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There is an obvious ethnic subdivision within Jews, between the Sephardic and the Ashkenazi. In several vaguely antisemitic websites (see for instance, here, here, and here ), but also in a completely un-anti-Semitic book The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage, (Arthur Koestler 1976), there is this claim that the Ashkenazi Jews are largely descended from the Khazars, who converted to Judaism in the 7-8th century. The medieval conversion of the Khazars to Judaism is well accepted, and among other places, it is described in Yehudah Ha-Levi's famous 12th century classic, The Kuzari.

There is some political baggage floating with this idea, since it tends to get interpreted as denying modern Jews a Biblically derived right to settle in Israel. This makes it difficult to get a straight answer from googling around. I would prefer to avoid politics, and I also would prefer to avoid anti-Semitism, just to settle the geneological question with unbiased research. I think that modern genetic tools should be able to easily trace the ancestors of Ashkenazi Jews, and determine the percentage of admixture of the central Asian, European, and Semitic elements, and tell us exactly what their genetic history was.

So to what extent are Ashkenazi Jews descended from Khazars? Can it be determined, or has the interbreeding diluted the genetic markers beyond any hope of reconstruction of those long ago migrations?

Just to disclose my biases: my father is Sephardi, my mother Ashkenazi, and I don't think any person has any claim to any land other than a deed.

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Related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/7919/… (Not a duplicate, more "if you like this question, you might also like...") –  Oddthinking Oct 27 '12 at 0:19
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Related (on History): Who are the modern descendants of the Khazar people? –  Yannis Nov 28 '12 at 20:30

2 Answers 2

No. There has been significant research into the genetics of Jewish populations over the past 20 years and "no evidence of a hypothetical Khazars' contribution to the Ashkenazi gene pool has ever been found." (Marina Faerman, Population Genetics of the Ashkenazim)

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I have no confidence. Khazar ancestry for some Turkic Jews looks likely, and there are idiotic claims in the scientific literature, like four middle-eastern mothers. I would have liked to see a critical evaluation of the results, and a real sequence comparison done afresh here with original statistics to central asian and middle-eastern lineages, so as to get a straight answer, because I don't trust the peer reviewed literature to get it right, because there are ethically bigoted researchers out there, who are drawn to this stuff. Unfortunately the original research ban here forbids this. –  Ron Maimon Mar 8 '13 at 2:20
    
@Ron In addition to the peer-reviewed genetic studies, there is also the fact that many Ashkenazi Jews are Kohanim and possess the Kohanic gene, and that many have oral histories and lineages tracing their families back to Middle Eastern origins. While the possibility of bias always exists, the overwhelming preponderance of available evidence points to the conclusion that Ashkenazi Jews are not largely descended from the Khazars. Proof in questions of this nature cannot be more conclusive. –  Boric Mar 8 '13 at 16:21
    
I've deleted a chit-chat. According to our Privileges section, you should only use comments to request clarification from the author or leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving this post. Please review the When shouldn't I comment? section and act appropriately in the future. –  Sklivvz Mar 12 '13 at 17:23
    
This "genetic evidence" is bunk, it doesn't withstand scrutiny. There is no "Kohanic" gene, it's an allele distribution, it doesn't support the story it is made to support. –  Ron Maimon Mar 13 '13 at 13:05

No. There has probably been some genetic Khazar involvement, but not enough to have amounted to anything. Frankly, I think the idea's resonance owes to its being posited by a Jew. I do not think there is genetic evidence to substantiate it. My source is White Nationalist, Kevin MacDonald. So, that should be a trustworthy one for all sides on that issue. Of course, he's only spoken about others' results, so the conclusion is certainly well-established. Jews in Israel seem to be most genetically similar to Palestinian Arabs. There is also evidence that Jewish women carry relatively few genetic signatures compared to men, suggesting there were multiple trader communities, first established with local women and then shut down to mixing with the host.

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This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

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Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims. Why do you think there is no genetic evidence to support it? Where is the evidence about genetic signatures (and what does it even mean?)? Also, I have never heard of Kevin MacDonald and I don't see why he might be considered trustworthy.) –  Oddthinking Aug 26 '13 at 11:40
    
I hate to agree with oddthinking, but it would help to give the actual genetic evidence. I am confused on this, because it is evident to the eyes that Palestinians and Ashkenazi Jews are ethnically dissimilar, while Palestinians and Sephardic Jews are not. I would be baffled if genetic evidence shows they are so closely related, it doesn't make sense if you look at the people themselves, it would be a shock. It would be like saying "Egyptians and Belgians are more closely related genetically than Belgians and Germans", it wouldn't pass the common-sense meter, it would require careful checking. –  Ron Maimon Aug 26 '13 at 19:55
    
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I cited MacDonald, simply for his reportage of the genetic findings, not for any work, since he is an evolutionary psychologist and not a geneticist. But he also writes professionally of Jewish intellectual movements and claims they benefit Jewish interests specifically, at the expense of the majority culture. Previous posters seems to have complained of some bias in those believing in the Khazar theory. It would seem to me that if anyone could be suspected of such bias, it'd be MacDonald, and yet he doesn't believe it. That's why it occurred to me he'd be a convincing source. –  user15154 Aug 26 '13 at 20:34

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