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The Jews of Khazaria Hardcover – Sep 27 2006
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Far from being [merely] a romantic interlude whose brief existence sparked the imagination of generations, Brook's volume shows that the Khazar experience is intrinsic to the narrative of Jewish history. (The Jewish Quarterly Review, (Review Of First Edition))
Kevin Alan Brook, thirty years on, strives, with considerable success, to satisfy the appetite for information about the Khazars which Koestler generated. The Jews of Khazaria is, in essence, a compendium of information gathered from every available source. . . . He has provided a useful reference work for all those intrigued by the most striking single case of successful Jewish proselytism, as well as for those interested in the affairs of one of the four great powers of western Eurasia in the early middle ages....[Brook] should be complimented on the trouble which he has taken to assemble so much information, out of so many disparate sources. He has provided a useful reference work. (Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Jewish Studies, Winter 2009)
A comprehensive study. . . . Acquaintance with this book will be . . . useful. (The Chronicle Herald, August 2008)
Kevin Alan Brook has decided to look behind the various views of the Khazars and produce a non-ideological work that examines the little-known but critical moment in world history. In a deadpan voice that one could attribute to a scholarly Joe Friday, Brooks provides us with the facts, only the facts. And, it's a good thing, because the facts are fascinating. (Jewish Book World, Fall 2007)
Brook...has a passion for his topic, demonstrated by many articles, his stewardship of the website of the American Center of Khazar Studies (Khazaria.com), and the first (well received) edition of this book (1999)....Brook supplies a timeline, a glossary, a list of Khazar names, an appendix on other examples of conversions to Judaism, and maps to help the reader who is less familiar with the subject than he is. (Outlook)
This second, revised edition of Kevin Brook's well-received publication in 1999 of The Jews of Khazaria, integrates important new data culled from ongoing archaeological digs in southern Russia and the Crimea, genetic results of DNA processing, examination of formerly unknown or ignored coin hordes, and the continuing research of scholars around the world. It succeeds in elucidating controversial issues, while contextualizing the Khazar polity within the competitive 9th-11th-century world of Byzantium, the Arab Caliphate, and two regional upstarts: the Dnepr-based aggregate of Nordic, Slavic, and Turkic peoples known as Rus', and the Turkic-Islamic kaganate of Bulgar flourishing in the middle and upper Volga territory. As a full exploration in English of the history and culture of the Khazars, this volume is without equal, and would be quite useful reading in courses focused on the Kievan period of Russian history, as well as broader ones treating the dynamics of Central Eurasian history during these lively and formative centuries. (Edward J. Lazzerini, Indiana University)
Kevin Alan Brook's The Jews of Khazaria is the first work since Douglas Dunlop's 1967 History of the Jewish Khazars to provide a comprehensive account of Khazar history. ... the work synthesizes a vast array of secondary literature into a concise and readable digest. ... Beyond providing a current and accessible introduction to this topic, the work is extremely valuable for its consolidation of this disparate material. ... (Journal Of Near Eastern Studies)
Brook...has a passion for his topic....I for one am grateful for the mass of material he provides. (Outlook)
From the Author
An update to Chapter 2: After the book was published, archaeologists working at the Samosdelka research site confirmed they discovered the remains of the Khazars' capital city, Atil, beneath the layers of two other cities. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I would encourage everyone interested in this book, this subject and in modern Judaism in general to remember that 'conclusions' are based on current and past knowledge, not on future discoveries. Sarkel is still under water and will continue to be for the foreseeable future -- who knows what information it holds? People have been twisting the ideas and findings discussed in "The Thirteenth Tribe" and "The Jews of Khazaria" to promote hatred for Jews for quite some time. That's not the purpose of these works, as Arthur Koestler himself addressed at the end of "The Thirteenth Tribe."
I've also used the bibliography to further my own knowledge, although I have found that many of the sources are out-of-print.
I look forward to learning more about the Khazars, who they were and who they became -- for today, I highly recommend Brook's "The Jews of Khazaria." It is excellently written, a fascinating work and will open it's readers eyes to some lesser known history.
Savor it, but don't rush to judgement!
The controversy about Khazar Jews and their intermingle with Jews in Lithuania, Poland and Rumania is discussed at the conclusion of the book. First, the author describes other incidents when non-Jewish tribes converted and became "children of Moses". Examples are brought from the Avars and Cumans in Europe, Edmoites in the middle east, and the "Children of Moses" in Ethopia, sometimes known as the Falshas.) Then author then contends that it is quite possible that Khazar Jews, now disbursed amongst several nations, intermarried with "local" or "genuine" jews, most notably in Lithuania as well as in Poland.
The book is somewhat `academic' in its discussion, but very readable. The book boasts in using "archeological" finds in its discussion; in fact, it mentions only a few such finds. It further fails to include maps, documents and other images that would have made it more interesting and `real'. Nonetheless, the writing is not `heavy' and the organization is intuitive. Each chapter can be read separately and the footnotes are worth gleaning over. Although some maps appear at the end of chapter 2, and some tables appear at the ends of chapters 3, 4 and 7, they hardly help illustrate the rich history narrated within the chapters.
For genealogists who are interested in the controversial around the origins of dark-hair or red-hair jews in Lithuania and Poland, I recommend reading a couple of introductory chapters and then skimming through to the end. For history buffs, I recommend reading the whole book and perhaps use a map to aid in the reading as there are numerous references to battles, invasions and travel routes that would be much easier to understand with a map at hand.
This is not an intro-to-genealogy or a how-to-start-genealogy book. I found the subject of Khazaria and the Jewish diaspora, and the narrative in The Jews of Khazaria enriching and expanding my 15 years of family history work. Therefor, I mostly recommend this book for genealogists with at least 5 years experience, with some idea about the origins of the families that arrived from the Pale of Settlement; Of course, independently, the subject of the empire of Khazraia is a rich with history and glamour. I find that the narrative of Khazaria and its place in Jewish history well narrated by Brook.
Brook, a layman himself (albeit a lay expert), has meticulously collected thousands of tidbits of historical knowledge and lore from a myriad of primary and secondary sources
Brook's first edition (published by Jason Aaronson in 1999) was a masterpiece in and of itself, but it was flawed by the certainty of certain controversial assertions (such as that the conversion of the Khazars took place in 861) which have, over the course of only a few years, become outdated by dramatic new discoveries in numismatics and archaeology. This second edition of Brook's magnum opus corrects many errors and also includes information on new discoveries, organized into convenient, intuitive and well-cited sections (including "The Origins of the Khazars", "The Khazars' Conversion to Judaism", and "Relations between the Khazars and other People".)
Khazar history is brought to life through discussions of trade, religion, daily life, language, and many other issues. Anyone interested in Jewish, Eastern European or Eurasian history, or anyone who fancies themselves a polymath, would be remiss if they failed to purchase and read this book.
The other big problem is that when Mr. Brook traces various customs of modern Ashkenazi Jews to Khazaria, even when explicit evidence exists that these customs existed hundreds of years earlier. One such example is the Mezuzah (a small parchment that is rolled up and affixed to the doorpost of Jewish homes).
Even the linguistic evidence is sometimes wanting. The Turkic, or Ugric words that are traced to Khasarian origins could have come into the Yiddish vocabulary from any number of outlets. The Turkic language family was quite wide-spread across Asia well into the sixteenth century, and is still quite large. Jews were and continue to be in contact with dozens of members of this language group.
Lest I sound overly harsh, while some evidence is wanting, this book has enormous assets. The exploration of Khazarian culture, and the fact that this Jewish population existed are well presented. There are no apologetics and it is an honest investigation into a difficult topic. I believe that anybody would be well served by reading it, even though I disagree with the conclusions that are drawn.
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