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Thursday, January 30, 2014

More on Jewish names

Here is a follow-up in Slate to the story on the origins of Ashkenazi Jewish last names. Apparently, much to the author's surprise, the story generated a lot of interest and commentary, some of it insisting that he was wrong about some things. The story corrects some errors and discusses the range of sources on the subject, some of which are less accurate than others.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 30, 2014 at 05:50 PM in Howard Wasserman | Permalink

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I don't know why he should be surprised. Like my zayda used to say: two Jews, three opinions.

Posted by: brad | Jan 31, 2014 12:33:16 AM

The Slate article is completely irrelevant to the majority of Jewish people who are Sephardic. Yes Ashkenazi jews dominate American jewish life but 80% of Israelis are Sephardi and do not have names anywhere remote to the names people associate with being Jewish. Jews from Morocco, Spain, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, the Persian Gulf do not have names like US jews do nor do they even remotely look like them.

Posted by: Mister | Jan 31, 2014 4:45:39 AM

Mosaic had a great take on everything that was wrong with the original piece: "What’s wrong, exactly, with “Jewish Surnames Explained”? In a sentence: despite its quotient of accurate information, its errors are legion."

http://mosaicmagazine.com/tesserae/2014/01/jewish-surnames-supposedly-explained/

Posted by: BAG | Jan 31, 2014 11:03:58 AM

> The Slate article is completely irrelevant to the majority of Jewish people who are Sephardic.

From wikipedia:
"Figures vary for the contemporary statistics. Some sources place Ashkenazi as making up approximately 83–85 percent of Jews worldwide,[17][18][19][20] while Sergio DellaPergola in a rough calculation of Sephardic and Oriental Jews, implies that Ashkenazi make up a notably lower figure, around 74%.[21] Other estimates place Ashkenazi Jews as making up about 75% of Jews worldwide.[22] Ashkenazi Jews constitute around 35–36% of the Israeli population (and 47.5% of Israeli Jews).[23][24]"

That certainly doesn't look like Sephardic are the majority to me. Besides it's a publication in English in an American based online magazine, why should it be any surprise that it caters to what is of interest to the US readers?

Posted by: brad | Jan 31, 2014 12:31:02 PM

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