Ashkenazi Jews

Ashkenazi Jews
(יהודי אשכנז Y'hudey Ashkenaz in Ashkenazi Hebrew)
Total population
10[1]–11.2[2] million
Regions with significant populations
 United States5–6 million[3]
 Israel2.8 million[1][4]
 United Kingdom260,000
 South Africa80,000
 New Zealand5,000
 Czech Republic3,000
Modern: Local languages, primarily English, Hebrew, Russian
Judaism, some secular, irreligious
Related ethnic groups
Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Samaritans,[6][6][7][8] Kurds,[8] other Levantines (Druze, Assyrians,[6][7] Arabs[6][7][9][10]), Mediterranean groups (Italians,[11][12] Spaniards[13])[14][15][16][17]
The Jews in Central Europe (1881)

Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or simply Ashkenazim (Hebrew: אַשְׁכְּנַזִּים‬, Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation: [ˌaʃkəˈnazim], singular: [ˌaʃkəˈnazi], Modern Hebrew: [aʃkenaˈzim, aʃkenaˈzi]; also יְהוּדֵי אַשְׁכְּנַזY'hudey Ashkenaz),[18] are a Jewish diaspora population who coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the first millennium.[19]

The traditional diaspora language of Ashkenazi Jews is Yiddish (a Germanic language with elements of Hebrew and Aramaic), with Hebrew used only as a sacred language until the revival of Hebrew as a common language. Throughout their time in Europe, Ashkenazim have made many important contributions to its philosophy, scholarship, literature, art, music and science.[20][21][22][23]

The term "Ashkenazi" refers to Jewish settlers who established communities along the Rhine River in Western Germany and in Northern France dating back to the Middle Ages.[24] Once there, they adapted traditions from Babylon, The Holy Land, and the Western Mediterranean to their new environment.[25] The Ashkenazi religious rite developed in cities such as Mainz, Worms, and Troyes. The eminent French Rishon Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki (Rashi) would have a significant impact on the Jewish religion.

In the late Middle Ages, the majority of the Ashkenazi population shifted steadily eastward,[26] moving out of the Holy Roman Empire into the areas later comprised in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (comprising parts of present-day Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine).[27][28] In the course of the late 18th and 19th centuries, those Jews who remained in or returned to the German lands experienced a cultural reorientation; under the influence of the Haskalah and the struggle for emancipation, as well as the intellectual and cultural ferment in urban centers, they gradually abandoned the use of Yiddish, while developing new forms of Jewish religious life and cultural identity.[29]

The Holocaust had a devastating impact on the Ashkenazim, affecting almost every Jewish family.[30][31] It is estimated that in the 11th century Ashkenazi Jews composed only three percent of the world's total Jewish population, while an estimate made in 1930 (near the population's peak) had them as 92 percent of the world's Jews.[32] Immediately prior to the Holocaust, the number of Jews in the world stood at approximately 16.7 million.[33] Statistical figures vary for the contemporary demography of Ashkenazi Jews, ranging from 10 million[1] to 11.2 million.[2] Sergio Della Pergola in a rough calculation of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, implies that Ashkenazi Jews make up less than 74% of Jews worldwide.[34] Other estimates place Ashkenazi Jews as making up about 75% of Jews worldwide.[35]

Genetic studies on Ashkenazim—researching both their paternal and maternal lineages—suggest a predominant amount of shared Middle Eastern ancestry, complemented by varying percentages of European admixture. These studies have arrived at diverging conclusions regarding both the degree and the sources of their European ancestry, and have generally focused on the extent of the European genetic origin observed in Ashkenazi maternal lineages.[36] Ashkenazi Jews are popularly contrasted with Sephardi Jews (also called Sephardim), who descend from Jews who settled in the Iberian Peninsula, and Mizrahi Jews, who descend from Jews who remained in the Middle East.


The name Ashkenazi derives from the biblical figure of Ashkenaz, the first son of Gomer, son of Japhet, son of Noah, and a Japhetic patriarch in the Table of Nations (Genesis 10). The name of Gomer has often been linked to the ethnonym Cimmerians. Biblical Ashkenaz is usually derived from Assyrian Aškūza (cuneiform Aškuzai/Iškuzai), a people who expelled the Cimmerians from the Armenian area of the Upper Euphrates,[37] whose name is usually associated with the name of the Scythians.[38][39] The intrusive n in the Biblical name is likely due to a scribal error confusing a waw ו with a nun נ.[39][40][41]

In Jeremiah 51:27, Ashkenaz figures as one of three kingdoms in the far north, the others being Minni and Ararat, perhaps corresponding to Urartu, called on by God to resist Babylon.[41][42]

In the Yoma tractate of the Babylonian Talmud the name Gomer is rendered as Germania, which elsewhere in rabbinical literature was identified with Germanikia in northwestern Syria, but later became associated with Germania. Ashkenaz is linked to Scandza/Scanzia, viewed as the cradle of Germanic tribes, as early as a 6th-century gloss to the Historia Ecclesiastica of Eusebius.[43] In the 10th-century History of Armenia of Yovhannes Drasxanakertc'i (1.15) Ashkenaz was associated with Armenia,[44] as it was occasionally in Jewish usage, where its denotation extended at times to Adiabene, Khazaria, Crimea and areas to the east.[45] His contemporary Saadia Gaon identified Ashkenaz with the Saquliba or Slavic territories,[46] and such usage covered also the lands of tribes neighboring the Slavs, and Eastern and Central Europe.[45] In modern times, Samuel Krauss identified the Biblical "Ashkenaz" with Khazaria.[47]

Sometime in the early medieval period, the Jews of central and eastern Europe came to be called by this term.[41] Conforming to the custom of designating areas of Jewish settlement with biblical names, Spain was denominated Sefarad (Obadiah 20), France was called Tsarefat (1 Kings 17:9), and Bohemia was called the Land of Canaan.[48] By the high medieval period, Talmudic commentators like Rashi began to use Ashkenaz/Eretz Ashkenaz to designate Germany, earlier known as Loter,[41][43] where, especially in the Rhineland communities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz, the most important Jewish communities arose.[49] Rashi uses leshon Ashkenaz (Ashkenazi language) to describe German speech, and Byzantium and Syrian Jewish letters referred to the Crusaders as Ashkenazim.[43] Given the close links between the Jewish communities of France and Germany following the Carolingian unification, the term Ashkenazi came to refer to both the Jews of medieval Germany and France.[50]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Asjkenasi-Jode
Alemannisch: Aschkenasim
العربية: يهود أشكناز
aragonés: Axkenazís
azərbaycanca: Aşkenazi yəhudiləri
беларуская: Ашкеназы
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Ашкеназы
български: Ашкенази
català: Asquenazites
Deutsch: Aschkenasim
Ελληνικά: Ασκεναζίτες
español: Asquenazí
Esperanto: Aŝkenazoj
euskara: Askenazi
فارسی: اشکنازی
français: Ashkénaze
galego: Asquenací
Հայերեն: Աշկենազներ
hrvatski: Aškenazi
Bahasa Indonesia: Yahudi Ashkenazi
italiano: Aschenaziti
ქართული: აშქენაზები
Кыргызча: Ашкеназдар
Ladino: Ashkenazim
لۊری شومالی: ٱشکنازی
Latina: Aschenates
latviešu: Aškenazi
magyar: Askenázik
Bahasa Melayu: Yahudi Ashkenaz
norsk: Askenaser
norsk nynorsk: Askenasar
occitan: Ashkenazim
Plattdüütsch: Aschkenasim
português: Asquenazes
română: Evrei așkenazi
русский: Ашкеназы
Simple English: Ashkenazi Jews
slovenčina: Aškenázski Židia
slovenščina: Aškenazi
српски / srpski: Ашкенази
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Aškenazi
svenska: Ashkenazer
Türkçe: Aşkenaz
українська: Ашкеназі
ייִדיש: אשכנזים