Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Who are the Ashkenazi Jews

My Facebook friend Jeff  Blankfort often refers to forward.com  which I believe is the English language descendant of the Yiddish language social democratic Jewish Daily Forward. So it's through Jeff that I've been acquainted with this on line Judeocentric publication,  a discussion set off by NPR's Diane Rhem's since withdrawn and apologized for on air assertion that Senator Sanders is a dual citizen Israeli..I jumped in on that one in my usual devil's sdvocate guise:

Bernie Sanders spent time in his youth in Israel, which does claim to be the homeland of all Jewish people. In a country where half the people cannot locate the United States on a map, and who believe Israel to be the homeland of American Jews (as opposed to Eastern Europe, for example),it's a reasonable question that should be seen as an opportunity to educate an ignorant and semi literate people.

Then look what happened:

  • The USA is the "homeland" of Americans Jews.
    And many Ashkenazi Jews came from WESTERN Europe not just eastern Europe...
    ISRAEL is the ANCIENT homeland of the Jewish people.

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        Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people according to religious mythology. Interesting that so many "non religious Jews" embrace this myth, but no other religious myth.

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            The history of the Jewish people is pretty well documented. It's not a myth. Of course present-day Jews have very complicated ancestries, because of the extraordinary history of Jewish migration, expulsion, assimilation, etc. But the dispersion of Jews from Roman-dominated Palestine happened in "historical" time and is part of history.

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                The website "The Scientist" in an article dated October 8, 2013 reports on a study published on that day that the matrilineal ancestors of most Ashkenazi Jews were indigenous European women who converted to Judaism in Europe 2000 years ago and more recently. Look it up.

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                    Yes. The early Jewish communities in Europe were founded by migrants from Palestine, and those groups were mainly men. It's probable that local women married them and joined the Jewish communities. So there is a well-documented cultural continuity. It's not complete "racial" of course, and that's why "race" is not a good description of the Jews as a group. But the starting point in Palestine is not really in question. This is from the article you cite:
                    Historical evidence indicates that Jewish communities began to spread into Europe during classical antiquity and migrated north during the first millennium CE, arriving in the Rhineland by the 12th century. Local European women could have begun to join the Jewish population around 2,000 years ago or earlier, Richards and colleagues suggest, and the Ashkenazis may have continued to recruit additional women as they headed north.

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                        Of course the Jewish migration to Europe was not completely voluntary. An important date in this development is the destruction of the Second Temple, in 70CE, commemorated by the holiday tisha b'av. . Many Jews were taken prisoner and brought to Rome. This is pictured on the Spoils of Jerusalem panels of the Arch of Titus in Rome. It is likely that Jewish prisoners and refugees eventually joined existing Roman Jewish communities. All of this is history, not myth.

                        • So now, let me pick up.
                      • By the time of Jesus's 13th birthday, Jews from abroad were coming to Jerusalem on pilgrimages. Jesus got uipset about their trading currencies in the Temple and he made a big up[roar over it.

                      • By the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, most "Jews" no longer lived in Palestine. By the way, they never were the only people there, and often did not rule it either. So we had Jewish men leaving home, as merchants. What was their merchandise? Slaves for one thing. Oh and they were polygamous. So who would they marry? Slave women, or other women who wanted into the tribe for whatever reasons? Yes, and more than one each. Do you see where we're going here? Moishe leaves Jerusalem and marries a couple of slave women, who in order to be his wives and give him Jewish children must convert. His legitimate sons are also looking for more than one wife each, and so on, and so on...

                  • You get a very diluted genetically defined Jew down the line. And two thousand years later he decides that God, who he doesn't even believe in, had given him the land of Palestine to rule over?

                ZARAH — A co-wife, a married woman
                in relation to the other wives of her husband.
                Polygamy is a Jewish institution. It is practiced, albeit underground, in Israel today. If the present trend to Orthodoxy among Jews continues, we can expect open polygamy to return soon.
                Even for the most Westernized Jews, polygamy (polygyny) is difficult to confront. They obviously feel uncomfortable with the subject: we see them minimize it, excuse it, and defend it (for example, see The Jewish EncyclopediaAppendix A).
                Writing about marriage, the Very Reverend the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, the late Dr. Joseph H. Hertz, states:
                The Biblical ideal of human marriage is the monogamous one. The Creation story and all the ethical portions of Scripture speak of the union of a man with one wife. Whenever a Prophet alludes to marriage, he is thinking of such a union — lifelong, faithful, holy. Polygamy seems to have well-nigh disappeared in Israel after the Babylonian Exile. Early Rabbinic literature presupposes a practically monogamic society; and out of 2800 teachers mentioned in the Talmud, one only is stated to have had two wives.
                Monogamy in Israel was thus not the result of European contact. As a matter of fact, monogamy was firmly established in Jewish life long before the rise of Christianity …
                — Rabbi Dr. Hertz (1)

                The Talmud Challenges Rabbi Dr. Hertz

                Most rabbinical scholars (including Rabbi Dr. Hertz) attribute the organization of the Mishnahs to Judah the Prince. The year of his birth is given as 132 or 135 A.D. A number of these Mishnahs organized by Judah the Prince address legal problems that arise from the practice of polygamy. That suggests that polygamy was very much alive in the centuries before and after the birth of Jesus.
                That polygamy was an ordinary part of Jewish life is also suggested by Rev. Dr. Israel W. Slotki's Introduction to the Tractate Kethuboth. Rev. Dr. Slotki states this of Chapter X:
                CHAPTER X determines the priority of the claims to the recovery of their kethubahs and to exemption from oath of two or more wives who were married to the same husband, the relative rights of their respective heirs, and the legal position in the event of the surrender by one of the women of her claim to distrain on the buyer of her deceased husband's estate.
                — Rev. Dr. Slotki (17)
                (Note: When excerpting quotations from the Talmud, we sometimes omit non-germane text and footnotes. Omission of text is indicated by an ellipsis (…). To see the full text and footnotes, follow the hot link at the end of the excerpt. It is our pleasure to make available on line a number of Talmud tractates, so that you can see the excerpt in full context. We indicate unprintable Hebrew characters, words, and phrases with the symbol [H].)
                This Mishnah addresses a man with two wives:
                — Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kethuboth 91a
                Soncino 1961 Edition page 582
                This Mishnah addresses a man with three wives:
                — Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kethuboth 93a
                Soncino 1961 Edition page 590
                This Mishnah addresses a man with four wives:
                — Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kethuboth 93b
                Soncino 1961 Edition page 595-595
                Here the Sages discuss the justification for marrying multiple wives.
                — Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 21a
                Soncino 1961 Edition, page 111
                Soncino Rabbinical scholar and translator Jacob Shachter amplifies the text with footnotes:
                1. Deut. XVII, 17.
                2. Ibid. From which it might be inferred that he may marry a lesser number even if they should corrupt him.
                3. I.e., even of the most virtuous, only eighteen are permitted, and not a single one who misleads is permitted. Abigail was the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. (I Sam. XXV, 3.) She is regarded in the Aggadah as one of the most remarkable women in Jewish history. V. Meg 15a.
                — Jacob Shachter

                Why Is Polygamy OK?

                In the above cited Mishnah, Talmud scholar and translator Jacob Shachter tells us the Sages base their justification of polygamy on Deuteronomy 17:17. For full context, let us look at Deuteronomy 17:14-17.
                1. When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
                2. Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
                3. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
                4. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
                We see that Deuteronomy 17:17 concerns limitation on the number of wives permitted to future kings of Israel. However, the Sages appear to understand Deuteronomy 17:17 as a rule for all men. They also understand it to permit rather than prohibit multiple wives.

                What Is the Limit? 4, 12, 24, 48?

                The Sages disagree about the number of wives permitted.
                GEMARA. … Rabina objected: Why not assume that 'kahennah' implies twelve, and'we-kahennah', twenty-four? It has indeed been taught likewise: 'He shall not multiply wives to himself beyond twenty-four.' And according to him who interprets the redundant 'waw', it ought to be forty-eight.

                Clearly polygamy is not confined to levirate marriages.

                Jewish Encyclopedia on History of Polygamy

                In 1906, the Jewish Encyclopedia published a history of polygamy among the Hebrews and Jews. (4) After defining polygamy, the article states:
                While there is no evidence of a polyandrous state in primitive Jewish society, polygamy seems to have been a well-established institution, dating from the most ancient times and extending to modern days. The Law indeed regulated and limited this usage; and the prophets and the scribes looked upon it with disfavor. Still all had to recognize its existence, and not until late was it completely abolished. At no time, however, was it practiced so much among the Israelites as among other nations; and the tendency in Jewish social life was always toward MONOGAMY.
                — Jewish Encyclopedia (4)
                We have included some excerpts from that article describing the early days of Hebrew/Jewish polygamy in the Appendix A: The Jewish Encyclopedia on Polygamy. Notice the writers' apologetic tone. The text may still be available at the Jewish Encyclopedia website. (4)

                Jewish Polygamy Is Banned in Middle Ages

                In the following Jewish Encyclopedia excerpts, many of the citations in the original text have been omitted for easy readability.
                In the Middle Ages, Rabbi Gershom b. Judah (960-1028) convened a synod and urged Jews to give up polygamy …
                — Jewish Encyclopedia (6)
                An express prohibition against polygamy was pronounced by R. Gershom b. Judah, "the Light of the Exile" (960-1028), which was soon accepted in all the communities of northern France and of Germany. The Jews of Spain and of Italy as well as those of the Orient continued to practise polygamy for a long period after that time, although the influence of the prohibition was felt even in those countries. Some authorities suggested that R. Gershom's decree was to be enforced for a time only, namely, up to … 1240 C.E. … probably believing that the Messiah would appear before that time; but this opinion was overruled by that of the majority of medieval Jewish rabbis. Even in the Orient monogamy soon became the rule and polygamy the exception; for only the wealthy could afford the luxury of many wives …
                The Jews of Spain practiced polygamy as late as the fourteenth century. The only requirement there was a special permit, for which a certain sum was probably paid into the kings treasury each time a Jew took an additional wife 
                The Spanish Jews, as well as their brethren in Italy and in the Orient, soon gave up these practises; and today, although the Jews of the East live under Mohammedan rule, but few cases of polygamy are found among them.
                — Jewish Encyclopedia (4)

                Ban Due to Christian Opinion

                The Jewish Encyclopedia gives the impression — but does not actually state — that polygamy was banned by Gershom b. Judah because Jews disapproved of the practice. However, another explanation has been offered. The Salt Lake Tribune, in an article entitled "Polygamy's Practice Stirs Debate in Israel," reports of polygamy:
                But the practice has been banned for Jews in Europe since the 11th century, when rabbinate leaders sought to ease tensions between Jews and their Christian neighbors, who considered polygamy barbaric.
                — Salt Lake Tribune (8)
                A contemporary Jewish proponent of polygamy, Emes L'Yaakov, author of The Orthodox Jewish Pro Polygamy Page, states that polygamy was practiced by Europeans but was eventually banned. He says that this is the source of European resentment against Jewish polygamy.
                Since the Christians were now banned from something that had been normal practice for many years, they resented the fact that the Jews could continue to have more than one wife. When goyim resent Jews, Jews get killed. Therefore to prevent massacres of the Jews, Rabbeinu Gershom banned polygamy.
                — Emes L'Yaakov (3)

                Jewish American Polygamy Circa 1906

                Let's return to the Jewish Encyclopedia.
                In spite of the prohibition against polygamy and of the general acceptance thereof, the Jewish law still retains many provisions which apply only to a state which permits polygamy. The marriage of a married man is legally valid and needs the formality of a bill of divorce for its dissolution, while the marriage of a married woman is void and has no binding force …
                The Reform rabbis in conference assembled (Philadelphia, 1869) decided that "the marriage of a married man to a second woman can neither take place nor claim religious validity, just as little as the marriage of a married woman to another man, but, like this, is null and void from the beginning." Still, with the majority of Jews, this is not even an open question, and the marriage of a married man is considered just as valid as that of an unmarried man; it not only requires the formality of divorce in the case of separation, but also makes him subject to the laws of relationship; so that he can not afterward marry the wife's sister while the wife is living, nor can he or his near relatives, according to the laws of consanguinity, enter into matrimonial relations with any of her near relatives.
                — Jewish Encyclopedia (4)
                The article is authored by the Executive Committee of The Jewish Encyclopedia, and Julius H. Greenstone, a Philadelphia, Pa. rabbi.
                In summary of the above, then, the Jewish Encyclopedia (published 1906) states:
                1. Jewish law still permits polygamy,
                2. In 1869, Reform Judaism in the US attempted to squash polygamy,
                3. Despite the efforts, US Jews still think polygamy laws are valid,
                4. US Jews believe the second marriage of an already married man is just as valid as the first marriage of an unmarried man.

                Use First Wife for Babies, Second as Prostitute

                Why might a man seek more than one wife? This question still holds interest. Rabbi Fine, of the Jewish Chronicle's "Ask The Rabbi" page, suggests an answer:
                The first recorded polygamy is that of Lemekh (Genesis 4:19). Why did he do it? A midrash suggests he wanted one wife for procreation and another for sex; the first wife would bear children and then become a living widow because her husband would ignore her, and the second wife would sterilize herself and dress up like a prostitute (Genesis Rabbah 33:2).
                — Rabbi Fine for The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle (10)

                Contemporary Polygamy

                So we see, the Ashkenazi Jews are mainly the descendants of people who never had a connection with Palestine.

                Seeing as how I am the descendant of Charlemagne, I demand to rule over France.

                Charlemagne’s DNA and Our Universal Royalty

                Nobody in my past was hugely famous, at least that I know of. I vaguely recall that an ancestor of mine who shipped over on the Mayflower distinguished himself by falling out of the ship and having to get fished out of the water. He might be notable, I guess, but hardly famous. It is much more fun to think that I am a bloodline descendant of Charlemagne. And in 1999, Joseph Chang gave me permission to think that way.
                Chang was not a genealogist who had decided to make me his personal project. Instead, he is a statistician at Yale who likes to think of genealogy as a mathematical problem. When you draw your genealogy, you make two lines from yourself back to each of your parents. Then you have to draw two lines for each of them, back to your four grandparents. And then eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on. But not so on for very long. If you go back to the time of Charlemagne, forty generations or so, you should get to a generation of a trillion ancestors. That’s about two thousand times more people than existed on Earth when Charlemagne was alive.
                The only way out of this paradox is to assume that our ancestors are not independent of one another. That is, if you trace their ancestry back, you loop back to a common ancestor. We’re not talking about first-cousin stuff here–more like twentieth-cousin. This means that instead of drawing a tree that fans out exponentially, we need to draw a web-like tapestry.
                In a paper he published in 1999 [pdf], Chang analyzed this tapestry mathematically. If you look at the ancestry of a living population of people, he concluded, you’ll eventually find a common ancestor of all of them. That’s not to say that a single mythical woman somehow produced every European by magically laying a clutch of eggs. All this means is that as you move back through time, sooner or later some of the lines in the genealogy will cross, meeting at a single person.
                As you go back further in time, more of those lines cross as you encounter more common ancestors of the living population. And then something really interesting happens. There comes a point at which, Chang wrote, “all individuals who have any descendants among the present-day individuals are actually ancestors of all present-day individuals.”
                In 2002, the journalist Steven Olson wrote an article in theAtlantic about Chang’s work. To put some empirical meat on the abstract bones of Chang’s research, Olson considered a group of real people–living Europeans.
                The most recent common ancestor of every European today (except for recent immigrants to the Continent) was someone who lived in Europe in the surprisingly recent past—only about 600 years ago. In other words, all Europeans alive today have among their ancestors the same man or woman who lived around 1400. Before that date, according to Chang’s model, the number of ancestors common to all Europeans today increased, until, about a thousand years ago, a peculiar situation prevailed: 20 percent of the adult Europeans alive in 1000 would turn out to be the ancestors of no one living today (that is, they had no children or all their descendants eventually died childless); each of the remaining 80 percent would turn out to be a direct ancestor of every European living today.
                Suddenly, my pedigree looked classier: I am a descendant of Charlemagne. Of course, so is every other European. By the way, I’m also a descendant of Nefertiti. And so are you, and everyone else on Earth today. Chang figured that out by expanding his model from living Europeans to living humans, and getting an estimate of 3400 years instead of a thousand for the all-ancestor generation.
                Things have changed a lot in the fourteen years since Chang published his first paper on ancestry. Scientists have amassed huge databases of genetic information about people all over the world. These may not be the same thing as a complete genealogy of the human race, but geneticists can still use them to tackle some of the same questions that intrigued Chang.
                Recently, two geneticists, Peter Ralph of the University of Southern California and Graham Coop of the University of California at Davis, decided to look at the ancestry of Europe. They took advantage of a compilation of information about 2257 people from across the continent. Scientists had examined half a million sites in each person’s DNA, creating a distinctive list of genetic markers for each of them.
                You can use this kind of genetic information to make some genealogical inferences, but you have to know what you’re dealing with. Your DNA is not a carbon copy of your parents’. Each time they made eggs or sperm, they shuffled the two copies of each of their chromosomes and put one in the cell. Just as a new deck gets more scrambled the more times you shuffle it, chromosomes get more shuffled from one generation to the next.
                This means that if you compare two people’s DNA, you will find some chunks that are identical in sequence. The more closely related people are, the bigger the chunks you’ll find. This diagram shows how two first cousins share a piece of DNA that’s identical by descent (IBD for short).
                Source: http://gcbias.org/european-genealogy-faq/
                Source: http://gcbias.org/european-genealogy-faq/
                Ralph and Coop identified 1.9 million of these long shared segments of DNA shared by at least two people in their study. They then used the length of each segment to estimate how long ago it arose from a common ancestor of the living Europeans.
                Their results, published today in PLOS Biology, both confirm Chang’s mathematical approach and enrich it. Even within the past thousand years, Ralph and Coop found, people on opposite sides of the continent share a lot of segments in common–so many, in fact, that it’s statistically impossible for them to have gotten them all from a single ancestor. Instead, someone in Turkey and someone in England have to share a lot of ancestors. In fact, as Chang suspected, the only way to explain the DNA is to conclude that everyone who lived a thousand years ago who has any descendants today is an ancestor of every European. Charlemagne for everyone!
                If you compare two people in Turkey, you’ll find bigger shared segments of DNA, which isn’t surprising. Since they live in the same country, chances are they have more recent ancestors, and more of them. But there is a rich, intriguing pattern to the number of shared segments among Europeans. People across Eastern Europe, for example, have a larger set of shared segments than people from within single countries in Western Europe. That difference may be the signature of a big expansion of the Slavs.
                Ralph and Coop’s study may provide a new tool for reconstructing the history of humans on every continent, not just Europe. It will also probably keep people puzzling over the complexities of genealogy. If Europeans today share the same ancestors a thousand years ago, for example, why don’t they all look the same?
                Fortunately, Ralph and Coop have written up a helpful FAQ for their paper, which you can find here.
                [Update: Adjusted the estimated generations since Charlemagne to thirty. Corrected Ralph’s affiliation.]

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