Last Updated: June 11, 2016
Read about The Jews of Khazaria - the general-interest book about the Khazars in English.
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History professor Boris Zhivkov's 350-page book Khazaria in the 9th and 10th Centuries was published by Brill in May 2015. Brill's marketing says the book "uses not only the known documentary sources and archaeological finds but also what we know from history of religions (comparative mythology), history of art, structural anthropology and folklore studies." This is an English translation from the Bulgarian version Khazaria prez IX i X vek that had been published by IK Gutenberg in Sofia in 2010.
Tim Duggan Books, a new imprint of The Crown Publishing Group, has announced that they will publish Emily Barton's The Book of Esther: A Novel in June 2016. In this alternative history, the Khazar kaganate survives into modern times and with its Jewish religious identity intact, and in 1942 Germania launches a military conflict against Khazaria. The Khazars fight back, including on mechanical horses they've invented. Be sure to read Barton's preview in The Forward's Sisterhood blog and Dara Horn's review in The New York Times. Barton read the second edition of The Jews of Khazaria while writing the novel.
Gennady E. Afanasiev and his co-authors published the Russian article "Khazarskie konfederaty v Basseyne Dona" in Yestestvennonauchnie metodi issledovaniya i paradigma sovremennoy arkheologii: Materiali Vserossiyskoy nauchnoy koferentsii, Moskva, Institut arkheologii Rossiyskoy akademii nauk, 8-11 dekabrya 2015 in 2015 on pages 146-153. They examined the uniparental markers of 4 individuals in the Saltovo-Mayaki culture of Khazaria who lived circa the 800s:
•Sample A80301 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1a1b2a (R-Z94) which is of Persian/West Asian origin and found today among Turkic-speaking Karachay people. A80301's mtDNA haplogroup was I4a which is found today in northwestern and central Europe such as in Sweden, and also found around the Black Sea, in the North Caucasus, and in Armenia, Iran, and Siberia.
•Sample A80302's mtDNA haplogroup was D4m2, which is found today in Siberia among the Dolgan, Yakut, and Even peoples, but is never found among Ashkenazim.
•Sample A80410 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup G, commonly found among peoples in West Asia and the Caucasus today.
•Sample A80411 belonged to the Y-DNA haplogroup J2a, which is also commonly found in West Asia and the Caucasus today, and also in Central Asia and in parts of Europe like the Balkans.
The author and magazine editor A. J. Jacobs was tested by 23andMe as were his sister and father. A. J. was recently interviewed by Jesse Rifkin for the June 7th article "Six Degrees: Massive Genealogy Project Shows We Are Family–Literally" in The Daily Beast. A. J. said, "I thought my roots were completely Ashkenazi Jewish from Eastern Europe. Yet according to my DNA genome analysis, I have a little Scandinavian in me, there’s even a little Asian." DNA Land's blog informed us that A. J.'s genome and those of several other Ashkenazim were discussed at an event on Jewish genetics held at the New York Genome Center on November 19, 2015, and you can watch this event at YouTube to hear Karl Skorecki, CeCe Moore, Yaniv Erlich, and others present insights into this topic. As A. J. told Frankfurter Allgemeine's Anne Haeming in her June 6th article "Wir brauchen einen Anker", he and the actress Mila Kunis belong to the same maternal haplogroup, H7. I also belong to H7, as does Google's Russian Jewish co-founder Sergey Brin. H7 is common among North-Central Europeans as well as some Balkan peoples and probably came into the Ashkenazic community through a non-Jewish woman who converted to Judaism. According to Yaniv Erlich, A. J.'s haplogroup is actually in the branch called H7e (mine is just plain H7 according to the full coding region test at Family Tree DNA) and Emily Garber noted here that "my paternal first cousin and first cousin once-removed are in mitochondrial DNA (maternal) haplogroup H7e - one step in genetic distance from A.J. Jacobs" so it appears A. J. got the more accurate H7e reading from Family Tree DNA whereas 23andMe's less comprehensive analysis apparently just told him he's H7. Yaniv agrees that a Central European or Eastern European origin for H7e coming into the Ashkenazic community is probable. Meanwhile, Yaniv's DNA.Land autosomal analysis did not confirm 23andMe's suggestion of a portion of Scandinavian ancestry for A. J., who is 99.9% "Ashkenazi/Levantine" and 0.1% "other" per DNA.Land. Surprisingly, none of the Asian ancestry in Ashkenazi Jews comes from Turkic Khazars. Ashkenazi Levites paternally descend from an Iranian people not from Khazars or Slavs, per genetic evidence revealed in a new study by Siiri Rootsi et al. discussed here, here, here, and here. Since no other paternal or maternal haplogroup among Ashkenazim comes from a Central Asian Turkic source either, we are now left with the total absence of evidence for Khazar ancestry in Ashkenazim.
In a brief moment early in episode 10 ("Decoding Our Past Through DNA") of season 2 of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Ashkenazic playwright Tony Kushner responds with happiness to the finding of 0.1% East Asian ancestry in his personal autosomal DNA as tested by 23andMe. His autosomal test also found he's a genetic cousin of the Ashkenazic singer-songwriter Carole King.
My article "The Chinese Lady Who Joined the Ashkenazic People" appeared in Jewish Times Asia's March 2015 issue.
At Family Tree DNA's November 2015 genetic genealogy conference, Doron Behar delivered a presentation on the latest findings on the genetics of Ashkenazic Levites who belong to haplogroup R1a. Behar tested 66 Ashkenazic Levite samples and 10 non-Ashkenazic holders of R1a1 using the company's "Big Y" test. The results showed that the branches next-closest to Ashkenazim are Yezdi and Iberian holders, followed by Palestinian Arabs, and much farther away is an Assyrian. Roberta Estes wrote here that "Doron was able to confirm that the Levite population did arise in the Near East." While this seems true based on the data, one of Behar's slides nevertheless says "Unresolved origin", but maybe he means unresolved in terms of the precise population in that region that had transmitted this haplogroup to Jewish people. As I mentioned in my older comment above, an Iranian people have been proposed by other researchers to be that source population.
My article "Sephardic
Jews in Galitzian Poland and Environs" appeared in Shem Tov's
September 2015 issue.
My second article in the series, Sephardic Jews in Lithuania and Latvia, had its first half in Shem Tov in March 2016.
The third season of Finding Your Roots began airing on PBS in January 2016. Maya Rudolph, daughter of an Ashkenazi man with roots in Lithuania and an African-American woman, was included in the third episode and estimated to have 49.9% Ashkenazi ancestry. Bill Maher's mother is Ashkenazi while his father is Irish, and was included in the second episode; 23andMe estimated he has 49.6% Ashkenazi ancestry. On the fourth episode ("Tragedy + Time = Comedy"), Norman Lear, of fully Ukrainian Jewish descent from the Russian Empire, was revealed to be a member of the Y-DNA haplogroup R1a-M17, which has an Ashkenazic Levite subbranch, confirming, the show says, the paper trail evidence that he descends in his paternal line from a Levite. Frank Gehry (Goldberg) is an Ashkenazi with roots in Poland and the Russian Empire who appeared on the fifth episode ("Visionaries"); he was estimated to have 98% Ashkenazi ancestry. Patricia Arquette's mother is an Ashkenazi with roots in Poland and the Russian Empire while her father comes from French-Canadian, Swiss-German, and English roots; on the sixth episode ("War Stories", Arquette was estimated to have 48.5% Ashkenazi ancestry. On the episode "The Pioneers", the half-Ashkenazi Gloria Steinem (Jewish roots from Germany and the Polish part of the Russian Empire) was presented with results from genealogical research, but her DNA results weren't shown on the program. Julianna Margulies is an Ashkenazi with roots in Romania, Hungary, the Austrian Empire, and the Russian Empire (including but not limited to Glazmanka/Gostini in Latvia) who appeared on the episode "The Long Way Home". Margulies was estimated to have 96.3% Ashkenazi ancestry. Dustin Hoffman, who has two parents of Ashkenazic origin with roots in Ukraine, Poland, and Romania, was featured on the episode that aired on March 8, 2016, but his DNA wasn't profiled on it. The season is co-sponsored by Ancestry.com.
Over a thousand years ago, the far east of Europe was ruled by Jewish kings who presided over numerous tribes, including their own tribe: the Turkic Khazars. After their conversion, the Khazar people used Jewish personal names, spoke and wrote in Hebrew, were circumcised, had synagogues and rabbis, studied the Torah and Talmud, and observed Hanukkah, Pesach, and the Sabbath. The Khazars were an advanced civilization with one of the most tolerant societies of the medieval period. It hosted merchants from all over Asia and Europe. On these pages it is hoped that you may learn more about this fascinating culture.
Current Publications for Sale
THE JEWS OF KHAZARIA
WORLD OF THE KHAZARS
IN THE 9th AND 10th CENTURIES
THE KUZARI: IN DEFENSE
OF THE DESPISED FAITH