Khazaria and mixing with the locals.
    In other words, this has all the markings of a crack-pot theory.

  5. 5

    If the Kahazar empire didn’t collapse until the 13th century, how does e Emory account for e presence of Jewish communities in Ashkenaz in the 9-12the centuries? Also, aren’t there relatively contemporaneous accounts of the earliest Ashkenaz emigrants and their families and lineage (eg, the Kalonymos family)?

  6. 6
    Menachem Mendel (Michael P.):


    I did read his study and stand by my comments on the non-genetics material in it.

  7. 7

    I suppose you’ve seen this on the Gene Expression Blog at Discover Mag?

  8. 8
    Menachem Mendel:


    Yes, I saw that post. I also heard an interview on Israel Radio with a leading geneticist who said that no one contacted her for her opinion so the claim in the article that no one would respond is untrue.




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