Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Are Ashkenazim - Ashkenazim?
My blog friend Anonymous doubts my assessment of Ashkenazi IQ and points to IQ test results of Ashkenazi boys in England two generations ago. While answering, it occured to me that we may be talking about different things. Maybe the whole category of Ashkenazim has lost its meaning a long time ago.
In the beginning of the 20th Century there was a compact, homogeneous, inbreeding, very religious Yiddish-speaking ethnic group making a living as middlemen on a large stretch of land from Lituania in the North to the Black Sea in the South. No one knows for certain how they appeared there in the Middle Ages, nor what is their genetic origin. In time, all those things will be studied and solved.
What is certain today, in the year 2009, is that these people cannot be found in the same vast geographic area. In fact, there are no visible signs that they ever were there, the local population does not remember them, and except some decaying cemeteries for ethnographers, they left nothing to witness they ever were there. If you ask for example the population of Gur (now Ucraine), a town that give origin to the most powerful Hassidic sect, there will be no one there who could say a word about the Jews, they have never seen one and they are not sure if it is true that they ever lived there. When visiting my hometown in provincial Hungary, I was unable to locate the synagogue (once the largest building in town) my grandparents prayed in, and the friendly natives were uncapable even to understand what I was looking for. The Ashkenazi ethnic group emigrated, was exterminated, was dispersed to Earth's furthest corners, went underground and was mixed and assimilated to myriad different populations. They were not transplanted in toto to some other place where you could find them intact, no, they are no more. Nothing is forever, and the Ashkenazi chapter of the history of the Jews has ended.
The people that calls itself Ashkenazi today has only a weak connection that original Ashkenazim. They speak different languages, they have different occupations, they have different religions, carry different names, and have different genetic makeups. With each year, the distance between the "original" Polish Jews and the peoples that today call themselves Ashkenazim grows, as does the distance among the different groups scattered all over the world. In fact, it would be appropiate to adopt the honest self-identification of Kaifeng Jews, who say they are Jewish descendants, not Jews. We should call the groups calling themselves Ashkenazim - descendants of Ashkenazim. Peoples are not static, and we Ashkenazim have had a more dynamic century than any. The Jewish people emerging in Israel, the USA, some centers of Europe and Australia, is a new ethnic group, not Ashkenazim. Regarding their average IQ, I already gave my opinion, which I emphasize, an opinion.