Re: Abramovich's Sephardic genealogy #sephardic

Kevin Brook

I am responding to David Mendoza's JewishGen message #667933 dated 5 April 2022.  Dear David,

Although there are multiple flimsy aspects of Abramovich's application's supposed "evidence", such as the claim that the surname Abramovich is Sephardic and that it was adapted from Abarbanel, and his application did not conclusively demonstrate a continuous paper trail from specific medieval Portuguese Jews or Sephardic individuals from Hamburg, there are several problems with your analysis.  I have a right to respond because both you and Abramovich's application mentioned my website.

1. You wrote "If there had been a “large amount of Portuguese Jewish families” in Poznan we would expect some reference in the vast contemporary Sephardic and west European archives. We know of none. It is stated that a family had the surname “Portugaler” in the late 17th Century but no evidence is given in support of this statement."

As I wrote in my article "Sephardic Jews in Central and Northern Poland" in ZichronNote, newsletter of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, February/May 2017 issue, there is some evidence for specifically Portuguese Jews living in the city of Poznań and for families named Portugal in the general region:

   (1a) "Moses Zacuto, a Portuguese Jew living in Amsterdam, bought 38 cloths and in 1622 requested they be sent to the city of Poznań, in west-central Poland, where his sons Mordechay Zacuto and Abraham Bensamerro lived and were waiting to trade these goods. I assume that the Polish Jews named Zakuta descend from the Zacuto family."

   (1b) "The Sephardic physician Isaac de Lima, born in the Portuguese village of Ponte de Lima circa 1479, died in Poznań. Isaac’s son Judah ben Isaac de Lima was born in Poznań circa 1512, and Judah’s son Samuel ben Judah de Lima was born there around 1545. Samuel’s son Judah ben Samuel de Lima was a physician in Poznań like his great-grandfather and died there in 1641. This younger Judah’s son Moses ben Judah de Lima (born circa 1611 in Poznań) was likewise a physician there and was the father of Juda de Lima Pozner Norden (born circa 1644 in Poznań), whose son was born in the Netherlands and had descendants there. Judah’s daughter married Rabbi Solomon Calahora (1580-1650) from Łęczyca in central Poland, grandson of the Sephardic physician Salomon Calahora from Italy. Rabbi Solomon’s son, Rabbi Yosef Calahorra (1600-1696), and Yosef’s son, Arye Kalifari, were preachers in Poznań. Some descendants of these people stayed in Poznań, and some live as part of the Ashkenazi population today."

   (1c) "Many Jewish individuals with the surname Portugal lived in these regions. For instance, the siblings Berla, Abrahm, and Majer Portugal were born between 1832 and 1842 in the city of Sierpc in north-central Poland. Majer was married there in 1860, and his son Rubin Portugal (named after his grandfather) was born there in 1861. Other children with the surname Portugal were born in the central Polish town of Zakroczym in 1880 and 1884 and the north-central Polish town of Mława between 1860 and 1870. In the 19th and 20th centuries, marriages of Jews surnamed Portugal took place in central Poland, including in the cities of Warsaw and Łódź, the town of Rawa Mazowiecka, and the village of Kuczbork. As of 1907, Zelik Portugal was a registered voter in Sochaczew, a city in Warszawa Gubernia in central Poland."

You did not acknowledge any of that, which is partly derived, as my bibliography states, from the article "Notarial Records Relating to the Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam up to 1639" and from JewishGen's databases, both of which are more reliable sources than user-created Geni family trees that occasionally contain errors or fabrications.

Raizel Rosenfeld claims in her article "Chabad and Portugal" at that Rabbi Baruch Portugaler lived on Portugal Street in the city of Poznań.  I do not believe I have seen a document about him yet but it could very well exist and somebody who knows this case is welcome to post a link to such a document so we can independently evaluate the credibility of this statement.

2. You wrote "There is a link to a website called which included articles discussing the disproven alleged Turkic ancestry of Ashkenazim, a belief popular in some antisemitic quarters."

This is an attempt at guilt-by-association and you made no attempt to analyze any specific points in my article "Sephardic Jews in Central and Northern Poland", which I did indeed copy to that website at

Furthermore, you do not realize or acknowledge that there is new evidence for a very minor amount of Turkic and non-Turkic ancestry in Ashkenazim stemming from early-medieval inhabitants of the Khazaria region:

   (2a) The Ashkenazic branch of the mtDNA haplogroup N9a3, currently called N9a3a1b1 by YFull's MTree, which has close Bashkir matches. lists one or two Ashkenazic carriers, including YFull kit number YF071178 with a matriline from Lithuania, and one step up we get to which lists two Bashkir carriers from Russia.  Bashkirs are a Turkic-speaking people with bona fide Turkic genetic ancestry.

   (2b) The Ashkenazic branch of the mtDNA haplogroup A12'23, currently called A-a1b3* by YFull's MTree, which has a close Turkmen match from Uzbekistan, as discovered by Geoffrey Sea, as he mentions on his public website
Looking at we see ancient A-a1b3* samples from Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, and Siberia, and we see the person identified as an ethnic Turkmen from Samarkand, Uzbekistan with the YFull kit number YF093777 belonging to its branch A-a1b3a along with another old sample from Kazakhstan.  The Ashkenazic connection to them is public knowledge now thanks to Sea.

   (2c) The Ashkenazic branch of Y-DNA G2a called G-FGC1093 by YFull's YTree is shared by North Ossetians and Kumyks. This implies descent from the Khazars' Alan subjects or neighbors.  See an Ossetian from southern Russia (YFull kit YF080074) and an Ashkenazi with a matriline from a Yiddish-speaking family from Lithuania (YFull kit YF079270) sharing it at and then go one level up to to see a different Ossetian from southern Russia carrying its parent haplogroup.

Ashkenazic people who belong to those three haplogroups who tested their DNA with Family Tree DNA see close matches to members of Turkic and North Caucasian peoples in their match lists.  This vindicates my original thesis that some Ashkenazim intermarried with Khazars, which had been discussed by various people in JewishGen's message list decades ago, so let this serve as an update to those discussions.

Rabbi Samuel Kohn, Rabbi Benjamin Blech, and even Professor Salo Baron and the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban are among the dozens of prominent and respected Jews who seriously entertained the idea of Khazar intermarriage with Ashkenazim.  That idea in itself is not antisemitic.

3. You wrote "Mr Abramovich believes he has Sephardic ancestry. This is a common and sincerely held belief in many Ashkenazi families. Aside from Ashkenazim and Sephardim who have married each other since around 1800, except in a handful of exceptional cases, this belief is not supported by archival or genetic research."

To the contrary! Sephardic autosomal DNA segments are nearly ubiquitous in Ashkenazic populations from intermarriages that took place in the 1600s and 1700s -- except perhaps the most isolated Ashkenazic communities from western Germany, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands.  That is, almost every so-called "100% Ashkenazi" person with ancestors from Poland, Hungary, Romania, and the Russian Empire has legitimate autosomal DNA matches among Sephardic-descended communities around the world, namely Catholics in the New World from New Mexico to Chile, Catholics in the Old World from the Azores to the Philippines, and Jews identifying themselves as Sephardic from Rhodes to Casablanca.

In your November 2021 video conversation that you posted to under the title "Ashkenazim with Sephardic Ancestry?", I will remind you that a member of the audience, Cary Aufseeser, talks in a latter portion about how he had an Ashkenazic ancestral family from Hamburg, Germany with the Sephardic-type surname Deshere (probably derived from the Portuguese surname Teixeira) and that he matches Mexican Catholics autosomally on a particular area of chromosome 10.

My mother and I share that autosomal DNA segment with Aufseeser and those Mexicans.  Some of those Mexicans have extensive genealogical documentation even back to Spain and back to specific names of Spanish Jewish converts to Catholicism.  Those Mexicans also come from many different families and towns and they don't all have recent ancestors in common.

My mother's 19th-century ancestors and relatives are well-documented in databases housed at JewishGen, JRI-Poland, and Gesher Galicia.  They came from Russian-ruled areas of eastern Poland and from Austrian Galicia in what is now western Ukraine.  See my list of surnames in my signature at the bottom of this message.

The relatively short shared DNA segment lengths indicate that the shared ancestors lived well before 1800, and we have extensive documentation from that part of our family and my ancestors didn't intermarry with Sephardim after 1800, so what's your explanation?  Oh, and there are dozens of other Ashkenazim sharing this segment and some of their ancestors didn't live in Hamburg, Galicia, or Poland.  This is genetic evidence reflecting intermarriages of Ashkenazim with Sephardim that took place in the 1500s through the 1700s.  These now-admixed Ashkenazim subsequently continued to migrate widely throughout central and eastern Europe.  It is also a rule that these segments don't originate from before the 1400s, so we are dealing with segments from the specific timeframe of the 1400s through the 1700s.

Therefore, I disagree with your "doubt that autosomal DNA tells will have anything useful to say about ancestry 500 years ago" that you expressed on your Facebook page

I've gathered evidence for hundreds of other DNA segments just like that one, and some of those DNA segments were filed as some of the evidence for Sephardic descent in paperwork by my clients with the Jewish Federation of New Mexico and Comunidade Israelita do Porto, organizations that you despise so much, and with the governments of Spain and Portugal.  I invite scrutiny into those segments, should those reports ever become public or should I gain participants' permission to publish any of them, because I know that the data and my interpretation of those data will hold up as valid.  I have already summarized some of the match patterns of those segments in my articles, but without the detailed numerical data.  Unlike stories of keeping Sephardic customs or having Sephardic ancestors or claims over what some surname might mean or derive from, genetic evidence cannot be faked.  You are correct that "A family tradition ... do not constitute evidence in itself."  The Oporto Jewish community did state in their rules that genetic evidence was one of the forms of evidence that was allowed to be included in an application with them, whereas the Lisbon Jewish community relies exclusively on genealogical documents.

Kevin Brook
Descended on my maternal side from: ADLER (Khorostkiv, Ukraine) / BOIM (Poland) / DZIĘCIOŁOWSKI (Węgrów, Poland) / FELLNER (Budaniv, Ukraine) / FELLNER (Budaniv, Ukraine) / FINEFTER (Poland) / GOLDSZMIT (Kosów Lacki, Poland) / HELLER (Budaniv, Ukraine) / KRONFELD (Węgrów, Poland) / LINEAL (Terebovlya, Ukraine) / MAIMAN (Khorostkiv, Ukraine) / MOJSEZON (Sokołów Podlaski, Poland) / ORŁOWSKI (Poland) / RAK (Sokołów Podlaski, Poland) / WILLNER (Terebovlya, Ukraine)

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