Jewish Journal

This week in power: Ovadia Yosef’s legacy and where the Jewish people really originated

by Danny Groner

October 9, 2013 | 8:07 pm

A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Ovadia Yosef's death
With news on Monday that prominent Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had passed away in Israel, it didn't take too long before the debate over his legacy went full throttle. "Over time he became more than a restorer of Mizrahi pride but a living symbol of it. No wonder the man who “restored the crown to its former glory” was given a funeral fit for a king," wrote Elli Fischer in The Jewish Week. "Sorry, no: Prejudice is prejudice, whether it comes from an imam in Qatar or from the man whose Jewish critics labeled him, correctly, the 'Israeli ayatollah,'" countered Jeffrey Goldberg at Bloomberg. No matter where you fal on the Yosef scale, what's clear is that he impacted an entire generation of Jews, with reports of up to 800,000 people turning out for the funeral. Just afterward, though, people were left to make sense on their own with how to go on. "As soon as they were separated from the grief and the prayers, passengers began to scream, push and curse trying to board the bus — as if it were any other night at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. Only then did it seem that things would, before long, return to normal," reported JTA's Ben Sales from the scene.

Jews come from Italy?
"The origin of the Ashkenazi Jews, who come most recently from Europe, has largely been shrouded in mystery. But a new study suggests that at least their maternal lineage may derive largely from Europe," reported LiveScience. This study, which used genetics for its findings, comes as a surprise because we know very little about the history of Ashkenazi Jews "before they were expelled from the Mediterranean and settled in what is now Poland around the 12th century." Many had believed that today's Jews came from Israel and left for Europe before resettling in their homeland in later centuries. The research could also have larger implications, too, said Michael Balter at Science: "The results not only conflict with the Ostrer and Behar results, but also with widespread assumptions about Jewish identity. Jews have traditionally considered that the mother determines the ethnic identity of her children. If being Jewish is defined as genetically descending from the Israelites through the maternal line, then many Ashkenazi Jews fail the test, according to this data."

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Danny Groner is a contributing writer to the Jewish Journal. He has worked in journalism since he was a teenager, starting off as an intern for a local publication. During his...

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