Last updated on: 5/16/2008 | Author:

Who Are the Ashkenazi Jews?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)


This site was archived on Aug. 3, 2021. The two-state solution is no longer the most popular solution among the jurisdictions involved. A reconsideration of the topic is possible in the future.

Chaim Potok, PhD, the late author, in his 1978 book about the history of the Jews titled Wanderings, wrote:

“The word Ashkenaz appears in the Bible a number of times and seems to refer to a land and a people bordering on the upper Euphrates and Armenia. No one knows how and when it first came to be used of the Jewish community of Germany and northern France. Today the term embraces all of European Jewry north of Italy and Spain, including Jews and the descendants of Jews from Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. It designates the civilization of the Jews who wandered for centuries through the chill world of Europe and is used in contradistinction to Sephardic, the form taken by rabbinic civilization during its encounter with the world of Spain.”


David K. Shipler, MA, author and journalist, in his 2002 book Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, wrote:

“The Ashkenazim are Jews with origins in Europe and North America; some of their fathers and grandfathers settled as the original Zionist pioneers in Palestine before the creation of the Jewish state.”


Dilip Hiro, author and journalist, in his 2003 book The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide, wrote the following description of Ashkenazi Jews:

“Literally, the term [Ashkenazim] applies to all those from Germany; but in practice, from the ninth century onward it increasingly meant German Jews and their descendants, including those who had left the German lands. They are different from the jews originating in Spain and Portugal, called Sephardim, in their pronunciation of Hebrew, their prayer rituals, and their mother tongue, Yiddish.

Until the late fifteenth century Ashkenazim and Sephardim were almost equal in number but by the late 1920’s about 90 percent of the 16.5 million Jews world wide, were Ashkenazim, a term now applied to Jews of northern or central European origin. Following the Holocaust during the Second World War, which resulted in the death of some six million Jews, the remaining 9.5 million Ashkenazim constituted 82 percent of the global Jewish population of 11.5 million. At the founding of Israel in 1948, Ashkenazim made up 80 percent of its Jewish population. However, due to the large intake of Jews from Arab states and higher birth rate among them and Sephardim, the proportion of Ashkenazim in the Israeli Jewish population had fallen below 50 percent by the mid-1960’s. Nowadays, due to the large-scale emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union from 1990-99, Ashkenazim have acquired a narrow majority in Israel.”