Friday, May 16, 2014

Were the Sephardic Jews as smart as the Ashkenazis?

One person reading my comments on Cochran and Harpending’s arguments about the Ashkenazi Jews being among other things smarter than other Jews sent me this reference:

He argued that this reference proved that the Sephardic Jews were money lenders in the Ottoman Empire.

I commented as follows:

I looked at your reference. This is from its footnote #10: “Prior to the arrival of the Iberian Jews, the Jewish population in the Ottoman territories was comprised of Romaniot or Griegos, Greek-speaking Jews who had survived Byzantine persecution; Arabized Jews, Arabic speakers and inheritors of Islamic traditions who came from territories ruled by Islamic caliphates; Ashkenazi Jews, Yiddish speakers originally from North, Central and Eastern Europe, and Karaite Jews, Karaim speakers who originated in Baghdad during the 7th century. The Sephardim from Spain and Portugal, who arrived after 1492, became the largest group during the following century, absorbing the rest of the Jewish communities. See Stanford J. Shaw, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic, 44-47. See also Walter F. Weiker, Ottomans, Turks and the Jewish Polity: A History of the Jews of Turkey (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1992), 53-57.”

Note that the author of your reference is concerned about Spanish Jews which Cochran and Harpending do mention, saying they didn’t develop intelligence levels matching the Ashkenazis because they were treated better under the Muslims and didn’t have to perform at the high level the Ashkenazis did under the threats and stress of the Europeans. Note also in your footnote ten that your author writes, that present in the Ottoman Empire before the arrival of the Sephardic Jews were the “Ashkenazi Jews, Yiddish speakers originally from North, Central and Eastern Europe.”

There is no conflict between your reference and the writings of Cochran and Harpending that I can see. Their focus was on the Ashkenazis and not on all of Jewry. The Ashkenazis were isolated, and “money lenders” as well as engaging in other “white collar” tasks prior to the time the Reconquest was being completed and Jews as well as Muslims had to flee Spain and Portugal. But some of the Ashkenazis had to flee Europe prior to the influx of the Sephardic Jews and may have already been established as money lenders in the Ottoman Empire. Perhaps some of the Sephardic Jews managed to perform at that high level as well but the Ashkenazis distinguished themselves in that task in Europe and probably did in the Ottoman Empire as well. Of those who later fled Islamic nations to live in Israel, none perhaps, or at the most very few, measured up to Ashkenazi intellectual levels.

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