The Jews of Khaz­aria, 2nd Edition

Kevin Alan Brook
  • Review
By – March 23, 2012

What’s in a name? Depends on who’s doing the naming. 

Khaz­aria: A Tur­kic empire that ruled South­ern Rus­sia and Cen­tral Asia dur­ing the ear­ly Mid­dle Ages 

Khaz­aria: A qua­si-myth­i­cal king­dom of bar­bar­ian Jews, which was fea­tured in Yehu­da HaLevi’s philo­soph­i­cal work the Kuzari. An inter­est­ing, but fic­tion­al legend. 

Khaz­aria: Con­sid­ered by many con­tem­po­rary anti-Semi­tes as the source of Euro­pean Jew­ry, and there­fore, proof that Zion­ism is racism and that today’s Jews have no right to any part of Palestine. 

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, Brook pro­vides us with the facts, only the facts. And, it’s a good thing, because the facts are fascinating. 

The Khaz­ars did build a mul­ti-eth­nic soci­ety dom­i­nat­ed by a Tur­kic war­rior aris­toc­ra­cy. They were the mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic force that stopped the Arab Caliphate from con­quer­ing Rus­sia and Europe from the east. And, in the 9th cen­tu­ry CE, their kings, nobil­i­ty and a good per­cent­age of their peo­ple did con­vert to Rab­binic Judaism. For anoth­er hun­dred years, rulers with the unlike­ly names of King Oba­di­ah and King Hanukkah inspired the per­se­cut­ed Jews of Ger­many and the dhim­my Jews of Spain with tales of a land of fight­ing Israelites. It is also high­ly unlike­ly that the Khaz­ars make up any­thing but a tiny per­cent­age of the peo­ple we call Jews today. Brook’s efforts are dry, but care­ful and thor­ough — the exact anti­dote to the microwaved rhetoric with which this top­ic is usu­al­ly handled.

Jeff Bogursky reads a lot, writes a lit­tle and talks quite a bit. He is a media exec­u­tive and expert in dig­i­tal media.

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