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Monday, May 13, 2013

What Genetics Tells Us About Our Ashkenazi Origins

Nadene Goldfoot                                                           

Ashkenazi Jews (from Europe) came originally from Israel and Judea according to historic evidence.    What do DNA studies tell us about our origins?  Arthur Koestler (b: September 5, 1905 in Budapest, d: March 1, 1983) , who wrote the Thirteenth Tribe back in 1976 thought Ashkenazi Jews all came from Khazaria, a southern part of Russia.  He belonged to the Communist Party in Germany and resigned in 1938.  He is also known for his book, "Darkness at Noon", and died of suicide in 1983.  His wife was Jewish but he wasn't.  We learn that in Khazaria, the kagan or king had converted to Judaism and his royal house followed suit.  This happened in about the 7th century CE.  Koestler's book is used against Jews in that he diminishes the fact that Ashkenazim also came from the Middle East and were descendants of Abraham just like the Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews were.  Today some Muslims are trying to use this as reason for Israelis not to be in Israel and that they should all leave since about half the population of Israel is of Ashkenazi descent.

Jews have long felt that their creative zeal comes from living in their own land of Israel and certainly holds to be true.  Many inventions have been rolling out of Israel, much of it being in the medical technologies benefiting all of mankind.  The philosopher Ahad Ha'am (1856-1927) maintained that Jewish cultural creativity would come about when we were speaking our own language and being masters of their own fate in our own land.

We have historic  evidence that Jews settled in many countries outside of  Israel and Judah before 70 CE, but certainly afterwards.  Slaves are bought and sold.  That's what the Jews had become.  They were taken to the many parts of the Roman Empire.

Population geneticists find through the Y chromosome haplotypes of males which show that ancestors of Ashkanazi Jews were Judeans or Israelites and show some European ancestry among them as well and some apparent central Asian and east Asian elements.

A paper published in 2000 by Harry Ostrer and Michael Hamamer, PhD's, showed that Ashkenazis, Italians, North Africans, Iraqi, Iranian, Kurdish and Yemenite Jews often share common Y-DNA haplotypes that are also found among many Arabs from Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.  Only a small % of Jews Ydna originated outside of the Middle East.  The conclusion was that Jews hadn't intermarried with non-Judeans including converts to Judaism outside of the mother country of Judah.  They saw the close relationship between Ashkenazi Jews and Italian Jews concluding that the main ancestors of Ashkenazis were the ancient Jews of Rome.  That goes along with the history I had found about the scattering of Jews after 70 CE when Jerusalem was taken by the Romans and the Jews became slaves and were carted away, leaving just  Jews  that could not be rounded up.

Scientists see that Jews from Europe, NW Africa and the Near East look like each other more than they look like their gentile neighbors in Europe.

Now we'll look at the mtDNA carried by both men and women.  There we find results showing the same conclusions as the Ydna except that with the mtDNA, there was a larger degree of European ancestry along with some central Asian and east Asian elements.  There are basically 7 major haplogroups of mtDNA with just a few additional ones found, such as my grandmother's mtDNA (W).  mtDNA  does not mutate as quickly as Ydna.   While Jewish men, wherever they were, remained Jewish, they traveled a lot.  They became traders or peddlers going into unchartered places.  They would then take the native women for their wives.  When they created a stable environment with the women learning about Judaism,  they then considered both parties to be Jewish bearing Jewish children.  So the mtDNA would have picked up more DNA from outside sources.  African mtDNA was not very prevalent among modern Jewish populations.

In 2002's mtDNA study, the Bene Israel of India were very close to 2 mtDNA hapalotypes of Indian people and Ethiopian Jews whose mtDNA matches Ethiopians and Somalians.  A portion of the mtDNA comes from non-Jewish peoples where they had lived.  This also goes in testing Georgian Jews and Ashnkenazic Jews.  It goes to prove that men picked up their women where they were traveling.  The Ydna is usually Judean.  This is why Jews might resemble their neighbors more.  A 2004 study found the most prevalent mtDNA haplogroups among Ashkenazim are K with 32%, H with 21%, N1b with 10%, and J1 with 7%.  K is found in small numbers in Europe and the Middle East. N1b is Middle Eastern origin. K is a subbranch of U believed to have first appeared in the early stages of the Holocene Epoch when populations expanded into Europe after the last glacial maximum.  About 1/3 of people with Ashkenazi ancestry carry a subclade of this haplogroup.  Bryan Sykes calls K, Katrine with fair hair and greenish brown eyes and her clan flourished in northern Italy and beyond.  One of her descendants was "The Iceman."  Today, 6% of native Europeans are K's.  It is still frequent around the Mediterranean with descendants today all over Europe.  W was found in the western Ural Mountains and the eastern Baltic area, though it is also found in India.  My W paternal grandmother came from Poland/Lithuania in the Suwalki area and said she was a Litvak.  She was very short with black curly hair and brown eyes.

A January 2006 study by Doron Behar informed us that about 40% of Ashkenazic Jews descend from the mtDNA of one of 4 women.  One of the 4 women is also found genetically in some non-Jews in the Middle East.  I might add that we have had Assyrians and Babylonians steal our people from Israel in the past.  If they weren't eaten or slaved to death, their descendants would be today's Muslims in the Middle East.

 In one 2000 study, the only  Slavic population tested were Russians.  The only Turkic population tested were Anatolian Turks.  The Medieval empire of Khazaria would need people tested today from Turkics found in tribes from north Caucasus and central Asia.  That has yet to be done.  I note that my own line of Ydna is Q1b1a, said to originate from Siberia, Mongolia and parts of Turkey about 24,000 years ago. Give a group 20,000 years, and they can migrate pretty far for many reasons.  That's what they must have done to wind up in Lithuania and be my family line.

In a 2001 study of Y-dna of 79 Jews, the Kurds were included along with Arabs. Comparisons  were made with data from Slavic Poles, Belarusians and Ukrainians, people who lived in the Pale of Settlement.  That was an area of 25 provinces set off for Jews to live in  starting in 1791 as they weren't allowed into Russia during Catherine II's reign.  By 1882 the May Laws were established keeping Jews out of rural areas.  The Pale didn't end until August of 1915 and legally until March 1917, the end of WWI.  In the early 1900's thousands of Jews immigrated to the USA including my Jewish Lithuanian grandfather with his Q1b1a genes.  Others immigrated to "Palestine" or England.  The scientists wrote that Kurdish and Sephardic (Spain, Portugal) Jews were indistinguishable from one another.  Both differed slightly but significantly from Ashkenazi Jews.  There had been a separation of the people for almost 2,000 years starting in 70 CE or even longer.  Babylonian Jews, kidnapped by Babylonia in 597 and 586 BCE were taken to Persia where we find Queen Esther and many Jews.  That would up the chances if their descendants were today's Sephardis.  The scientists explained the happening as "low-level gen flow from the European population and or genetic drift during isolation"...

Jews were more closely related to groups in the north of the Fertile Crescent such as Kurds, Anatolian Turks and Armenians than to their Arab neighbors.  They identified haplogroup R1a1 as a European marker found in substantial frequencies among Hungarian, Sorbs, Poles, Belarusians and Ukrainians and less often among Macedonians, Udmurts (tribe in Russia), and Turkic Chuvashes along with some Kurds and Bedouins.  I might add that a recent DNA test on King Tut of Egypt surprised us all with a result of R1...My own son, whose father was from England is R1b1a2, non Jewish and is 1 point off of being the Atlantic Model Haplotype.  25% of his genes are from Jewish sources and according to Jewish law, having a Jewish mother makes him Jewish as well.  .  The report found 12.7% of Ashkenazic men studied showed R1a may be due to intermarriage with Khazars or eastern Europeans.  I believe they shouldn't ignore the possibilities of picking those up in Great Britain as well.  It's full of R1b's.  My mother's gentile father was R1b1a2a1a1b4.  Jews were in Britain sometime after 70 CE but were all expelled in 1290 CE.  Where did they go?  Possibly Germany or eastern Europe.

In 2005 a study by the same researchers studied 495 Ashkenazic men and R1a1 was found in 11.5% of them.  Kurds were among the closest paternal relatives of Jews.  Both Ashkenazic and Mizrakhi Jews (Egypt)  and Muslim Kurds shared several haplotypes and chromosomes more than Jews and Palestinian Arabs shared.  The mountains of  Turkey, Iran and Iraq have been home to the Kurds.  Our tradition says that the first Jewish settlers went to Kurdistan in the time of Ezra. in the 5th Century BCE. (400 BCE).  Ezra worked for the Persian government.  In 458 BCE he went to Jerusalem.  Jews had been in exile from Jerusalem.  Today's Kurds are Muslims.  This is the group that Iraq's Saddam Hussein killed by gas.  Jews also have a similar relationship with Armenians and Anatolian Turks.

My own study  in 2011 of a 90 year old Ashkenazi Jew in Portland who was a Cohen in the synagogue turns out to be a Cohen by Ydna as well.  His Ydna test was J1c3d, the Cohen gene.  His haplogroup is the same as an Iraqi Muslim with a branch on the Arab showing that connection.  The Cohen gene is found among 45% of Ashkenazic Kohens and 56% of Sephardic Kohens.  It is found in only 3-5% of non Kohen Jewish men from Ashkenazic and Sephardic branches and in the Bene Israel Jews of India.  All Kohens are descendants of the Israelite high priest Aaron, brother of Moses.

The Lembas in South Africa claim Jewish heritage and are thrilled to have it show up in their genes.  Italians in central and southern Italy carry it which is no surprise.  Kurds in Iraq, Armenians, Palestinian Arabs and Hungarians in Budapest also are J1's.  4 out of 5 Samaritans from Israel and Palestine are very closely related to J1 which shows they are descended paternally from the original Israelites.  Jews are either Cohens, Levites or Israelites.  Now, Levites are supposed to be from the tribe of Levi and should have the same DNA as Abraham and Moses.  They are the assistant priests  and 2nd to read the Torah after the Cohens.

52% of Ashkenazic Levites were R1a1.  It is found that 11% of Sorbs have the same dna and 8.5% of Belarusians.  Have the scientists also considered that we lost some Jews to conversion along the way?  Sephardic Levites do not have this dna.  Whoever the founder of R1a1 was probably lived around the year 1,000-1,014 after the separation of Sepharim and Ashkenazim in 70 CE.  Due to so many attacks on Jews, the Jews may have had to take another person  to fill this role.  A few Jews are R1a which is not the same thing as R1a1.  P-M45 Ydna  is found in people of central Siberia and central Asia like the Uzbeks.  5.2% of Ashkenazic men have the Q-P36 haplogroup of Q1b1a.  It's my grandfather's haplogroup.  American Indians are also Q's from farther back.  We broke off from them.  At first it was thought to be of Khazar origin but today it's thought that Hungarians are more likely.

Resource: Robert Gabel, here is the R1a project with all haplotypes assigned to the subclades:
The Jews of Khazaria 2nd Edition by Kevin Alan Brook
The New Jewish Encyclopedia
The Thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koeestler
Abraham's Children by Jon Entine
The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes


andrea said...

Italians and Jews sharing some haplogroups is not maybe enough accurate.
Italians are genetically very different from North to South and maybe common sharing is with South Italian mostly J and E haplogroups but this is due to common neolithic farmers background.
Not sure at all about Italian origin of Askhenazim

Nadene Goldfoot said...

I just read your text "What Genetics Tells Us About Our Ashkenazi Origins". There are some mistakes. For instance, you cannot mix up R1a of Slavic origin and R1a of South/West Asian origin (that Levite also have). These are completely different subgroups of R1a.

Nadene Goldfoot said...

Hi Nadene. You can estimate via STR loci, but you can also test directly on SNPs. The Asian R1a has the SNP Z93 and of those the Levites have additionally SNP CTS6.

Nadene Goldfoot said...

Here you have an overview of all jewish haplogroups (to complete your other blog post): But you must set page size up to view them all. And there also is no differentiation between European and Asian R1a. But I could read it from the STR values and give you the numbers if you like.

Nadene Goldfoot said...

Be sure to read this report explaining why Ashkenazi Jews are not descended from Khazaria.