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July 20, 2003

Survival of the palest....
Posted by razib at 05:57 PM




Oh, the sweet irony of it. :) The Nazis made them blonder!

Posted by: Melnorme at July 21, 2003 12:46 AM


I've read these theories before. Especially on white nationalist websites, who don't want to admit Ashkenazic Jews get their looks from European admixture.

Nevertheless, I agree with you that there was a certain selection effect, most notably of skin tone. You won't find Ashkenazic Jews with the brunet skin tone common in the Levant ( as well as in Southern Europe ). They simply *don't exist*, except maybe a few aberrant individuals.

However, I believe hair and eye blondism in Ashkenazic Jews are mostly the result of a large dosage of German mtDNA, coupled with strong founder effects in a very small initial population.

By the way, in Southern Germany and Austria you can find a few fairly dark individuals. So even an Adam Sandler-type Jew might not have looked totally out of place racially. Culturally - that's a different matter. :)

Posted by: Melnorme at July 21, 2003 03:53 AM


However, I believe hair and eye blondism in Ashkenazic Jews are mostly the result of a large dosage of German mtDNA, coupled with strong founder effects in a very small initial population.

in isaac bashevi singer's novel THE SLAVE the protoganist goes to cracow (or lublin, i forget) and all the jews look at him askance, because he is fair haired & blue-eyed, while they are dark & swarthy. there are many speculations that one can make about selection for phenotypes, for instance, in the first generations, when the memory of intermarriage with gentiles was fresh, would not jewish males favor more "jewish" looking children as there was a lower chance of their wives having committed adultry with non-jewish men???? just a thought....

Posted by: razib at July 21, 2003 09:15 AM


Well, if the entire Ashkenazic community was founded by exclusively male Jewish merchants taking local Germanic wives, then that would no longer be a consideration, since a European appearance would be a part and parcel of the wider Jewish phenotype. ;)

It's possible that the *percentage* of European phenotypes among Jews has risen over the centuries, in a sort of ongoing 'Holocaust effect' ( as I've dubbed it ). However, do remember that unlike today, fertility rate of Ashkenazic Jews in the Middle Ages was extremely high.

So surely despite pogroms and persecutions, they would have churned out enough 'swarthy' children to keep that look in existence.
Keep in mind that even today, Ashkenazic Jews are 75~% of the world Jewish population - but once they were more like 10%.

If all of these swarthy Jews had been killed in pogroms, leaving the lighter minority alive, how could the Ashkenazic population have boomed as it did?

Posted by: Melnorme at July 21, 2003 12:55 PM


If all of these swarthy Jews had been killed in pogroms, leaving the lighter minority alive, how could the Ashkenazic population have boomed as it did?

i think one thing to remember is that if you have a large family, and some children "look gentile," those are the children much more likely to convert to christianity and be lost to judaism, because they could "pass" without the taint of jewishness be ascribed to them. in such a way, i think that the core jewish population could have remained even more physically distinct than they otherwise would have been.

Posted by: razib at July 21, 2003 01:00 PM


Melnorme,
I don't think mitochondrial DNA affects hair or eye color. Maybe you meant German maternal DNA.

Posted by: Jon Wilkins at July 21, 2003 06:00 PM


Yes, that's what I meant.

Posted by: Melnorme at July 22, 2003 07:05 AM


There is very little difference in appearance between the Jews of the diaspora and white Europeans.

During the course of 2000 years, the Jews managed to acquire mostly the same genetic makeup as the other people in the area of Europe in which they lived.

Trying to tell who's Jewish and who's not is like trying to tell the difference between German and a Pole.

Posted by: Gordon Gekko at July 22, 2003 06:19 PM


I think that there are quantifiable phenotypic differences between Ashkenazic Jews and Europeans, but - and this is the more important point - you will *never* find one single Ashkenazic Jew who looks distinctly non-European.

This may be because all Europeans have Middle Eastern ancestry to a certain extent.

Posted by: Melnorme at July 23, 2003 12:33 AM