Tiedetoimittaja Razib Khanilta mielenkiintoinen kirjoitus siitä, miten eri tavalla juutalaiset ovat elelleet eri alueilla maailmassa:
Jemenissä ja Etiopiassa juutalaiset ovat samaa geneettistä perimää kuin muu alkuperäisväestö. Kyse on siis käännynnäisistä - Jemenin tapauksessa hyvin varhaisesta käännynnäisyydestä.
Intiassa ja monessa muussa maassa juutalaiset ovat alunperin Lähi-Idän juutalaisväestöstä peräisin olevia maahanmuuttajia. He ovat kyllä säilyttäneet oman kulttuurinsa (ainakin osittain) mutta geneettisesti he ovat lähes täysin sekoittuneet muuhun väestöön. Koska juutalaisia maahanmuuttajia on varsinkin Etelä-Intian Cochiniin muuttanut myös viime vuosisadoilla, juutalaisväestö on jakaantunut ns. mustiin juutalaisiin ja vähemmän sulautuneisiin valkoisiin juutalaisiin. Juutalaisuus erillisenä elämäntapana usein häviää vuosisatojen aikana - esimerkkinä Kiinan juutalaiset joita oli vielä 1600-1700-luvuilla:In 1605, the Jesuit Matteo Ricci encountered a group of monotheists in the Chinese city of Kaifeng. Examining their scriptures, Ricci recognized that their central religious text was the Hebrew Bible. These were Jews, and they were quite happy to meet someone who worshipped their own God. Their leader offered Ricci the position of rabbi, so long as he abstained from pork and joined their faith. Ricci dismissed the invitation, and attempted to convince the leader of the community that their messiah was Jesus, and he had already arrived. This intelligence was not embraced, and Ricci parted ways with the Kaifeng Jewish community.
Ricci later concluded that Kaifeng’s Jews would inevitably be assimilated due to their isolation. He observed that the Jews of Kaifeng were distinctive in appearance from their Chinese neighbors, but by the 18th century, European observers remarked that they looked rather like the Han majority. Intermarriage was common, and the leading families entered the Chinese bureaucracy. One prominent Jewish leader reacted with embarrassment when it was observed that his Han-Chinese wife was raising pigs on their property.
Today the Kaifeng Jewish community no longer exists. One of their clans, the Zhang, has converted entirely to Islam. Others assimilated into the Han majority. Yet families remember their origins, recalling that it was customary that they not eat pork or consume shellfish. Some of these are now converting back to Judaism, and even migrating to Israel.
Lähi-Idässä ja Euroopassa juutalaiset ovat säilyttäneet melko hyvin geneettisen erillisyytensä ja täällä heidän kulttuurinsa on myös kukoistanut, vaikka vainojakin on ollut. 20% Nobelin saajista tulee yhdestä promillesta maailman väestöä eli Ashkenazi-juutalaisista. Khan spekuloi syistä eurooppalaisten juutalaisten erityiseen elämäntapaan eri tavalla kuin Kevin McDonald, jonka kirjaa referoin aikoinaan Sarastuksessa:
the unique role of Judaism and the Jewish people in Christianity and Islam may have been an important factor in Ashkenazi and Sephardic persistence and flourishing over the last 3,000 years. Beginning with church fathers like St. Augustine, Christians grudgingly accepted that the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah was part of God’s plan, and rejected the idea that they should be forcibly converted like pagans. Muslims meanwhile tolerated the Jews as a religious minority that had received a legitimate earlier revelation from God.
This explicit recognition of Jewish communal identity as something special in the world of Islam and Christianity did not obtain in India or China, where Jews were just another exotic ethno-religious group among many. Jews did not play any central role in the self-conception of Hindus, Buddhists or Confucians, and the question of their persistence or assimilation was not of great concern. In contrast, though Muslims and Christians accepted Jewish converts, Christian and Muslim societies often looked at converts from Judaism with suspicion. The combination of explicitly marking the Jews as unique and a people apart subject to discrimination, while tepidly tolerating their existence, may have been the equipoise that allowed them to remain cohesive in the Middle East and Europe, whereas they tended to fade away through assimilation in Asia.
When considering Jewish cultural persistence in the West, and even its flourishing, John Maynard Smith and George R. Price's widely applicable concept of an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS) comes to mind. The subgroups of Jews who have waxed in numbers and contributed so disproportionately to human knowledge and advancement share a broader milieu, where they are subsumed within Christian and Muslim civilizations that grudgingly acknowledge their debts to the Jews. We are so accustomed to training our attention on the well-documented persecution and various horrors the Jewish people have endured as vulnerable minorities over the millennia; it’s easy to miss the strange implication that the cruel caprices of their host societies that cost them so dearly…were only one side of the coin.
Somehow, being officially and permanently marginalized seem to have been the peak background conditions in which Ashkenazi and Sephardic culture proved an ESS. Their persistence as cohesive subgroups with their own distinct and highly creative culture over millennia only reached its productive apogee where they were kept warily to the margins. In the end, where Jewish minorities have been treated with indifference, neglect, or curiosity, they have inevitably become like those around them. Rather than thriving and enduring, they have been swallowed by the majority.
If the glittering cultural, artistic and intellectual achievements that members of the Jewish Diaspora have shared with all humanity are a diamond, created by the vice-like pressure of Christian and Muslim domination, you have to wonder not only what unique contributions we all lost when less enduring minorities, Jewish or otherwise, were culturally and genetically subsumed into their surrounding societies. Incessant external pressure and resistance seem to have proven tailor-made conditions for Jewish culture’s unique makeup to be an ESS that spanned the Babylonian Exile down to our own era, over 2,500 years. I don’t know if there’s any lesson here, other than the timeless one that when it comes to human societies, unintended consequences always seem to get the last laugh.