View Full Version : Sephardim and Ashkenazim appearance differences... what cause?
05-02-2003, 06:48 PM
The Sephardim, as a general rule, tend to be of a darker complexion overall than the Ashkenazim.
Do the differences among these groupings come from intermarriage within the groups within which they historically were found, or is it due to a sort of "natural selection" that is the root cause behind different tones of complexion. Or, is it a mix of the two (I am unsure how exclusively the two groups avoided intermarriage among surrounding populations)
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
05-02-2003, 07:20 PM
? :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused:
Once more please, in English?
Could you please define your terms?
05-02-2003, 07:30 PM
My guess would be intermarriage. Check in on the Jews of Shanghai again in 500 years and you'll see a lot more traditionally Asian features.
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor, Sephardim=Mediterranean Jewry, particularly the Middle East, Norht Africa, Spain, Portugal. Ashkenazi=Eastern European Jewry, esp. Russian, German, Polish, etc.
05-02-2003, 09:09 PM
Right... let me clarify
I'm wondering if the differences are primarily due to:
1. Intermarriage with other groups in their respective areas.
2. Natural Selection due to conditions in areas (e.g. the Sephardic Jews would presumably need more resistance to the stronger southern sun, while the Ashkenazi jews would need to be able to absorb vitamins from what sunlight is available, which I believe is one of the traditional hypothesis on difference in skin and hair tones)
- this idea assumes the condition that the exclusive religious community would shun intermarriage.
3. A combination of the two.
05-02-2003, 09:10 PM
I'd say different origins. I've read that some theorize most Ashkenazi Jews are descended from the Khazars, while Sephardic Jews are more Middle Eastern. So you'd have distinct looks originally, and you'd have (generally) intermarriage with rather different-looking people.
05-02-2003, 09:24 PM
Well, I think it's a complex mix of things, and that people moved around a lot more in ancient times than we often think they did. For example, both sides of my family are Ashkenazic, and the farthest south they have lived as far back as I've traced so far is a small town near the Slovak border in Poland. However, my dad's side, especially, is rather Mediteranean in appearance, especially my late paternal grandfather. Oddly enough, he is the one whose family is from the farthest north (most recently, Riga, Latvia).
Of course, I have to throw another theory out there which might explain at least one aspect: don't forget about the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian peninsula in 1492. Many of them migrated into Western Europe, and then farther east into Central and Eastern Europe. One theory about why some Baltic Jews are on the dark side (complexion-wise) is that they are descendants of those expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.
If you want more info about Jewish geneaology than you could ever hope to absorbe, check out www.jewishgen.com, and do a search on some of the regional listservs.
05-02-2003, 09:25 PM
Oops; I meant to type www.jewishgen.org. They are a nonprofit organization, kind of the 800-pound gorillas of Jewish geneaology sites.
05-02-2003, 11:11 PM
Providing the initial assumption regarding skin shade is true, (and I am not aware that it is), I suspect that it would be a founder effect from the earliest marriages of Jewish immigrants to different regions.
There were several articles out a couple of years ago that addressed studies done on Jewish patrilineal descent (Y-chromosome) and matrilineal descent (mtDNA) indicating that Jewish (male) traders or immigrants took local wives in some regions, leading to different Jewish communities.
This article provides a decent synopsis of the studies. (http://www.racesci.org/in_media/raceanddna/dna_jewish_nyt_May2002.htm)
Despite some imaginative reconstruction of history by Arthur Koestler in his The Thirteenth Tribe, there is no evidence that the Khazars "became" the Ashkenazi (although there may be some small overlap in the populations). The genetic studies mentioned above indicate that the founders of the Ashkenazim were immigrants from Germanic Europe, not from the Crimea. The Khazars most likely were simply assimilated by the various peoples that overran their land, with some few of them moving north to live among the Rus and others moving to the Danube valley, but neither in sufficient quantity to have a significant impact on the development of Jewish communities in Slavic lands.
While there are Sephardim who moved to Iran and Iraq and Turkey after the expulsion from Spain, and many others moved to North Africa and to the Netherlands, there is no evidence that they replaced the Jewish communities in the region of Jerusalem. There were already Jewish communities in Iraq and Iran, as well, (although they were much smaller than they had been five hundred years earlier). The Jews who never left what is now Israel are/were the Mizrahim and the Jews of Iraq are probably a mixture of Mizrahim and Sephardim.
05-03-2003, 03:27 AM
Tom, also bear in mind that Mizrahim and Sephardim often overlap - in fact, I'd say that most Sephardim are also Mizrahim.
To those of you who have no idea what we are talking about: Sepharadim are descended from the great Jewish community of Spain, exiled by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. The Mizrahim ("Easterns") are Jews who - until recently - lived in Muslim countries (most of them now live in Israel).
05-03-2003, 05:04 AM
You ought to consider the Cochin Jews of Kerala, in southwestern India. The Jewish community there is about 2,000 years old. Some of them are called "Black Jews" and others are called "White Jews." Explain that.
05-03-2003, 06:05 AM
I'm not sure if I am recalling this correctly, but I believe that a genetic study undertaken on some Ashkenzi Jews from Eastern Russia confirmed that they shred more markers with Palestinians and Sephardim than with the surrounding Russians.
Confirming that they did indeed have much more of a genetic link to the Middle East than was supposed.
(On a side note, my maternal grandfather was born in Germany in 1899, the product of a Sephardim/Ashkenazi intermarriage. Despite my maternal grandmother's German/Irish ancestry and my father's very Scots /Irish ancestry, my sisters and I are all very dark, my sister has "asian" eyes. His genes seem to have been very dominant.)
05-03-2003, 06:06 AM
AH! SHARED not shred!
05-03-2003, 03:44 PM
I am too lazy to find it, but several months ago, the Science Times (the Tuesday Science supplement of the New York Times) had an interesting article that bears on this point. First off, the phenomenon is true. Both my wife and I have blond, blue-eyed people in our family and one of our children is a blue-eyed nearly platinum blond. My wife and all three children have very pale skin that does not tan, although I am quite a bit darker. That is just two families, but I think the phenomenon is real enough.
Now getting back to the Science Times article. The gist of it is that among Askenazi Jews, the Y chrosome is almost pure Middle-Eastern origin, while the mitochondrial DNA is most often of northern European origin. Now the Y chromosome is passed exclusively in the male line, while mitochondrial DNA is passed exclusively in the female line. All other DNA is a mixture of the male and female lines. So this does NOT mean, as some have interpreted, that women are predomintaly of European descent and men of Middle-Eastern descent. But it does mean that Ashkenazi in general seem to be descended from mixed marriages of Jewish men and European women. There was a conjecture that the men came as traders and stayed and married local women. It is as good an explanation as any. The result would be a mixture in which there were light and dark skins and everything in between. If the same thing happened to the Sephardim, they would have married dark Mediterranean types.
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