ashkenazi | Koos Jan Schouten’s Blog

Posted By on February 22, 2018

Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaAshkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim ( Standard Hebrew, Akanazi, Akanazim, Tiberian Hebrew, Aknz, Aknzm, pronounced sing. [aknazi] pl. [aknazim], not with [] as in Tzar), are Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities of the Rhineland.

Many later migrated, largely eastward, forming communities in Germany, Poland, Russia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere between the 10th and 19th centuries. From medieval times until the mid-20th century, the lingua franca among Ashkenazi Jews was Yiddish or Slavic languages such as Knaanic (now defunct), and they developed a distinct culture and liturgy influenced by interaction with surrounding nations.

Although in the 11th century they comprised only 3% of the worlds Jewish population, Ashkenazi Jews accounted for (at their highest) 92% of the worlds Jews in 1931 and today make up approximately 80% of Jews worldwide. [5] Most Jewish communities with extended histories in Europe are Ashkenazim, with the exception of those associated with the Mediterranean region. A significant portion of the Jews who migrated from Europe to other continents in the past two centuries are Eastern Ashkenazim, particularly in the United States.

Who is an Ashkenazi Jew?

At a time when Jews from around the world no longer agree on who is a Jew, it is hard to agree on who is an Ashkenazi Jew. An Ashkenazi Jew can be defined religiously, culturally, or ethnically. But distinctions that were clear a generation or two ago are vanishing. And in recent years, the term Ashkenazi Jew has taken on a completely different meaning in Israel.

Religious definition

In a religious sense, an Ashkenazi Jew is any Jew whose family tradition and ritual follows Ashkenazi practice. When the Ashkenazi community first began to develop in the Middle Ages, the centers of Jewish religious authority were in the Islamic world, at Baghdad and in Islamic Spain. Ashkenaz was so distant geographically that it developed a minhag of its own, and Ashkenazi Hebrew came to be pronounced in ways distinct from other forms of Hebrew.

In this respect, the counterpart of Ashkenazi is Sephardic, since most non-Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews follow Sephardic rabbinical authorities, whether or not they are ethnically Sephardic. By tradition, a Sephardic or Mizrahi woman who marries into an Orthodox or Haredi Ashkenazi Jewish family raises her children to be Ashkenazi Jews, and a gentile who converts to Judaism and takes on Ashkenazi religious practices becomes an Ashkenazi Jew.

Jewish law or Halaka does not define who is a Jew confessionally, by faith. No central authority or ruling body in Judaism determines who is a Jew. Nor does membership in a synagogue or local Jewish community make one a Jew. Furthermore, a person who no longer wishes to be a Jew is still considered to be Jewish. It should come as no surprise that many famous Ashkenazi Jews have denied being Jewish. The following examples illustrate this aspect of Jewish identity.

Apostasy. A Jew who converts to another religion is considered an apostate, but he is still a Jew. Felix Mendelssohn, who converted to Protestantism and dedicated a symphony to the Reformation was an Ashkenazi Jew.

Atheism. A Jew who becomes an atheist is still considered a Jew. Karl Marx, an atheist whose Jewish mother and father had converted to Christianity before he was born, was an Ashkenazi Jew.

Hidden Identity. A Jew whose identity was hidden, who was raised in another religion, is still a Jew. Madeleine Albright, the former American Secretary of State whose Jewish parents converted to Catholicism to escape persecution in the Holocaust and then hid their ancestry, is an Ashkenazi Jew by a traditional halakic definition, even though she did not know of her identity until she became an adult, and was already a professing Catholic.

Renunciation. A Jew who renounces and even condemns Judaism is still a Jew. Bobby Fischer, the international chess star who has claimed that the Holocaust was a Jewish invention and a lie, is an Ashkenazi Jew.

With the reintegration of Jews from around the world in Israel, North America, and other places, the religious definition of an Ashkenazi Jew is blurring, especially outside of Orthodox Judaism. Many Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews have joined liberal movements that originally developed within Ashkenazi Judaism. At least in recent decades, the congregations they have joined have often embraced them, and absorbed new traditions into their minhag. Rabbis and Cantors in all non-Orthodox movements study Hebrew in Israel, learning Sephardic rather than Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation. Ashkenazi congregations are adopting Sephardic or modern Israeli melodies for many prayers and traditional songs. Since the middle of the 20th century there has been a gradual syncretism and fusion of traditions, and this is affecting the minhag of all but the most traditional congregations.

New developments in Judaism often transcend differences in religious practice between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. For example, there has been increased interest in Kaballah in recent years. Judaism is an evolving religious tradition in which new layers of commentary are constantly being added to the existing body of literature. Even portions of the scripture that have been canonized, like the Tanakh, are constantly being offered in new editions and translations, with new interpretations. Another trend is the new popularity of ecstatic worship in the Jewish Renewal movement and the Carlebach style minyan, both of which are nominally of Ashkenazi origin.[6]

Cultural definition

In a cultural sense, an Ashkenazi Jew can be identified by the concept of Yiddishkeit, a word that literally means Jewishness in the Yiddish language. Of course, there are other kinds of Jewishness. Yiddishkeit is simply the Jewishness of Ashkenazi Jews. Before the Haskalah and the emancipation of Jews in Europe, this meant the study of Torah and Talmud for men, and a family and communal life governed by the observance of Jewish Law for men and women. From the Rhineland to Riga to Romania, most Jews prayed in liturgical Ashkenazi Hebrew, and spoke some dialect of Yiddish in their secular lives.

But with modernization, Yiddishkeit now encompasses not just Orthodoxy and Hasidism, but a broad range of movements, ideologies, practices, and traditions in which Ashkenazi Jews have participated and somehow retained a sense of Jewishness. Although few Jews still speak Yiddish, Yiddishkeit can be identified in manners of speech, in styles of humor, in patterns of association. Broadly speaking, a Jew is one who associates culturally with Jews, supports Jewish institutions, reads Jewish books and periodicals, attends Jewish movies and theater, travels to Israel, visits ancient synagogues in Prague, and so forth.

The existence of Israel is creating a new Jewishness that transcends Yiddishkeit and other definitions of Jewishness. To an older generation, Jewish food is chopped liver and gefiltefish, but to younger generation it is hummus and falafel.

Ethnic definition

In an ethnic sense, an Ashkenazi Jew is one whose ancestry can be traced to the Jews of central and eastern Europe. For roughly a thousand years, the Ashkenazi Jews were a reproductively isolated population in Europe, despite living in many countries, with little inflow or outflow from migration, conversion, or intermarriage with other groups, including other Jews. Human geneticists have identified certain haplotypes in Y-Chromosome and mitochondrial studies that have high frequencies among Ashkenazi Jews, but not in the general European population.

But since the middle of the 20th century, many Ashkenazi Jews have intermarried, both with members of other Jewish communities and with people of other nations and faiths. Jews have also adopted children from around the world and raised them as Jews. Conversion to Judaism, rare for nearly 1500 years, has once again become common. Jewish women and families who choose artificial insemination often choose a biological father who is not Jewish, to avoid common autosomal recessive genetic diseases. Orthodox religious authorities actually encourage this, because of the danger that a Jewish donor could be a momzer. Thus, the concept of Ashkenazi Jews as a distinct ethnic people, especially in ways that can be defined genetically or ancestrally, has also blurred considerably.

Realignment in Israel

In Israel the term Ashkenazi is now used in ways that have nothing to do with its original meaning. In practice, the label Ashkenazi is often applied to all Jews living in Israel of European origin, including those whose ethnic background is actually Sephardic. Jews of any non-Ashkenazi background, including Mizrahi, Yemenite, Kurdish, and others having no connection at all with the Iberian Peninsula, have come to be lumped together as Sephardic. Jews of mixed ancestry are increasingly common, because of intermarriage between Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi partners, and they sometimes self-identify or reject such labels altogether.

Israel is a complex society in which competing social, economic, and religious interests stand for election to the Knesset, a unicameral legislature with 120 seats. Each political party in Israel produces a list, and members stand for election as a party. Since Israel is a democracy, all citizens are voters, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, or Samaritan. After an election is held, the party with the most seats negotiates with other parties to create a majority coalition.

A portion of the Israeli electorate votes for Jewish religious parties. Although the electoral map changes from one election to another, there are generally several small parties associated with the interests of Ashkenazi religious Jews. Religious Ashkenazi Jews living in Israel are obliged to follow the authority of the chief Ashkenazi rabbi in halakic matters. In this respect, an Ashkenazi Jew is an Israeli who supports certain political parties and religious interests in Israel.

References for Who is an Ashkenazi Jew?

Goldberg, Harvey E. (2001): The Life of Judaism. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21267-3

Silberstein, Laurence (2000): Mapping Jewish Identities. New York University Press. ISBN 0-814-79769-5

Wettstein, Howard. (2002): Diasporas and Exiles: Varieties of Jewish Identity. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22864-2

Wex, Michael. (2005): Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods. St. Martins Press. ISBN 0-312-30741-1

Origins of Ashkenazim

Although the historical record itself is very limited, there is a consensus of cultural, linguistic, and genetic evidence that the Ashkenazi Jewish population originated in the Middle East. When they arrived in northern France and the Rhineland sometime around 800-1000 CE, the Ashkenazi Jews brought with them both Rabbinic Judaism and the Babylonian Talmudic culture that underlies it. The Yiddish language, once spoken by the vast majority of Ashkenazi Jewry, is heavily influenced by Hebrew and Aramaic, but not by Greek or Latin. Recent research in human genetics has also demonstrated that a significant component of Ashkenazi ancestry is Middle Eastern.

Background in the Roman Empire

After the forced Jewish exile from Jerusalem in 70 CE and the complete Roman takeover of Judea following the Bar Kochba rebellion of 132-135 CE, Jews continued to be a majority of the population in Palestine for several hundred years. However, the Romans no longer recognized the authority of the Sanhedrin or any other Jewish body, and Jews were prohibited from living in Jerusalem. Outside the Roman Empire, a large Jewish community remained in Mesopotamia. Other Jewish populations could be found dispersed around the Mediterranean region, with the largest concentrations in the Levant, Egypt, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy, including Rome itself. Smaller communities are recorded in southern Gaul (France), Spain, and North Africa.

Jews were denied full Roman citizenship until 212 CE, when Emperor Caracalla granted all free peoples this privilege. However as a penalty for the first Jewish Revolt, Jews were still required to pay a poll tax until the reign of Emperor Julian in 363 CE. In the late Roman Empire, Jews were still free to form networks of cultural and religious ties and enter into various local occupations. But after Christianity became the official religion of Rome and Constantinople, Jews were increasingly marginalized.

In Palestine and Mesopotamia, where Jewish religious scholarship was centered, the majority of Jews were still engaged in farming, as demonstrated by the preoccupation of early Talmudic writings with agriculture. In diaspora communities, trade was a common occupation, facilitated by the easy mobility of traders through the dispersed Jewish communities.

Throughout this period and into the early Middle Ages, many Jews assimilated into the dominant Greek and Latin cultures, mostly through conversion to Christianity. In Palestine and Mesopotamia, the spoken language of Jews continued to be Aramaic, but elsewhere in the diaspora, most Jews spoke Greek. Conversion and assimilation were especially common within the Hellenized or Greek speaking Jewish communities, amongst whom the Septuagint and Aquila of Sinope (Greek translations and adaptations of the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible) were the source of scripture. A remnant of this Greek speaking Jewish population (the Romaniotes) survives to this day.

The Germanic invasions of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century by tribes such as the Visigoths, Franks, Lombards, and Vandals caused massive economic and social instability within the western Empire, contributing to its decline. In the late Roman Empire, Jews are known to have lived in Cologne and Trier, as well as in what is now France. However, it is unclear whether there is any continuity between these late Roman communities and the distinct Ashkenazi Jewish culture that began to emerge about 500 years later. King Dagobert of the Franks expelled the Jews from his Merovingian kingdom in 629. Jews in former Roman territories now faced new challenges as harsher anti-Jewish Church rulings were enforced.

Rabbinic Judaism moves to Ashkenaz

In Mesopotamia, in Persian lands free of Roman imperial domination, Jewish life fared much better. Since the conquest of Judea by Nebuchadrezzar II, this community had always been the leading diaspora community, a rival to the leadership of Palestine. After conditions for Jews began to deteriorate in Roman controlled lands, many of the religious leaders of Judea and the Galilee fled to the east. At the academies of Pumbeditha and Sura near Babylon, Rabbinic Judaism based on Talmudic learning began to emerge and assert its authority over Jewish life throughout the diaspora. Rabbinic Judaism created a religious mandate for literacy, requiring all Jewish males to learn Hebrew and read from the Torah. This emphasis on literacy and learning a second language would eventually be of great benefit to the Jews, allowing them to take on commercial and financial roles within Gentile societies where literacy was often quite low.

After the Islamic conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, new opportunities for trade and commerce opened between the Middle East and western Europe. The vast majority of Jews in the world now lived in Islamic lands. Urbanization, trade, and commerce within the Islamic world allowed Jews, as a highly literate people, to abandon farming and live in cities, engaging in occupations where they could use their skills.[7] The influential, sophisticated, and well organized Jewish community of Mesopotamia, now centered in Baghdad, became the center of the Jewish world. In the Caliphate of Baghdad, Jews took on many of the financial occupations that they would later hold in the cities of Ashkenaz. Jewish traders from Baghdad began to travel to the west, renewing Jewish life in the western Mediterranean region. They brought with them Rabbinic Judaism and Babylonian Talmudic scholarship.

After 800 CE, Charlemagnes unification of former Frankish lands with northern Italy and Rome brought on a brief period of stability and unity in western Europe. This created opportunities for Jewish merchants to settle once again north of the Alps. Charlemagne granted the Jews in his lands freedoms similar to those once enjoyed under the Roman Empire. Returning once again to Frankish lands, many Jewish merchants took on occupations in finance and commerce, including moneylending or usury. (Church legislation banned Christians from lending money in exchange for interest.) From Charlemagnes time on to the present, there is a well documented record of Jewish life in northern Europe, and by the 11th century, when Rashi of Troyes wrote his commentaries, Ashkenazi Jews had emerged also as interpreters and commentators on the Torah and Talmud.

DNA clues

Efforts to identify the origins of Ashkenazi Jews through DNA analysis began in the 1990s. Like most DNA studies of human migration patterns, these studies have focused on two segments of the human genome, the Y chromosome (inherited only by males), and the mitochondrial genome (DNA which passes from mother to child). Both segments are unaffected by recombination. Thus, they provide an indicator of paternal and maternal origins, respectively.

A study of haplotypes of the Y chromosome, published in 2000, addressed the paternal origins of Ashkenazi Jews. Hammer et al[8] found that the Y chromosome of most Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews was of Middle Eastern origin, containing mutations that are also common among Palestinians and other Middle Eastern peoples, but uncommon in the general European population. This suggested that the male ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews could be traced primarily to the Middle East.

The first research on Ashkenazi maternal ancestry was less conclusive. A 2002 study by Goldstein et al[9] found that the womens origins cannot be genetically determined, but that his own speculation was that most Jewish communities were formed by unions between Jewish men and local women.

More recent research indicates that a significant portion of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry is also of Middle Eastern origin. A 2006 study by Behar et al[10], based on haplotype analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), suggested that about 40% of the current Ashkenazi population is descended matrilineally from just four women. These four founder lineages were likely from a Hebrew/Levantine mtDNA pool originating in the Near East in the first and second centuries CE. According to the authors, The observed global pattern of distribution renders very unlikely the possibility that the four aforementioned founder lineages entered the Ashkenazi mtDNA pool via gene flow from a European host population.

Both the extent and location of the maternal ancestral deme from which the Ashkenazi Jewry arose remain obscure. Here, using complete sequences of the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), we show that close to one-half of Ashkenazi Jews, estimated at 8,000,000 people, can be traced back to only four women carrying distinct mtDNAs that are virtually absent in other populations, with the important exception of low frequencies among non-Ashkenazi Jews. We conclude that four founding mtDNAs, likely of Near Eastern ancestry, underwent major expansion(s) in Europe within the past millennium. [11][12]

Ashkenazi migrations throughout the High and Late Middle Ages

Historical records show evidence of Jewish communities north of the Alps and Pyrenees as early as the 8th and 9th Century. (Cochran et. al., p.11) By the early 900s, Jewish populations were well-established in Northern Europe, and later followed the Norman Conquest into England in 1066, also settling in the Rhineland. With the onset of the Crusades, and the expulsions from England (1290), France (1394), and parts of Germany (1400s), Jewish migration pushed eastward into Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. Over this period of several hundred years, some have suggested, Jewish economic activity was focused on trade, business management, and financial services, due to Christian European prohibitions restricting certain activities by Jews, and preventing certain financial activities (such as usurious loans) between Christians. (Ben-Sasson, H. (1976) A History of the Jewish People. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.)

By the 1400s, the Ashkenazi Jewish communities in Poland were the largest Jewish communities of the Diaspora [13]. It would remain that way until the Holocaust.

Usage of the name

In reference to the Jewish peoples of Northern Europe and particularly the Rhineland, the word Ashkenazi is often found in medieval rabbinic literature. References to Ashkenaz in Yosippon and Hasdais letter to the king of the Khazars would date the term as far back as the tenth century, as would also Saadia Gaons commentary on Daniel 7:8.

The word Ashkenaz first appears in the genealogy in the Tanakh (Genesis 10) as a son of Gomer and grandson of Japheth. It is thought that the name originally applied to the Scythians (Ishkuz), who were called Ashkuza in Assyrian inscriptions, and lake Ascanius and the region Ascania in Anatolia derive their names from this group. The Ashkuza have also been linked to the Oghuz branch of Turks including nearly all Turkic peoples today from Turkey to Turkmenistan.

Ashkenaz in later Hebrew tradition became identified with the peoples of Germany, and in particular to the area along the Rhine where the Alamanni tribe once lived (compare the French and Spanish words Allemagne and Alemania, respectively, for Germany).

The autonym was usually Yidn, however.

Medieval references

In the first half of the eleventh century, Hai Gaon refers to questions that had been addressed to him from Ashkenaz, by which he undoubtedly means Germany. Rashi in the latter half of the eleventh century refers to both the language of Ashkenaz (Commentary on Deuteronomy 3:9; idem on Talmud tractate Sukkah 17a) and the country of Ashkenaz (Talmud, Hullin 93a). During the twelfth century the word appears quite frequently. In the Mahzor Vitry, the kingdom of Ashkenaz is referred to chiefly in regard to the ritual of the synagogue there, but occasionally also with regard to certain other observances (ib. p. 129).

In the literature of the thirteenth century references to the land and the language of Ashkenaz often occur. See especially Solomon ben Aderets Responsa (vol. i., No. 395); the Responsa of Asher ben Jehiel (pp. 4, 6); his Halakot (Berakot i. 12, ed. Wilna, p. 10); the work of his son Jacob ben Asher, Tur Orach Chayim (chapter 59); the Responsa of Isaac ben Sheshet (numbers 193, 268, 270).

In the Midrash compilation Genesis Rabbah, Rabbi Berechiah mentions Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah as German tribes or as German lands. It may correspond to a Greek word that may have existed in the Greek dialect of the Palestinian Jews, or the text is corrupted from Germanica. This view of Berechiah is based on the Talmud (Yoma 10a; Jerusalem Talmud Megillah 71b), where Gomer, the father of Ashkenaz, is translated by Germamia, which evidently stands for Germany, and which was suggested by the similarity of the sound.

In later times the word Ashkenaz is used to designate southern and western Germany, the ritual of which sections differs somewhat from that of eastern Germany and Poland. Thus the prayer-book of Isaiah Horowitz, and many others, give the piyyutim according to the Minhag of Ashkenaz and Poland.

Customs, laws and traditions

The Halakhic practices of Ashkenazi Jews may differ from those of Sephardi Jews, particularly in matters of custom. Differences are noted in the Shulkhan Arukh itself, in the gloss of Moses Isserles. Well known differences in practice include:

Observance of Pesach (Passover): Ashkenazi Jews traditionally refrain from eating legumes, corn, millet, and rice, whereas Sephardi Jews typically do not prohibit these foods.

In the case of kashrut for meat, conversely, Sephardi Jews have stricter requirements this level is commonly referred to as Beth Yosef. Meat products which are acceptable to Ashkenazi Jews as kosher may therefore be rejected by Sephardi Jews. Notwithstanding stricter requirements for the actual slaughter, Sephardi Jews permit the rear portions of an animal after proper Halakhic removal of the sciatic nerve, while many Ashkenazi Jews do not. This is not because of different interpretations of the law; rather, slaughterhouses could not find adequate skills for correct removal of the sciatic nerve and found it more economical to separate the hindquarters and sell them as non-kosher meat.

Ashkenazi Jews frequently name newborn children after deceased family members, but not after living relatives. Sephardi Jews, on the other hand, often name their children after the childrens grandparents, even if those grandparents are still living. (See Sephardi Names). A notable exception to this generally reliable rule is among Dutch Jews, where Ashkenazim for centuries used the naming conventions otherwise attributed exclusively to Sephardim. (See Chuts.)

Ashkenazi Jews have a custom for the bride and groom to refrain from meeting one week prior to their wedding.

Relationship to other Jews

The term Ashkenazi also refers to the nusach (Hebrew, liturgical tradition) used by Ashkenazi Jews in their Siddur (prayer book). A nusach is defined by a liturgical traditions choice of prayers, order of prayers, text of prayers and melodies used in the singing of prayers.

This phrase is often used in contrast with Sephardi Jews, also called Sephardim, who are descendants of Jews from Spain and Portugal. There are some differences in how the two groups pronounce Hebrew and in points of ritual.

Several famous people have this as a surname, such as Vladimir Ashkenazi. Ironically, most people with this surname are in fact Sephardi, and usually of Syrian Jewish background. This family name was adopted by the families who lived in Sephardi countries and were of Ashkenazic origins, after being nicknamed Ashkenazi by their respective communities. Some have shortened the name to Ash. Other spellings exist, such as Eskenazi by the Syrian Jews who relocated to Panama and other South-American Jewish communities.

Literature about the alleged Turkic origin of the Ashkenazi population appeared mainly after 1950, but it has been claimed faulty by most recent scholars.

See also: Jew, Judaism, Rabbenu Gershom

opulation genetics

Specific diseases

The Ashkenazi Jewish population has, like many other endogamous populations, a higher incidence of specific hereditary diseases. Genetic counseling and genetic testing are recommended for couples where both partners are of Ashkenazi ancestry. Some organizations, most notably Dor Yeshorim, organize screening programs to prevent homozygosity for the genes that cause these diseases. A large number of these diseases are neurological. See Jewish Genetics Center for more information on testing programmes.

Diseases with higher incidence in Ashkenazim include, in alphabetical order:

Bloom syndrome

Breast cancer and ovarian cancer (due to higher distribution of BRCA1 and BRCA2).

Canavan disease

Colorectal cancer due to hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (non-classical form)

Crohns disease (the NOD2/CARD15 locus appears to be implicated)

Cystic fibrosis

Familial dysautonomia (Riley-Day Syndrome)

Fanconi anemia

Gauchers disease

Hemophilia C

Mucolipidosis IV

Niemann-Pick disease

Pemphigus vulgaris

Tay-Sachs disease

Torsion dystonia

Von Gierke disease

Modern history

In an essay on Sephardi Jewry, Daniel Elazar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs [14] summarized the demographic history of Ashkenazi Jews in the last thousand years, noting that at the end of the 11th Century, 97% of world Jewry was Sephardic and 3% Ashkenazic; in the mid-seventeenth century, Sephardim still outnumbered Ashkenazim three to two, but by the end of the 18th Century Ashkenazim outnumbered Sephardim three to two, the result of improved living conditions in Christian Europe as against the Muslim world. [15] By 1931, Ashkenazi Jews accounted for nearly 92 percent of world Jewry. [16]

Ashkenazi Jews developed the Hasidic movement as well as major Jewish academic centers across Poland, Russia, and Lithuania in the generations after emigration from the west. After two centuries of comparative tolerance in the new nations, massive westward emigration occurred in the 1800s and 1900s in response to pogroms and the economic opportunities offered in other parts of the world. Ashkenazi Jews have made up the majority of the American Jewish community since 1750 [17].

Ashkenazi cultural growth led to the Haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment, and the development of Zionism in modern Europe.

Ashkenazi Jewry and the Holocaust

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