Ashkenazi Jews, also called Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim, comprise a subculture of European Judaism. In ancient times, as the Jewish people spread out from the land of Israel, many settled in Europe. Ashkenazi Jews are descended from the Jews of the Middle Ages who settled in Germany, Poland, Austria, and Eastern Europe. Ashkenaz is a traditional Hebrew word for “Germany” (see Genesis 10:3 and Jeremiah 51:27) and in particular to the area along the Rhine River. The Ashkenazi Jews are often referred to in distinction to Sephardic Jews, who inhabited medieval Spain and Portugal.
In the 20th century, the Holocaust in Germany took a heavy toll on the Ashkenazi population. Many Ashkenazi Jews emigrated to other countries such as France, the United States, and Israel. When the nation of Israel was established in 1948, Ashkenazi Jews were the largest group of Jews to settle there. Nearly half of the Jews living in Israel today are Ashkenazic, and it’s estimated that 80 percent of Jews worldwide are Ashkenazic.
The Ashkenazi Jews developed the Yiddish language (a mix of German and Hebrew) and some unique customs that set them apart from other Jewish subcultures. The Ashkenazim have long had an impact in the world by making major contributions in science (Albert Einstein was Ashkenazic), literature, economics, and the arts.
Some people promote a theory that Ashkenazi Jews are not really Jews at all; rather, they are descendants of the Khazars, a nomadic collection of peoples in the Turkish Empire. This politically motivated theory attempts to suggest that the Jews now in Israel have no historical claim to the land. There are also many conspiracy theories that link the Ashkenazi Jews with the Illuminati and a one-world government. What all these theories have in common is a lack of documentation or other credible evidence. The Ashkenazim are not Asiatic Gentiles, and they are not behind the New World Order. Web sites that make such assertions are filled with odd historical claims, speculation, and myths in the guise of science.
Regardless of what countries the Ashkenazi Jews have lived in through the centuries, the Bible teaches that an Israelite is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Bible also declares the Jews to be God’s chosen people. Moses said to the children of Israel, “You are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6–8).