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Thread: Could Western Jews (Ash. and Seph.) descend from Aegeans and Levantine admixture?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonahst View Post
    Are there any historical records of Greek or Anatolian Jews moving in large numbers to North Africa?
    There was a very big Hellenistic Jewish community in Cyrene, Libya, according to numerous sources. The thing is, I've always though that because Libyan and Tunisian Jews seem to cluster as Levantines, and presuming most of them descend from Egyptian Jews, coupled with the fact that MODERN Copts have no Greek admixture, that the Hellenisitc Jews in North Africa admixed with localized Hellenized North Africans, rather than actual Greco-Romans.

    According to wikipedia:

    Ethnic, cultural, and social tensions within the Hellenistic Jewish world were partly overcome by the emergence of a new, typically Antiochian, Middle-Eastern Greek doctrine (doxa), either by

    1. established, autochthonous Hellenized Cilician-Western Syrian Jews,
    2. heathen, 'Classical' Greeks, Macedonian Greeks and Greco-Syrian gentiles, or
    3. the local, autochthonous descendants of Greek or Greco-Syrian converts to mainstream Judaism – known as proselytes (Greek: προσήλυτος/proselytes) and Greek-speaking Jews born of mixed marriages.
    Their efforts were probably facilitated by the arrival of a fourth wave of Greek-speaking newcomers to Cilicia/Southern Turkey and Northwestern Syria: Cypriot Jews and 'Cyrenian' (Libyan) Jewish migrants of non-Egyptian North African Jewish origin, as well as gentile Roman settlers from Italy—many of whom already spoke fluent Koine Greek and/or sent their children to Greek schools. Some scholars believe that, at the time, these Cypriot and Cyrenian North African Jewish migrants, such as Simon of Cyrene, were generally less affluent than the autochthonous Cilician-Syrian Jews and practiced a more 'liberal' form of Judaism, more propitious for the formation of a new canon:

    "[North African] Cyrenian Jews were of sufficient importance in those days to have their name associated with a synagogue at Jerusalem (Acts 6:9). And when the persecution arose about Stephen [a Hellenized Syrian-Cilician Jew], some of these Jews of Cyrene who had been converted at Jerusalem, were scattered abroad and came with others to Antioch and [initially] preached the word "unto the Jews only" (Acts 11:19, 20 the King James Version), and one of them, Lucius, became a prophet in the early church there [the nascent Greek 'Orthodox' community of Antioch]".

    — International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
    So if there was intermarriage and geneflow between Cilician Greco-Syrian Jews and those Cyrenian Jews, it could explain this as well.
    Last edited by Erikl86; 10-17-2018 at 06:50 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erikl86 View Post
    There was a very big Hellenistic Jewish community in Cyrene, Libya, according to numerous sources. The thing is, I've always though that because Libyan and Tunisian Jews seem to cluster as Levantines, and presuming most of them descend from Egyptian Jews, coupled with the fact that MODERN Copts have no Greek admixture, that the Hellenisitc Jews in North Africa admixed with localized Hellenized North Africans, rather than actual Greco-Romans.

    So if there was intermarriage and geneflow between Cilician Greco-Syrian Jews and those Cyrenian Jews, it could explain this as well.
    It seems there were also many Italian Jewish families who settled in Benghazi under the Ottomans, though I can't find a number so I don't know how much impact this would've had on the overall Jewish population in Libya. Probably not much.
    Last edited by jonahst; 10-17-2018 at 07:43 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrewid View Post
    Thanks for this most comprehensive response Erik. I shall pass on what you say to an English friend who has learnt Hebrew and is interested in these sociolinguistic aspects too. In Greece, accents have become almost a matter of class/education with a few exceptions. The Cyprus accent, however, is very marked even when speaking the standard form, as is the Cypriot propensity to add a final 'n' to nouns which is very Byzantine or archaic. Some Cretans, particularly from rural areas, have strong accents too, as do some northerners, such as Epirotes. Ionian islanders are meant to have a more sing-song style to their twang. Certain Salonikans can be caught out through certain give-aways- such as the use of a velarised hard or 'dark' lamda, which some assume is a relic of Slavic influence, or the use of a direct rather than indirect object in for example 'να σε πω' rather than the orthodox 'να σου πω'.

    I know all of this a somewhat off-topic, but hopefully of sufficient general interest
    While I agree with most of what Erik wrote, he did omit one very important detail which I (as a student in linguistics) cannot help but focus on. In Hebrew, there is an accusative marker אֶת ʔet which is placed before a definite object, the definite article in Hebrew is -הַ ha-. In Modern Hebrew (which is best described as a koiné vis-à-vis several layers and forms of Hebrew), the glottal aspirate is very often elided when unstressed, and stress falls either on the penultimate or the final syllable, so never on the definite article. This is why both ʔet and ha- are increasingly fused together and reduced to ta-, so for example if we take a sentence like "I broke the glass" most Hebrew speakers would pronounce this as "šavarti takos" (שברתי תכוס) and not "šavarti ʔet hakos" (שברתי את הכוס).

    Now you might assume that this ʔet ha- > ta change is idiosyncratic and peculiar to Modern Hebrew, and you could be forgiven for thinking so considering all the strange claims surrounding this language (I myself fixed the Modern Hebrew article on Wikipedia when it was vandalised for several years by political activists who messed with the classification section)... But it is quite ancient in fact, it is consistently found in ancient documents dating to the first centuries CE, the best example IMO are the Bar Kokhba letters, for instance here's Papyrus Murabba'at 43, written by Bar Kokhba himself:



    • Transcription: משמעון בן כוסבה לישע בן ג[ל]גלה ולאנשי הכרך שלו[ם] מעיד אני עלי תשמים יפס[ד] מן הגללאים שאצלכם כל אדם שאני נתן תכבלים ברגלכם כמה שעסת[י] לבן עפלול
    • Translation: From Shim'on ben Kosiba to Yeshua ben Ga[l]gulah and to the men of your company, greetings. I swear by the heavens that should harm co[me] to any of the Galileans who are among you, I shall put your feet in shackles as I di[d] to Ben Aflul.


    Instead of את השמים "ʔet hašamayim" ([...] the heavens) we have תשמים "tašamayim", and instead of את הכבלים "ʔet hakḇalim" ([...] the shackles) we have תכבלים "takḇalim".

    What this means is that Modern Hebrew is, in a sense, "picking up" where the language's morphophonological development ceased. This phenomenon, one of normal phonological evolution in a language that has had virtually no first language speakers for some 1,800 years, is unique.
    Last edited by Agamemnon; 10-18-2018 at 01:25 PM.
    ᾽Άλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω, σὺ δ᾽ ἐνὶ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσιν:
    κρύβδην, μηδ᾽ ἀναφανδά, φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν
    νῆα κατισχέμεναι: ἐπεὶ οὐκέτι πιστὰ γυναιξίν.


    -Αγαμέμνων; H Οδύσσεια, Ραψωδία λ

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    And we missed another opportunity to get Roman-era Jewish aDNA

    https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/...rome-1.6567514

    Archaeologists racing to save a vulnerable and rapidly disintegrating 2,000-year old Jewish catacomb in Rome gave in to pressure from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group and let them rebury the bones found within, not allowing their study. The decision spurred outrage among some scientists who protested in frustration as the bones were resealed in their tombs, putting the remains beyond the reach of curious researchers forever.

    The Italian authorities and the archaeologists involved rebut that the compromise was necessary in order to save the site, which had begun to decay rapidly after its exposure.

    Meanwhile, new discoveries made in the process of restoring the underground cemetery highlight the importance and prosperity of the Jewish community in the capital of the Roman empire, as well as the surprising extent to which their culture was intertwined with that of pagans and Christians.
    The disappointing part:

    Over the last year, Italian authorities allowed Atra Kadisha - a small ultra-Orthodox group that took upon itself to protect Jewish graves wherever they might be - to collect the human remains at Villa Torlonia and reseal them in the loculi.

    Bones, and the DNA they contain, can help date a site or answer questions like where people came from, what illnesses they suffered from and what they ate. The decision to surrender this scientific treasure trove angered many experts, dozens of whom signed petitions to the Culture Ministry asking for the reburials to be stopped.
    So another great opportunity to get aDNA of Roman-era Jewish was lost :/ .

    The article also, again, mentions the Greek nature of the early Jewish community of Rome:

    The preliminary work has meanwhile turned up new discoveries, such as the only Hebrew inscription found in the catacomb. Most of the writing in the cemetery is in Greek – the lingua franca of early diaspora Jews and Hellenistic-era Israel – and some is in Latin.
    Hopefully, one day, we'll get to have aDNA of Jews without any of these problems.
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    As one door closes another always opens - we just might get aDNA from Maltese Jews!

    Ancient Catacombs On Malta Reveal Christians, Jews, And Pagans Were Buried Together


    Deep underground in the middle of the tiny island country of Malta lies a series of ancient catacombs, communal burial grounds that date back millennia. Malta has always been a way-station on journeys between Africa and southern Europe, with extraordinary diversity in its past and current inhabitants. The catacombs were no different, revealing that Pagans, Christians, and Jews were buried side-by-side during their use as burial places.


    Read more here:

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristin.../#7742a3e63f9e

    And the exciting part:

    Several of the catacombs contain Jewish symbols, such as the menorah, suggesting that Jews and Christians lived together on Malta in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and buried their dead in common ground. As modern excavations and analyses have gone forward, Mercieca-Spiteri has worked with the modern Jewish community on Malta to balance archaeological research with religious ethics.

    In 2010, representatives of international Jewish communities protested in order to convince the Maltese government not to allow human bones in the catacombs to be interfered with. Whereas Heritage Malta wished to examine and record every bone, the Jewish community objected. Eventually, a compromise was reached in which archaeologists could study the bones and the remains would be reinterred per Jewish tradition. Although the identification of Jewish burials is based on the presence of four inscribed menorahs and not the bones themselves, Mercieca-Spiteri told me that it is important in her job to "work with the Jewish community rather than react negatively; we need to be more forward-thinking and less scared of interacting."
    Seems like where there's a will, there's a way - finally one site when there's an agreement between science and religion on this specific matter. The result is we just might get ancient DNA from Maltese Jewish community, dated to the 4th-5th centuries AD !

    Hopefully, before my kid will have kids of his own.
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    I found this short but interesting piece on the history of the Jews of Greece. It can be found on the website of KIS, which is the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. It's written by Victor Eliezer, who is one of the editors of the Athenian Jewish magazine 'Alef'.

    Eliezer writes the following: "The first Greek Jew known by name was 'Moschos, son of Moschion the Jew', a slave identified in an inscription dated approximately 300 - 250 B.C. found in Oropos, a small coastal town 40 klm from Athens. It could be assumed that as a result of frequent Jewish movement through Greece, a Jewish Community was eventually established. This community is believed to have grown further after the Hasmonean uprising (142 B.C.) when many Jews were sold into slavery in Greece."

    Friends of mine actually have a house in Oropos, but I had no idea until now of its Jewish historical significance when visiting.

    It seems highly likely that the flow of Hellenistic Jews to continental Greece and other areas also increased following other rebellions such as the Kitos uprising of 116-117 CE. The number of gentiles killed in Cyprus has been placed at 240,000 by Dio Cassius, which is obviously a gross exaggeration. But these inflated figures, and other sources, do attest to Jewish strength on the island and that there was a sizeable Cypriot Jewish community at this time. The historical record is clear about one thing: the Romans sought huge reprisals against the Cypriot Jews after the rebellion was quelled, and the Romans even went as far as issuing an edict, forbidding Jews from residing in Cyprus thereafter. What happened to the large Jewish community of Cyprus in terms of those surviving the Roman onslaught? Many must have fled as refugees, or were enslaved like those following the Hasmonean uprising and taken to other parts of the empire, and suffered the same fate as Moschos circa 300 BCE. Some would have converted or, as one author speculates, entered a period of crypto-Judaism.

    Thus these forced migrations of Hellenistic Jews may well have added to the eventual Romaniote gene pool, together with local conversions and migrations from Judea itself. The migrations would have provided a constant flow to Jewish communities generally, eventually giving rise to the Mozabite Jews, and of course, to the Sephardim and Ashkenazim. I readily admit to a Cyprocentric bias, but can we easily dismiss the undoubted influx of a significant number of Cypriot Jews in areas further west following 117 CE? And could these Jews have been carrying genes quite similar to the local Cypriot Greeks? The comments of our forum Jewish history experts would be appreciated

    https://kis.gr/en/index.php?option=c...5-34&Itemid=34
    Last edited by Andrewid; 10-18-2018 at 10:10 PM.

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    http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/2018...dieval-spanish

    An interesting read from BBC Travel today on the last four Ladino-speakers of Sarajevo and the Sephardi community generally in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrewid View Post
    I found this short but interesting piece on the history of the Jews of Greece. It can be found on the website of KIS, which is the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. It's written by Victor Eliezer, who is one of the editors of the Athenian Jewish magazine 'Alef'.

    Eliezer writes the following: "The first Greek Jew known by name was 'Moschos, son of Moschion the Jew', a slave identified in an inscription dated approximately 300 - 250 B.C. found in Oropos, a small coastal town 40 klm from Athens. It could be assumed that as a result of frequent Jewish movement through Greece, a Jewish Community was eventually established. This community is believed to have grown further after the Hasmonean uprising (142 B.C.) when many Jews were sold into slavery in Greece."

    Friends of mine actually have a house in Oropos, but I had no idea until now of its Jewish historical significance when visiting.

    It seems highly likely that the flow of Hellenistic Jews to continental Greece and other areas also increased following other rebellions such as the Kitos uprising of 116-117 CE. The number of Jews killed in Cyprus has been placed at 240,000 by Dio Cassius, which is obviously a gross exaggeration. But the figures, and other sources, do suggest a considerable Cypriot Jewish community at this time. The historical record is clear about one thing: the Romans sought huge reprisals against the Cypriot Jews after the rebellion was quelled, and the Romans even went as far as issuing an edict, forbidding Jews from residing in Cyprus thereafter. What happened to the large Jewish community of Cyprus in terms of those surviving the Roman onslaught? Many must have fled as refugees, or were enslaved like those following the Hasmonean uprising and taken to other parts of the empire, and suffered the same fate as Moschos circa 300 BCE. Some would have converted or, as one author speculates, entered a period of crypto-Judaism.

    Thus these forced migrations of Hellenistic Jews may well have added to the eventual Romaniote gene pool, together with local conversions and migrations from Judea itself. The migrations would have provided a constant flow to Jewish communities generally, eventually giving rise to the Mozabite Jews, and of course, to the Sephardim and Ashkenazim. I readily admit to a Cyprocentric bias, but can we easily dismiss the undoubted influx of a significant number of Cypriot Jews in areas further west following 117 CE? And could these Jews have been carrying genes quite similar to the local Cypriot Greeks? The comments of our forum Jewish history experts would be appreciated

    https://kis.gr/en/index.php?option=c...5-34&Itemid=34
    Andrewid, thanks for sharing this.

    The Kitos war, or how we call it in Hebrew - מרד התפוצות - literally means "rebellion of the diasporas", undoubtedly worsened the situation of Jews, Hellenistic and non-Hellenistic alike, throughout the Roman Empire. It's also one of the reasons why in the second Judean rebellion in 135 AD, the Romans attempted to completely uproot any Jewish sense of identity, by renaming Provincia Iudea to Palaestina, and transforming Jerusalem to Aeolia Capitoline with a temple for Jupiter.

    I don't know if the origin of many of these Hellenistic Jews would be from Cyprus (or Cyrene, which also had huge Hellenistic Jewish population that participated in that war), but given the location of Cyprus itself, and it's proximity to one of the largest most important Hellenistic cities in the East Mediterranean at the time - Antioch:



    I would imagine there was considerable connection between Cypriot Greeks and Antioch at that time - thus the Hellenic populations probably intermarried extensively (merchants and families moving to Antioch and people from Antioch trading and travelling to Antioch). Given the importance of Antioch in Hellenistic Judaism, and the fact that there were many Greek proselytes from Antioch, then there is a chance that the Hellenic admixture that many Hellenistic Jews received, was also added to Cypriots as well. Quoting Josephus:

    For as the Jewish nation is widely dispersed over all the habitable earth, among its inhabitants; so is it very much intermingled with Syria, by reason of its neighbourhood; and had the greatest multitudes in Antioch, by reason of the largeness of the city: wherein the Kings, after Antiochus, had afforded them an habitation, with the most undisturbed tranquillity. For though Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, laid Jerusalem waste, and spoiled the temple; yet did those that succeeded him in the Kingdom restore all the donations that were made of brass to the Jews of Antioch, and dedicated them to their synagogue, and granted them the enjoyment of equal privileges of citizens with the Greeks themselves. And as the succeeding Kings treated them after the same manner, they both multiplied to a great number, and adorned their temple gloriously by fine ornaments, and with great magnificence, in the use of what had been given them. They also made proselytes of a great many of the Greeks perpetually; and thereby, after a sort, brought them to be a portion of their own body.
    -Josephus, Of the War, Book VII, Chapter 3.
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    Most Rabbinic texts call the Kitos War ״פולמוס קיטוס״ Pulmos Kitos The Kitos (Quietus) Conflict
    Last edited by Targum; 10-18-2018 at 06:48 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Targum View Post
    Most Rabbinic texts call the Kitos War ״פולמוס קיטוס״ Pulmos Kitos The Kitos (Quietus) Conflict
    I thought Pulmos Kitos was the minor rebellion that was on going at the same time in Judea as the Kitos War in the diaspora, not the name of the disapora rebellion itself, but my memory perhaps betrays me.

    In any case, on another subject, just for fun, and to show how preposterous the often used qpAdm model of Ashkenazi Jews as half Levantine, half North Italians, here are some nMonte ADMIXTURE modeling of Romaniote Jews, Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazi Jews:

    Romaniote:

    [1] "distance%=1.6254"

    Romaniote_Jew

    Samaritan,56.2
    Italian_Tuscan,43.8


    Sephardi:

    [1] "distance%=2.0385"

    Sephardic_Jew

    Italian_Tuscan,51
    Samaritan,49


    Ashkenazi:

    [1] "distance%=1.9863"

    Ashkenazi_Jew

    Italian_Bergamo,50
    Samaritan,50


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