The Forgotten Diaspora (1)

February 3, 2023 Category: Uncategorized


In discussing the activities on the Pontic Steppes in the late 10th thru early 12th centuries, it is important to acknowledge that we are talking about a time and place that few thoroughly understand. How much archeology has been conducted there? Not nearly enough. (How often do you hear about archeological digs in Kalmykia?) {85}

Today, few are very familiar with the Pontic Steppes—or even with the wider Eurasian Steppes—and its long history. Even fewer people have first-hand experience of that far-away land, which rarely plays into an Occident-centric (a.k.a. “Orientalist”) view of history. Trying to figure out what happened in the region a millennium ago is not easy; as not many are even inclined to pursue a line of inquiry that is NOT oriented around Occidental sensibilities. Where to begin? We might imagine a Turkic people dwelling in yurts, riding on horseback, and trading their wares across a vast landscape. Some were Tengri-ist; many were Jewish. But as Turkic nomads do not fit well into standard Judiac lore, there is little incentive for those interested in Jewish history to look into the matter.

This topic warrants much further study. The inquiry would focus on Nomadic peoples—primarily farmers and merchants—between the northern shores of the Caspian Sea and the Donbas, during the relevant period (i.e. prior to the 15th century). Artifacts exhibiting Turkic runes accompanied by menorahs? Iconography is only a start. Haplo-group analysis (i.e. genetic comparisons) might also be conducted—as with, say, the Bulgars, Mari, Chuvash, Tatars, and Mordvins of the Volga River basin (vis a vis Ashkenazi Jewish communities; especially those that have remained insular over the centuries).

It should be emphasized that the moniker, “Ashkenaz” (the label that came to associate Eastern European Jews with Germany) was derived from the Assyrian name for people of the Pontic Steppes (and possibly the northern Caucuses): “Ashguza” [alt “As[h]kuzai”].  This only makes sense if those in the Middle East who used the moniker in the Middle Ages (and thus predominantly spoke Aramaic / Syriac) had the people of [k]Hazaria in mind.  Thus the etymology of the name for Eastern European Jews is literally: people from the Eurasia. (!)  It is a striking irony that the Ashkenazim’s name for themselves betrays their ACTUAL origins.  Rather than eliding their non-Semitic origins, the endonym broadcasts it. {42}

Indeed, there is evidence that this ethnonym pre-dated (Turkic) Jews’ arrival in the Rhineland; so was not limited to that geographical designation.  Consider the fact that, prior to the establishment of the nation-State of “Israel”, Turkic-language-speaking Jews in the Crimea (i.e. Crimean Tatars) ALSO referred to themselves as “Ashkenazi”. (!)  Clearly, this term did not exclusively refer to the Rhineland.  Jewish Tatars (read: Turkic Jews) living in myriad places adopted the label.  So it makes sense that the ethnonym was ALSO adopted by the [k]Hazarian diaspora—to wit: fellow Turkic Jews. {64}

In any case, it is highly unlikely that SEPHARDIM would have re-dubbed the Rhineland “Ashkenaz”, as the Germanic lands were already referred to as either “German[i]a” (as in the Talmud) or as “Al[e]mania” / “Allemagne” (as in the writings of Occitanian Jews like, say, David Kim[c]hi of Narbonne).  While there might have been some reason for Sephardic writers to alter ethnonyms, there would have been no warrant to alter long-established toponyms.

At no point would a Sephardic Jew have said: “Well, I guess I’m an Ashkenazi now.”  Even once settled in the Rhineland, such an alteration of self-identification (involving a gratuitous onomastic switch) would not have made any sense.

The first oblique reference to “Ashkenazim” came from Rashi toward the end of the 11th century, who referred to them in passing; and spoke of them as OTHERS.  But the first MAJOR reference to a group of a foreign Jewish community located in eastern Europe was not until the 13th century.  It was made by Shlomo ben Avraham “ibn Aderet” of Barcelona (a.k.a. the “RaShbA”) in one of his “Responsa” (correspondences, wherein doctrinal queries were addressed).  Shortly thereafter, there were some references to “Ashkenazim” by Asher ben Je[c]hiel of Toledo (a.k.a. the “Rosh”) in HIS “Responsa”.  Such correspondences were conducted with fellow Sephardim (on the Iberian peninsula, in France, on the Italic peninsula, in Greece, and across the Maghreb—from Morocco to Egypt).  The only other interlocutors for whom such “Responsa” may have been intended were the Mizra[c]him scattered across the Middle East.

It’s also worth noting that in some pre-Zionist (medieval Judaic) literature, [k]Hazaria was often referred to as the “mother of the diaspora”!  Moreover, medieval Slavs referred to [k]Hazaria as “Zemlya Zhidovskaya” [Land of the Jews].  And, as stated earlier, when Kievan Rus conquered the [k]Hazars, they referred to it as “the Jewish Giant from Eurasia” in their historiographies.  Again, this all makes sense in light of the actual (non-Semitic) origins of that segment of Beth Israel.

Around the time of the [k]Hazarian diaspora, the settlers of Volhynia were the Buzhans, centered at [k]Holm (Slavic: “Chelm”), which was seized by Kieven Rus c. 981. Lo and behold: The Buzhans originally hailed from “Astra-khan” on the shores of the [k]Hazar (Caspian) Sea. That city’s name was a variant of the Turkic “Tar-khan”. Again, we see examples of OTHER Turkic peoples venturing westward from the Eurasian Steppes…indicating that the rational for doing so was not unique to displaced [k]Hazars.

Today when we look at some Slavic-ized Turkic peoples, we see that the cultures of the Tatars and Chuvash retain the clearest vestiges of a Turkic background–both linguistically AND religiously. (To this day, some are still Tengri- ist!) It is likely that many of the Tatars are descended from the Kuman and/or Pecheneg peoples (mentioned earlier), and continue to speak a Kipchak language. The Chuvash seem to have descended from the Sabirs, who–like the [k]Hazars–spoke an Oghuric language.  And as we’ll see, residual elements of Turkic (Kipchak) exist in the Judaic “Karaim” language–vestiges of their [k]Hazarian heritage.

To reiterate: At the time, it was not uncommon for Turkic tribes to venture westward and settle in Eastern Europe.  Take the Ugric peoples, for another example. The Magyars made it all the way from the Ural region to the Pannonian / Carpathian Basin (around the Danube, in what is present-day “Hungary”), even as their brethren, the Ostyaks / Khanteks (a.k.a. the “Khanty”) and Voguls (a.k.a. “Mansi”) remained in central Asia. During the Middle Ages, the Alans eventually made it all the way to the Iberian Peninsula. (!)  The migration of cultures from central Asia westward toward Europe continued to occur into the modern era—as with the Turkic-Mongol “Kalmyks”, who brought Tibetan Buddhism from Dzungaria (the northwest corner of present-day China) to the North Caucasus.  (More about them later.)

In considering this history, another question arises: Did any [k]Hazarian Jews REMAIN in Eurasia? Indeed, if some [k]Hazars stayed behind, that would be further corroboration that many were there to begin with.  Sure enough, we find Jewish communities in Udmurtia AND Kazan–both in medieval “Tatarstan”.  (Modern Ashkenazim started arriving in that region only about a century ago.)  How did THEY get there?  There is only one plausible explanation: the present thesis.  Indeed, they are the remnant of their [k]Hazarian forebears.  Note that other Turkic peoples in the region eventually converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity–as with the Kryashen and Mari (both of whom are typically characterized as “Tatar”).

Back in the 10th century, many of the [k]Hazarian Jews were traders who would have been well-traveled; so were likely already familiar with Eastern Europe. In fact, there had been regular mercantile interaction between the [k]Hazar Empire and Eastern Europe (the Byzantine realm) for centuries. {9} It makes sense, then, that they deemed a lateral (westward) move to be the most prudent course in the advent of their empire’s demise.

Topography helps explain the route. As they moved across Sarmatia / Ruthenia (the land north of the Black Sea that is now Ukraine) toward Volhynia, they would have been diverted in a more northward direction by the Carpathian mountains, up toward Silesia and Lusatia…across Moravia / Bohemia…then across Frankonia / Bavaria…and finally into Lotharingia.

In the 10th century, the Ottonians had their hands full with the Polabian uprisings on the eastern frontier of their realm, across the Elbe.  (Beyond them were the Pomeranians and Polans.) In other words, the Germanic Christians were too preoccupied with pagan peoples who were making trouble—as with the various Slavic tribes and the indigenous “Baltic Prussians”—to be concerned about peaceable Jewish farmers / merchants.

We might also consider CULTURAL compatibility. Indeed, another reason that settlement in the Rhineland was workable was the kind of Judaism practiced by the [k]Hazars, vestiges of which seem to remain in the Karaite community to the present day.  Practitioners of Karaite-adjacent Judaism were likely afforded more leeway when interacting with Gentile populations–as it was non-rabbinical, and thus more amenable (read: less threatening) to Christian environs than were Jews who were involved with the Talmudic tradition (and who were thus more overtly touting their religion).  As mentioned, local Gentile barons (“burghers”) were unconcerned with religious matters; they were primarily seeking lucre. So it is reasonable to assume that they would have welcomed the arrival of new patrons. Peaceable farmers and traders were, after all, an additional source of tax revenue, irrespective of Faith.

To reiterate: The [k]Hazars were largely a merchant culture, so this situation was workable for all involved.

Considering all of this, when it came to [k]Hazarian Jews seeking to emigrate from their forfeited homeland, a lateral migration westward–toward the Rhineland–was the clear choice. It seems to have been THE ONLY choice. And that is, indeed, what occurred. 

What is pertinent here is the goings-on in Europe during the late 10th thru early 12th centuries. As we’ve seen: At that point in time, there was no pressing need for the Jews of Spain and southern France to venture farther into the lands of the Holy Roman Empire. YET there was a sudden influx of Jews into Lotharingia nevertheless. Where did they come from? We have seen that the only plausible explanation is from lands to the east.

When assaying the circumstances in which the [k]Hazarian Jews found themselves in the late 10th / early 11th century (in the advent of their empire’s downfall), there remains the matter of opportunity. Is it reasonable to assume that Svyatoslav afforded these wayward [k]Hazars passage across his realm…into lands beyond the western boarder? Being pagan, the imperial ambitions of the Slavic ruler were not theocratic in nature. He therefore would have likely been indifferent to a quiescent Turkic community–even as it became nomadic.

Such indifference was not imprudent considering any movement of [k]Hazars would not have threatened his power. There was no reason for Svyatoslav to explicitly grant them safe passage; yet he was probably ambivalent to the prospect.  In any case, the Slavic king had his hands full with the Bulgars and Pechenegs, who’s militancy was surely a priority. It makes sense, then, that he was not especially concerned with movements of peaceable Jews (that is: so long as they did not cause him any problems).

The same went for Svyatoslav’s successors: his sons Yaropolk and Vladimir. Even though “Vladimir the Great” started Christianizing the realm c. 988, he was more preoccupied with putting down revolts than with the location of the (deferential) agrarian Jewish community under his rule.  He was especially occupied with suppressing the troublesome “White Croats”.  So it is safe to assume that he would have been relatively unconcerned with peasants who might have been slowly migrating to the west, minding their own business.

By the time of emigration, the [k]Hazars were no longer members of an empire; so migrants were unlikely to harbor an imperialistic mentality. The [k]Hazarian Diaspora was likely comprised of a nomadic people with pastoral sensibilities.  It make sense, then, that they were primarily farmers and merchants seeking a pastoral lifestyle. 

It is anyone’s guess how this displaced group of people might have thought of themselves during this transitional epoch.  Their self-image surely would have undergone a metamorphosis–from one generation to the next–as they gradually made their way westward, looking for a new homeland. (It is quite possible that they thought of themselves as “Kalman”, Turkic for “Remnant”; see Postscript 1.)  In any case, it is reasonable to posit that, over the course of a few generations, they would have steadily shed their identity as [k]Hazars. As they arrived in new lands, it would surely have been their Mosaic creed by which they were identified, not their affiliation with a defunct empire.  They were practitioners of the Abrahamic Faith, not “[k]Hazars”.  (Indeed, the latter mode of identification probably would have posed problems; and there would have been no incentive to press the matter.) Their Jewish identity transcended their ethnic background; as least for the time being.

This proclivity to shed the Turkic aspect of their heritage would surely have been motivated by the fact that, in medieval Europe, Turk-IC peoples came to be (myopically) associated with Turk-ISH people. {31}  This was the result of the Ottoman Empire becoming the primary face of “Turks” in Occidental geo- politics (at the end of the 13th century). Naturally, those Turkic peoples NOT affiliated with Dar al-Islam were inclined to disassociate themselves from Ottoman Turks–a dissociation most blatantly illustrated by the Magyars.  (How often do Hungarians highlight their Turkic provenance?)

The [k]Hazarian Jews were no different in this respect.  That these (disaffected) migrant peoples would have primarily distinguished themselves as Jews (i.e. as part of Beth Israel) makes perfect sense; for their creed would have been the most salient aspect of their identity. After all, they were no longer denizens of [k]Hazaria. So, as far as they were concerned, that they were Turkic would have been rather beside the point. Indeed, it was probably their Faith that buoyed them during this period of transition–which, we might suppose, was a time of disenchantment.

It should come as little surprise, then, that there is no document stating anything like “We Ashkenazim, who are the former [k]Hazars…” Such a specification–or something equally explicit–would have been rather pointless. {7} Between the late 10th and early 12th centuries, these nomadic peoples would have refashioned themselves–even going so far as to abdicate Turkic surnames in favor of monikers that tied them to the new places in which they settled (as we’ll see forthwith). Meanwhile, since they did not play a pivotal role in the geo-politics of the time, there was no warrant for OTHERS to document this transitional epoch. What was going on with the [k]Hazarian diaspora? Nobody cared. Why would they?

And so it went: Following the demise of the [k]Hazar Empire in the late 10th century, the wayward Jews of the Eurasian Steppes had plenty of motive AND opportunity to migrate laterally–westward–into Eastern Europe, where they had likely caught wind that a few small Jewish enclaves (as we have seen: primarily at Troyes, Alsace-Lorraine, Cologne, Mainz, Speyer, and Worms) had recently been established. Meanwhile, there is no pressing reason that European Jews (i.e. Sephardim) would have moved to migrate northeastward, toward the Rhineland; so, unsurprisingly, the vast majority did no such thing.

As mentioned earlier: By the early 1200’s, there was a sudden migration of rabbis from Europe into Palestine. This indicates two things.

First: The focal point of the world’s Jews (including Europe’s Sephardim) was still the Middle East–where the Talmudic academies were located. That explains why–during this era–virtually all correspondences by Sephardim in southern / western Europe were directed toward the Maghreb, Egypt, Palestine, and Mesopotamia—as with “geonim” like Aaron ben Meir of Palestine and Sa’adia ben Yosef of S[h]ura (in the 10th century); then Hai ben Sherira of Pum-bedita (in the 11th century). ZERO Sephardic correspondences were directed toward the Rhineland at that point in history.  Notably, when Maimonides left Andalusia seeking greener pastures, he opted for Palestine, not the Rhineland.  (More examples of this trend will be discussed forthwith.)  Barring some minor inroads (mentioned earlier), Lotharingia was simply not a place where much Judaic activity was occurring; at least, not until the arrival of the [k]Hazarian diaspora.  It is the arrival of these Turkic exiles that would lead to the establishment of the first MAJOR Jewish presence in that region.

Second: Pace the intermittent turmoil of the Crusades, there would have been a relatively hospitable environment in the Levant. The evidence indicates that under Ayyubid / Seljuk (then Mamluk) control, the Middle East was likely more hospitable to Jews than was much of the Holy Roman Empire (which was vehemently anti-Semitic).  It is no surprise, then, that Maimonides opted to move from Cordoba to Palestine to serve the Ayyubid leadership there.  The record shows that those in Muslim lands were quite amicable with the small Jewish communities in their dominion during the relevant period (the 11th and 12th centuries). {24}

Granted, there was still the sporadic threat of (fanatical) Christian Crusaders with whom Palestinian Jews needed to contend; though this was not sufficiently dire to deter a few prominent “geonim” from operating at the Talmudic academies in the region. (And this is not to say that there was NO anti-Semitism in the Levant. Such danger, though, was more attributable to Crusaders than to Ayyubids / Seljuks.) When the small community of Jews in Haifa were besieged by hostile forces c. 1099, it was by the invading Christians (i.e. the Crusaders), not the region’s Muslims. The same went for Acre, Safed, Tiberias, Ramla, Caesarea Palaestina, Ashkelon, and Gaza City. And when it came to Jerusalem, Jews fought side by side with MUSLIMS when defending the city against the Crusaders. {26}  On the whole, during the Middle Ages, escaping peril wasn’t the deciding factor for Jews who opted not to reside in Palestine. If anything, many Jews were in Palestine because they felt SAFER there (under Islamic rule).

So what of possible northward migration of a few Jews into Lotharingia from France and the Mediterranean basin AFTER c. 1100? It strains credulity to think that Sephardim would have suddenly been inspired to move northward at that particular time, farther INTO the Holy Roman Empire (where persecution may have been more likely) were there not some compelling reason–a reason that trumped the risk of augmented peril. There would have needed to have been at least intimations of safe harbor in isolated places–as with the hospitality offered by the aforementioned bishop of Speyer: Rüdiger Huzmann.

The six Lotharingian cities listed earlier had recently become what might be considered isolated sanctuaries, which explains the minor presence of Sephardim there prior to the arrival of the [k]Hazarian diaspora. However, even that assurance was precarious–as attested by the Rhineland massacre of 1096. {26}

When European Jews DID eventually migrate toward the Rhineland, it occurred after the [k]Hazarian diaspora had already established an “eretz Ashkenaz”. To reiterate: Such a migration only makes sense if there were an over-riding motivating factor–that is: something that made doing so more appealing than, say, migrating toward Palestine…where persecution would have been LESS likely (during periods of Muslim control). {26}  That motivation is plain to see: A major presence of Jewish people who had already come to that region from elsewhere (to wit: from the Eurasian Steppes) and established formidable communities there. As we’ve seen, pursuant to the [k]Hazarian diaspora, THAT was–indeed–the case.

Surely, by then, the word had gotten out that some Jewish communities—hailing from who-knows-where—were subsisting in the Rhineland. Be that as it may, the northward / eastward migration (of SOME Sephardim) would have occurred WELL AFTER the 12th century.  Sure enough, that’s precisely what the record shows. Indeed, it is no secret that Sephardim did eventually venture eastward. In 1528, the Margrave of Ansbach, George the Pious, extended an invitation for Jews to start settling in Bavaria (specifically, in Fürth).  But it wasn’t until 1617 that the first synagogue was built there.

There is another indication that there was not a significant Jewish presence in (what came to be dubbed) “Ashkenaz” much BEFORE c. 1100…and that soon AFTER c. 1100 there was a major Jewish presence…for some reason. Behold the emergence of anti-Semitic tropes in precisely THAT region at THAT particular time (i.e. over the course of the 12th century).  For it was then that certain pernicious myths about Jews suddenly appeared in Ashkenaz–most infamously: the blood libel and the rumor of Jews poisoning wells.

But why THERE? And why THEN?  Granted, anti-Semitism was nothing new.  The Roman Catholic Church had been scorning Jews as Christ-killers since the 4th century (when the Magisterium and the Roman Imperium consolidated; see my essay, “Genesis Of A Church”).  But why didn’t such calumny occur–in the form of these particular urban legends–anywhere else in Europe, and why no at any time during the previous millennium?  As it happened, anti-Semitism took on a new tenor in the centuries following the arrival of the [k]Hazarian diaspora.  Indeed, a NEW DEVELOPMENT prompted a new wave–nay, a new KIND–of anti-Semitism in the Rhineland c. 1100. For it was THEN and THERE that the aforementioned anti-Semitic tropes were born.

There eventually would be a (somewhat limited) migration of Jews from western Europe to eastern Europe–primarily in order to escape the scourge of Inquisitions being conducted across the Holy Roman Empire.  That did not occur, though, until the 15th and 16th centuries–long after the aforesaid Jewish communities had been established in the Rhineland by the [k]Hazarian diaspora. Even then, the migration of Semitic Jews (i.e. Sephardim) to “Ashkenaz” was primarily from Roman Catholic France.  Some “Marranos” (Jews from Andalusia) came to Altona (Hamburg) in the late 16th century; and even then, remained segregated from the local Ashkenazim.  (In other words: Sephardic migration north-eastward accounted for only a modest portion of West European Jewry; and, even then, only centuries after the fact.)

Yet, again, we find a tendency for Sephardim to migrate AWAY from Ashkenaz rather than toward it.  For when Andalusia fell back into the hands of the Roman Catholic Church c. 1492, the vast majority of its Jewish population (who were fleeing the Inquisitions) migrated SOUTHWARD–across the Mediterranean–to the Maghreb and even into the Levant, retaining their Sephardic identity.  (After fleeing the Inquisition, one Andalusian community even settled in Vlorë, Albania!  Clearly, the tendency was not to move toward the Rhineland.)  Never, at any point, is there record of a single Sephardic Jew opting to redefine himself as Ashkenazi.  Why not?  No circumstance ever existed where such a move would have made any sense.

YET…we sometimes hear the refrain: The Ashkenazim appeared in eastern Europe due to the Jews of the rest of Europe moving northeastward.  This is false.  If anything, Sephardic migration was in the opposite direction.

So what of the role of Ashkenazim in Judaic lore PRIOR TO the arrival of the [k]Hazarian Diaspora?  Consider this: Of the major Jewish figures we hear about from the 10th thru 12th centuries, NONE are Ashkenazi.  Why not?  Turkic Jews were not (yet) seen as falling within the orbit of Beth Israel.  In fact, the vast majority of European Jewry was located in the Iberian Peninula—notably: Hasdai [ben Isaac ben Ezra] ibn Shaprut of Jaén, who operated out of the center of Jewish culture: Cordoba. {90}  When Dunash ben Labrat “ha-Levi” (a Berber originally from Fez, Morocco) was seeking to venture somewhere, Baghdad and Cordoba were his destinations.  Behold TWENTY MORE Jewish icons during the relevant period.  All were from Andalusia:

  • 10th century:  Mena[c]hem ben Jacob ibn Saruk and Judah ben David Hayyuj—both of Cordoba.
  • Late 10th / early 11th century:  Jonah / Merwan “Ibn Jana[c]h” of Cordoba (who was also affiliated with Zaragoza).
  • 11th century:  Samuel ibn Naghrillah “ha-Nagid” of Cordoba (also affiliated with Malaga and Granada), Samuel ibn Nagrillah of Merida, and Solomon ben Judah “Ibn Gabirol” of Malaga (also affiliated with Cordoba, Valencia, and Zaragoza).  This last figure is known to history as “Avicebron”.
  • Late 11th / early 12th century:  Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra “ha-Sallah” of Granada, Judah ben Samuel “ha-Levi” of Toledo (also affiliated with Tudela and Grenada), Bahya ben Joseph “ibn Pakuda” of Zaragoza, and Abraham bar Hiyya “ha-Nasi” of Barcelona.
  • 12th century:  Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra of Tudela (who taught in Cordoba), Abraham ibn David of Cordoba (a.k.a. “RabaD”), Zerachiah ben Isaac “ha-Levi” Yitzhari of Girona, and Joseph ben Jacob ibn [t]Zaddik of Cordoba.
  • Late 12th / early 13th century:  Mena[c]hem ben Solomon “ha-Meiri” of Catalonia, Judah ben Solomon “al-Harizi” of Toledo, and—of course—Moses ben Maimon ben Joseph of Cordoba (a.k.a. “Maimonides”).
  • 13th century:  Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia of Zaragoza, Solomon ben Abraham “ibn Aderet” of Barcelona (a.k.a. the “RaShbA”), and Moses ben Na[c]hman of Girona (a.k.a. “Nachmanides”).

Both Maimonides and Nachmanides eventually migrated to (Ayyubid) Palestine.  Why?  Because not being a Turkic Jew, the prospect of going to the realm of “Ashkenazim” would not have made much sense.

During this period, NOBODY talked about Jews to the east as “Ashkenazim”.  For instance, the Kabbalist, Moshe ben Shem-Tov of León (a.k.a. “Moses de León”) seemed not to be aware of so-called “Ashkenazi” Jews.  There was the Semitic diaspora (primarily Sephardim and Misra[c]him); and there seems to have been oblique awareness of some rather exotic Jews who had emerged in the realm of the barbarian Slavs…way off to the east…who had unfamiliar cultural practices and unfamiliar tongues…and seem to have made their way into Eastern Europe.

Other prominent “geonim” during this period operated out of Kairouan, in Morocco.  Most notable of these figures were [c]Hanan-El ben [c]Hus-i-El ben El-[c]Hanan and Nissim ben Jacob—both of whom lived in the late 10th / early 11th century.  Meanwhile, Judah ben David Hayyuj made his mark in Fez in the 10th century.

As we’ve seen, many Jewish scholars were denizens of the “Hachmei Provence” in Occitania (southern France)—as with Isaac the Blind. {119}  Some, like Berechiah ben Natronai Krespia “ha-Nakdan” of Normandy, were in northern France.  The rest of the “Geon-im” were in the Middle East—as with A[c]hai of Shabha, Dodai ben Na[c]hman, Sa’ad-i-yah ben Yosef, and Aaron “ha-Kohen” ben Meïr.  At the time, the majority of work was coming out of the Talmudic academies at Sura and Pumbedita in Mesopotamia.  Bottom line: Before the 13th century, “Ashkenazim” (designated as such) do not make an appearance in the (official) history of Beth Israel.

To reiterate: The list of Andalusian writers of the era is quite long; even as we hear nothing about any Ashkenazi writers during this important epoch in Jewish history.  Why not?  Because “Ashkenazi” was not yet a thing.  Had the Ashkenazim emerged from a migration of Sephardim eastward, there would not only have been a record of it; there would have certainly been SOME point made about an adjustment of identity—something to the effect: “We Rhineland Jews, whose ancestors were Sephardim, now consider ourselves Ashkenazim.”

It’s worth recapitulating the point: Barring allusions to “Ashkenazim” by Rashi (who saw them as OTHER), the first major references to a group of foreign Jews in eastern Europe occurred in the 13th century.   The earliest of those references was by Shlomo ben Avraham “ibn Aderet” of Barcelona (a.k.a. the “RaShbA”) in one of the many “Responsa” he composed during his career—which were primarily addressed to Jews on the Iberian peninsula, France, the Italic peninsula, the Maghreb, and the Levant.  Then came references to “Ashkenazim” by Asher ben Je[c]hiel of Toledo (a.k.a. the “Rosh”), who’s family had originally hailed from Cologne or Mainz, and who also wrote many “Responsa”.  He clearly did not see these foreign Jews as some break-away sect of Sephardim.

This brings us back to the key point: For the time being, the migration trend was clearly NOT of Sephardim moving into Lotharingia. {52}  The appearance of Ashkenazim in the Rhineland was clearly due to an influx from elsewhere.

Let’s now proceed into the 14th century.  When the famous Occitanian rabbi, Aaron ben Jacob “ha-Kohen” was expelled from France in 1306, he moved to…Majorca.  Had there been a trend of migration of Sephardim from France to the Rhineland, surely that destination would have made more sense.  But such was not the case.  At the time, there was no reason for a Sephardic Jew in France to go to the Rhineland: the land in which those foreign (Turkic) Jews had settled—what with their strange ways and stranger language.

When the famous Catalonian scholar, Nissim ben Reuven of Barcelona / Gerona (a.k.a. the “RaN”) conducted correspondences with key rabbis from across Beth Israel, the letters were addressed to interlocutors across Iberia, southern Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East.  As with the aforementioned “Responsa”, NONE of those dialogues were with anyone in eastern Europe.  Why not?  The Turkic Jews were not yet involved in the Talmudic discourse.  Heck, they did not even speak a recognizable tongue.

Later in the 14th century, when the famous Jewish philosopher, “Shem-Tov” ben Isaac Shaprut of Tudela was urged to leave the region (Navarre) due to local war, he opted to relocate next door, to Tarazona (Aragon); not to Lotharingia.  Even in the 15th century, there was very little tendency for Sephardim to venture into eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, Ashkenazim (read: descendants of the [k]Hazarian diaspora) were continuing to fan out.  Judah ben Eliezer “ha-Levi” of Mainz (a.k.a. “Mahari Minz”) immigrated from the Rhineland to the Italic Peninsula c. 1462.  While in Padua, his son, Abraham, would be ostracized from the Ashkenazi community, per a decree by the prominent Ashkenazi rabbi, Jacob Pollak of Lublin.  Why?  For straying from Ashkenazi precedent.  It seemed not to go over well that he was commiserating with Sephardim…with their alien Rabbinic / Talmudic ways.

Even more telling, during the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, virtually no Sephardim headed toward Lotharingia.  The Italic Peninsula seems to have been a common choice at the time.  Notably, Isaac ben Judah “Ab-Rabban-El” of Lisbon—who had been living in Toledo—opted to relocate there.

These examples are, of course, anecdotal.  The question, then, is whether or not these prominent figures are indicative of a wider trend.  I submit that they ARE indicative; as there is no countervailing evidence to suppose otherwise.  The alternative would be to assume these notable men were all anomalies—that is: doing something different from what the majority of other Jews were doing at the time.  Statistically, this would be highly unlikely.  That said, more ethnographic research is warranted on this matter.  For now, we can only engage in deduction based on the data that is currently available to us.  Though only a small sample set is provided here, it should suffice for the present purposes.

To sum up: Even after c. 1100, the net flow of European Jews was in the opposite direction than it would have been were the emergence of Ashkenazim to be explained by any migration other than the [k]Hazarian diaspora. {20}

That was almost a millennium ago. It is now estimated that Ashkenazim are genetically 10-20% Semitic–exactly what we might expect had there been sporadic miscegenation with some of their Semitic brethren over the course of the intervening centuries. {28}  It is now known that Ashkenazim originated from a relatively small, isolated group—perhaps numbering only in the thousands—which split off from Middle Eastern ancestors over 20,000 years ago. (!)  This would explain the migration of homo-sapiens into the Eurasian Steppes during the Mesolithic period; thus accounting for the (Neolithic) ancestors of the Turkic peoples: primarily Haplogroup G-M285..from which the Ashkenazi sub-group G1a1 (L201, L202 and L203) emerged.  This genetic lineage eventually intermixed with Europeans, accounting for the presence of the G1c cluster in the Ashkenazi genome. {29} In spite of this, we hear the same refrain ad nauseam: Genetic testing has refuted the “Khazar theory”. This is simply not true. {121}

Genetic testing makes clear that Ashkenazim originated as a DISTINCT HAPLO-GROUP; and only SUBSEQUENTLY mixed with Semitic denizens of Beth Israel (who would have come northward from the Mediterranean basin at some point AFTER the [k]Hazars’ arrival in the Rhineland).  By the same token, genetic tests reveal that they only started mixing with Europeans about eight centuries ago. {57}  The fact is that Ashkenazim resemble people of Middle Eastern decent about as much as Slavs, Poles, and Germanic peoples.  To wit: Not at all.  (Note: While Turkic, hailing as they did from the Pontic Steppes, the [k]Hazars had a relatively fare complexion.)  In light of history, this makes perfect sense.

Genetically, we DO know that Ashkenazim can all trace themselves back to a relatively small group about a millennium ago.  How else are we to explain the so-called “genetic bottleneck” that occurred at THAT particular point in time?  Said bottleneck did not pertain to all of world Jewry; it pertained solely to the ancestry of Ashkenazim.  In reality, this unique genealogical attribute was more a conical pattern proceeding from an origin point c. 1000 than it was a hyperboloid with a very narrow neck c. 1000.  In genetic terms: A temporal cone (which subsequently fanned out over the past millennium) is found exclusively with regard to the number of Ashkenazim; and originated with a community comprised of only a few hundred—or perhaps a few thousand—people at exactly the point in time the [k]Hazarian diaspora would have arrived in eastern Europe. {118}  This “genetic bottleneck” is NOT found when we look at Sephardic numbers over the course of the Middle Ages (that is, Jews on the Italic peninsula, in Occitania, on the Iberian peninsula, and in the Maghreb)…or even with Mizrachim (Jews located in Egypt and the Levant; a group that includes Musta’arabi Jews).

How is it that this occurred only with Ashkenazi ancestors?  If Ashkenazim had been descendants of Sephardim, such a conical pattern would not exist; as it would instead be a smooth genetic transition from European Jewry before c. 1000 to European Jewry after c. 1000—with the community simply splayed out over a wider area (i.e. eastward into East Frankia). {30}

The origin-point of the cone would have been the kernel of the Ashkenazi community—that is: the remnants of the [k]Hazars who’d made it into the Rhineland.  There is no plausible scenario in which the population trend over time would have been a hyperboloid—with such a narrow neck at that exact point in time.  Such a scenario would entail a large population that temporarily shrunk—as if experiencing a verging genocide before recovering.  Prior to c. 1000, there was no discernible Ashkenazi presence in eastern Europe.  What DID exist, though, was a Turkic diaspora coming from the east.

In spite of all this, many Ashkenazim today (spec. those obsessed with Semitic bloodlines) work diligently to ensure their non-Semitic ancestry remains entirely obscured.

In an ideal world, nobody would care about bloodlines. (Go back far enough, and we’re all Africans.)  Alas. For ideological reasons (spec. involving claims of ethnic purity), Judeo-Supremacists would prefer that they were NOT revealed to be a melange of Turkic (including even, perhaps, Avar and Alan), Slavic (including Varangian), and north Caucasian instead of Semitic. For openly recognizing this fact would fatally undermine the gilded etiology favored by Reactionaries–especially as it relates to right-wing Zionist designs on Palestine (which is racially-based, as attested by the theocratic ethno-State that has existed there since 1948).  After all, their ideology is predicated on (the positing of) unsullied bloodlines (a.k.a. racial purity).  It is only via a farcical historiography that such spurious claims regarding “blood and soil” can be made. (To illustrate the point, several other instances of this odious mindset will be enumerated in the last section of this monograph.)

By the 12th century, there was an efflorescence of Judaism across Eastern Europe–from the Rhineland, through the Slavic lands, down to present-day Ukraine.  Eventually, the “Pale of Settlement” would fan out even farther: up to the Baltics and down to the Balkans. It is no coincidence that Jews emerged in Livonia (esp. Riga, its commercial center) pursuant its incorporation into the Hanseatic League.  As already mentioned, the Jewish presence in Greater Lithuania thereafter increased.  In the 14th century, the Grand Duke, Gediminas invited Jews into Vilnius. In the 15h century, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, “Vitold the Great” extended his own invitation.

The famed rabbi, Peta[c]hiah ben Jacob of Regensburg [Bavaria] was a Radhanite who brought his career to Bohemia in the late 12th century. Peta[c]hiah is notable for having explored his ancestors’ homeland–spending time amongst the Kipchaks and venturing into the north Caucuses (before heading to Mesopotamia and the Levant).  He did nothing to hide this fact–unabashedly writing about the scattered remnants of the [k]Hazars, including the Crimean Karaites. {22}  In the 13th century, Bavaria would be home to such icons as Isaac ben Isaac “ha-Lavan” [Isaac the White] and Isaac ben Moses “Or Zarua”.  It was around the same time that the first Jews arrived in Danzig (Pomerania).

At the western periphery of the “Pale of Settlement”, beyond the reach of the (Orthodox Christian) Tsars of Kieven Rus, Jewish communities often found themselves within the orbit of the (theocratic) Holy Roman Empire. So it was inevitable that–in spite of the sporadic measures of accommodation enumerated above (starting with Holy Roman Emperor Otto’s “Magdeburger Recht” in the 10th century)–there would eventually occur oppression of the Jewish people by the Catholic Church. {26}

Douglas Morton Dunlop (a scholar of Eurasian studies at Columbia University) offered helpful observations on this matter.  In the Magyar city of Pozsony (later “Pressburg”; now “Bratislava”), Dunlop noted that “as late as 1309, a council of the Hungarian clergy…forbade Catholics to inter-marry with those described as ‘Khazars’.” This decision was validated by the Vatican in 1346, as anti-Semitism was at a fever pitch. (The issue was not bias against Turkic blood, as the Catholic Church was regularly seeking to convert non-European peoples.) Clearly, there were Jews in the region who were still being referred to as “Khazars” into the 14th century.  Even after they’d been driven from their original homeland, the [k]Hazarian Jews were STILL forced to contend with prejudices in their newly-adopted “eretz Ashkenaz”.

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