Three things that point to a common origin for various ‘tribes’ of Ashkenazic Jewry

Polish Jews. Galician Jews. Lithuanian Jews. Ukrainian Jews. Hungarian Jews. German Jews. French Jews. English Jews. Russian Jews. Latvian Jews. Czech Jews. Slovak Jews. American Jews.

Different groups or are they basically of a common origin?

רבש”ה maintains that all Ashkenazic Jews (basically) share a common origin.

He points to the following as supporting this contention.

1) They all label themselves as Ashkenazic Jews. People who self-identify as Ashkenazic Jews (e.g. if you ask them, are you Sepharadic or Ashkenazic?), are (often unknowingly) stating that they are German Jews in origin (although you may have to go back hundreds of years and many generations to reach that point), as אשכנז = Germany.

2) The Yiddish language that they (or their parents, or grandparents) share. Yiddish is basically a medieval German dialect, albeit mixed with Hebrew words, and some from other languages as well.

3) When studying Torah, they ‘teitsch’ a posuk of chumash.

Question: What does teitsch mean? Can anyone teitch word teitch? What is the derivation and etymology of the word?

Hmmmm….Let’s see….

Teitch. Teutsch. Deutsch. Daytsh.

Answer: Teitch is a heavy Southern German pronunciation of  Deitsch or Deutsch, which means German. So when we ‘teitch’ a posuk chumash, we basically are translating it into German (Judisch-Deutsch dialect, aka Yiddish).

True, there were other types of Jews as well in Europe, and some Sepharadim came to Ashkenazic lands at times. But generally speaking. And even when Sepharadim came into Ashkenazic lands, if they stayed there, usually after a while they intermarried with the locals and became Ashkenazic basically.

Sometimes people raise the question of the ספרדים, the Spanish Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Did they not settle in Ashkenazic lands then? I believe the answer to that is that they mostly, or perhaps I should say overwhelmingly, went to the Ottoman empire, and only a relatively small amount went to Ashkenazic lands.

Tags: ,

16 Responses to “Three things that point to a common origin for various ‘tribes’ of Ashkenazic Jewry”

  1. Dr. Yitzchok Levine Says:

    You wrote, “True, there were other types of Jews as well in Europe, and some Sepharadim came to Ashkenazic lands at times. But generally speaking. And even when Sepharadim came into Ashkenazic lands, if they stayed there, usually after a while they intermarried with the locals and became Ashkenazic basically.”

    Do you consider Holland or England Ashkenazic lands? The Sephardi communities in both Amsterdam and London remained strong for generations. Indeed, the Dutch Sefardim in general kept separate from the Ashkenazic Jews and considered Ashkenazic Jews inferior! Sephardi Jews in Europe who had escaped from the Inquisition considered themselves part of La Nacion which they felt was a special status.

    A good source for the history of Sefardim in Europe and other places is Howard M. Sachar’s Farewell Espana: The World of the Sephardim Remembered. From there you will see that they did not in general intermarry with the locals and become “Ashkenazic basically.”

    Such a statement does a great disservice to the marvelous Sefardic heritage that existed in many places for hundreds of years.

  2. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    Thanks for your comment.

    You are correct about the strong Sepharadic communities in Amsterdam and London. But to me, those seem to be the (very prominent) exceptions that prove the rule. And it could perhaps be said that London and Amsterdam are sort of on the periphery, geographically, and perhaps otherwise as well, of the Ashkenazic world of those days. The heartland of Ashkenaz, as I see it, was around Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Austria, and Hungary.

    How large were the Sepharadic communities in the places you mention? They were prominent, but were they very large numerically? And, looking at it another way, why didn’t similarly prominent Sepharadic communities (generally – there were some other exceptions I believe, such as in Hamburg) exist in other parts of the Ashkenazic realm? I assume that we must say that either not many Sepharadim moved there, or that they mixed with the Ashkenazim and basically became part of the Ashkenazic tzibbur.

    • S. Says:

      “You are correct about the strong Sepharadic communities in Amsterdam and London. But to me, those seem to be the (very prominent) exceptions that prove the rule. And it could perhaps be said that London and Amsterdam are sort of on the periphery, geographically, and perhaps otherwise as well, of the Ashkenazic world of those days. The heartland of Ashkenaz, as I see it, was around Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Austria, and Hungary.”

      In the early modern period Amsterdam was not on the periphery at all. It was at least as major a center as the others.

      However, I’m not really sure why we are discussing the dispersion of the Spanish-Portuguese into certain parts of Western Europe altogether? They were prominent communities, no one denies that. But how does that impact upon the basically Ashkenazic character of Europe?

      As far as the origin of the Ashkenazim, the Rema’s introduction states that they came from the remnants of the French Jews, indicating that 16th century Central European Jews perceived themselves as stemming from French origins. Similarly, R. Eliyahu Bachur affirms this perception in his entry “Kerovotz” in Sefer Tishbi.

  3. Dr. Yitzchok Levine Says:

    You ask “How large were the Sepharadic communities in the places you mention?” Let me counter by asking you how large you think that the Ashkenaz communities were in Europe during the 12th to 18th centuries. Not very large, I assure you.

    From http://tinyurl.com/5uele3

    “As regards the number of Jews in the Middle Ages, Benjamin of Tudela, about 1170, enumerates altogether 1,049,565; but of these 100,000 are attributed to Persia and India, 100,000 to Arabia, and 300,000 to an undecipherable “Thanaim”, obviously mere guesses with regard to the Eastern Jews, with whom he did not come in contact. There were at that time probably not many more than 500,000 in the countries he visited, and probably not more than 750,000 altogether. The only real data for the Middle Ages are with regard to special Jewish communities.”

    There were more Sephardic Jews in Amsterdam during the 17th and 18th centuries than Ashkenazic Jews.

    To give you precise answers to the number of Sefardic Jews that Sachar talks about is no easy task, since his book is over 400 pages long IIRC. WADR, I suggest you get his book and read it.

  4. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    Interesting information.

    But the basic point made in the post still stands.

    In general, cities then were very small compared to the megalopolises that exist today.

    Most of the world’s population lived in rural areas until relatively recently. Even though Jews may have been more urbanized than others, they also were more rural then than they are today. So looking at the communities in the large cities gives only a partial picture of the situation.

  5. Yoshmc Says:

    Who is Ravsha?

  6. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    רבש”ה = רב בנימין שלמה המבורגר שליט”א, מחבר ספרי שרשי מנהג אשכנז ומייסד מכון מורשת אשכנז

  7. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    Back to Dr. Levine’s earlier question about the Sepharadic communities in London and Amsterdam.

    It dawned on me a short while ago, that those communities are not really relevant to the discussion, because they predated Ashkenazic communities in those places (at least in modern times). So it is not liked they moved into an area with established Ashkenazic communities.

    • Dr. Yitzchok Levine Says:

      There were Sepharadic communities that existed for centuries and down to the time that they were destroyed by the Nazis. The following if from

      http://tinyurl.com/4mcc3ep

      which announces an exhibition about Sephardic Jewry.

      Seventy years ago this spring, Nazi German invaded Yugoslavia and Greece, then set about destroying the Jewish communities that had been in this region since the expulsion from Spain in 1492 (in some cases, even longer).

  8. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    True, thanks.

    Greece had ancient Romaniote communities, as well as the more recent Sepharadic ones.

    Yugoslavia had some Ashkenazim as well as Sepharadim.

    Neither were in the main areas of Ashkenazic settlement.

  9. S. Says:

    Interesting, but I’m not a fan of applying sevara to answer a question which otherwise can be “teitched” up through hard facts and sources.

    Incidentally, it is not a given that the common origin of Ashkenazim is in Germany by any means. The Rema, for example, was of the belief that he (and many others in Central Europe of his time) were descended from French Jews. R. Elia Bochur uses the French origin of some contemporary Ashkenazim to explain the pronunciation of קרובץ, which he explains as deriving from the French pronunciation of ת רפה. Historians believe that the common origin of Ashkenazim is in Italy, where they spread to the Rhineland, and from there to places all over medieval Germany and France, aka Ashkenaz.

  10. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    S. –

    Greetings, and many thanks for the פירסום and your learned comments.

    Actually, I erred somewhat in the above post (not in a major way), I left out part of what רבש”ה said about this matter, which is relevant to your comment, and בלי נדר I will rectify the omission shortly.

    But for now I will comment briefly on what you wrote here.

    “The Rema, for example, was of the belief that he (and many others in Central Europe of his time) were descended from French Jews.”

    Can you give a source where the Rama states this? I know that the Rama uses the expression אנו בני אשכנז.

    To be continued….

  11. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    “Incidentally, it is not a given that the common origin of Ashkenazim is in Germany by any means. The Rema, for example, was of the belief that he (and many others in Central Europe of his time) were descended from French Jews. R. Elia Bochur uses the French origin of some contemporary Ashkenazim to explain the pronunciation of קרובץ, which he explains as deriving from the French pronunciation of ת רפה.”

    Perhaps it needs to be clarified if we are talking about present-day Ashkenazic Jews, or Ashkenazic Jews many centuries ago. In terms of present day Ashkenazic Jews, I think it is very doubtful that there are any that totally French, and have no German Ashkenaz in their family background. Would you not agree? Now if people have various roots and influences in their family tree, there is another question re what they are considered, and which they follow. But if they self-identify as Ashkenazim, that says something important, does it not?

    Re the old yishuv in France, which came to an end about eight hundred years ago if I recall correctly, they were intimately connected with the yishuv in Ashkenaz (Germany). Rashi studied in a German Yeshiva.

    I am not the greatest expert in these matters, but have picked up some knowledge about them from רבש”ה and others.

    “Historians believe that the common origin of Ashkenazim is in Italy, where they spread to the Rhineland, and from there to places all over medieval Germany and France, aka Ashkenaz.”

    Okay, good, I think we can agree on that. The רוקח relates how the Jews came to Germany from Italy.

  12. S. Says:

    Hi Treasures of Ashkenaz (if that is how I should address you).

    First, I would encourage you to look at the entry for קרבץ in the Tishbi

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=11940&pgnum=165

    he writes that הנה ידוע כי אנחנו האשכנזים באנו מגזע הצרפתים, and then refers to the expulsion from France in 1306.

    I can’t find the Rema at the moment, but I will give it some attention this shabbos. Assuming of course that I can prove my assertion, the point is that what we call “Ashkenaz” really came from France and Germany, even though the name “Ashkenaz” itself came to mean Germany – which is no difficulty, since Jews in Poland also were called Ashkenazim.

    A lot of people don’t realize that what we call Yekkes today were not continuously living in Germany since the early Middle Ages. The Jews were expelled and barred from Germany numerous times, and moved to Central or Eastern Europe. Many of them returned to Germany in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Golden Age of Yekkesche Jewry stems from them. Just as one tiny example, could there be someone more German than Moses Mendelssohn? He was descended from the Rema and Saul Wahl, very Poylische.

    I don’t think we’re really disagreeing, but I’m just trying to point out that the historical Ashkenaz really encompassed France too, and even though all of Ashkenazdom is today mixed up and we are all descended from many sources, we shouldn’t let the name itself fool us. Just to take myself as a personal example, I am in no way a Yekke. On one side of my family, the most recent way station is Rumania/ Hungary. On the other side I’ve got Yerushalmi Perushim and Warshawers. Yet I am descended from the Haham Sebi and a famous Ah”u-Berlin poet as well, so I’ve got real Yekke blood. That’s just the way things go.🙂

  13. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    “Hi Treasures of Ashkenaz (if that is how I should address you).” TOA is okay.😉

    “A lot of people don’t realize that what we call Yekkes today were not continuously living in Germany since the early Middle Ages. The Jews were expelled and barred from Germany numerous times, and moved to Central or Eastern Europe. Many of them returned to Germany in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Golden Age of Yekkesche Jewry stems from them.”

    I heard from רבש”ה that if we look at the history of Europe, we find that the Jews were expelled from England totally, from Spain totally, from France totally, only from Germany were they never expelled totally. They were expelled from local regions and they moved from one place to another (that does not contradict the fact that some moved to other lands as well).

    True that there was movement both ways at various times over the centuries.

  14. Shneur Says:

    You should add Italy to European communities that have/had Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities. Nor were Sephardic communities free of Ashkenazim. In fact, 15th century Spain had an Ashkenazi community as described by Avraham Haim Freiman in his book about the Rosh and the Tuhrim and their followers who left Germany and moved to Spain.

    But the minority of Spanish Jewish exiles who actually went to Eastern Europe, what ever happened to them? There appear to be hints in names – like Shneur (Senor), Shprintza (Esperanza), Yenta (Gentilla) and others – but what ever happened to “Eastern European Sephardim” as a community?

מה אתה חושב? וואס זאגט איהר - What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: