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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 7, 2004 / 24 Kislev 5764

Tale of a madman?

By Hillel Halkin


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Hey, ya never know


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | There are some things that I'll have to leave out of the following account. The place, the names — I swore to keep them secret. "You're a dead man if you tell anyone," said my informant. "So am I."


I met him at a garden party given by friends. He was an upstairs neighbor and had drifted down to have a drink. An elderly, pale-skinned man, short, with blue, Tatar-lidded eyes and a brimmed cap. A foreign, unplaceable accent to his Hebrew. He spoke, he said, many languages: English, Russian, Turkish, Uzbeki, Kazakh. I asked him where he was originally from.


"Guess," he said. The Tatar eyes looked amused.


"Turkey?"


"No."


"Russia?"


"No."


"I give up."


He leaned forward a bit as if to keep the other guests — none was nearby — from overhearing.


"You've heard of the Kuzarim?"


"Of course."
"I'm one of them."


"You're a Kuzari?"


He couldn't be. The Kuzarim — the Khazars, as they're called in English — disappeared nearly a thousand years ago. In their mysterious kingdom straddling the Volga above the point where it flows into the Caspian Sea, its rulers and part of its population converted to Judaism in the eighth century CE. They were dealt a mortal blow by Christian Russia and Byzantium in the 11th century, and were totally wiped out by the 13th at the latest.


Most Jews have heard of them only because of Yehuda Halevi's The Book of the Kuzari, an imaginary dialogue between a Jewish scholar and the first Khazar king to convert. Although it has been speculated by historians that the Khazar Jews dispersed after the fall of their kingdom to various places — Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Eastern Europe — no clear trace of them has ever been found.


The man smiled. "Not just a Kuzari. The last descendant of the Kuzari royal house."


"But the Kuzari royal house disappeared with the kingdom!"


"That's what people like you think. That's what everyone thinks. That's what we want you to think."


"We?"


He leaned forward again. "Don't talk so loudly. We. We're still here. I can't tell you anything more about it."


"Why not?"


"The Council would kill me. It would kill you, too."


"The Council?"


Yes, the man said. The Kuzari Council. It persisted from generation to generation. When one of its members died, someone else was tapped to replace him. The Council made sure no one revealed the Kuzaris' secrets. It could be ruthless about that. "It knows everything," the man said. "By tomorrow it will know exactly what we've spoken about tonight. There's not a word of our conversation that won't get back to it."


A madman! The last descendant of the Kuzari royal house was a paranoid psychotic.

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"But who," I asked, "is persecuting you? From whom are you keeping secrets?"


He looked around him. The guests were chatting, sipping wine, playing with their children on the lawn.
"Come upstairs with me to my apartment," he said. "I'll show you something."


I followed him upstairs, not without a heartthrob of excitement. A madman! Yet suppose he wasn't?


He opened his front door with a key. We stepped into a large living room. Amateur oil paintings hung on the walls. One whole wall was covered by a large mural. "Do you see that?" he asked.


I looked at it. It was a depiction of a pastoral scene. People and horses stood in a meadow running to the banks of a broad river that vanished in the background among cliffs. The men wore turbans and the baggy pants and blouses of Central Asia. A few were girded with swords. A child stood near one of them.


The man pointed to the child. "That's me. This is my family. I grew up by this river. This spot was just as I've painted it."


"It's the Volga?"


"Don't expect me to answer that. The royal tombs of the Khazar kings are in those cliffs. They're there to this day. No one knows where they are but the Council."


"That's the secret?"


"There are many secrets. I've shown you one of them. And now don't ask me any more questions."


We returned to the garden party. A madman! Was I sure? Of course I was. He was crazy as a loon. Yet my heart throbbed again when I read the next day in Kevin Alan Brook's The Jews of Khazaria: "It seems that in the thirteenth century the Turkic Khazars in Kazakhstan assimilated with other Turkic groups as well as with the Mongols, and consequently lost their ethnic identity. However, there still remain distinctive groups of Kazakhs who may be their progeny. For example, there are some modern-day Kazakhs who are called Sary-Kazak ("Yellow Kazakh" or Kok-koz ("Blue Eyes") because they have red hair, blue eyes, and white skin the Sary-Kazaks are presumably descendants of the Khazars ."


But a secret council that would kill me for telling you where he lived? A madman!


The fact is that I've always been a sucker for this kind of stuff. Ever since I was a kid growing up in Manhattan, I've lapped it up: stories about the lost tribes, descendants of the Marranos, shadowy Jewish kingdoms in the Middle Ages, Jews turning up in far places — the mountains of Mexico, the jungles of Peru, Kaifeng, the Malabar Coast, Timbuktu . The Jews of Manhattan were boring. Jews spotted by Marco Polo on the China coast or surviving centuries of the Inquisition in the hills of Portugal gave me goose pimples.


Call it the romance of Jewish history. The idea that we were a profoundly more adventurous, infinitely more varied, more far-ranging, more interesting people than the Jews I knew.


A Jewish kingdom in Khazaria! Jews ruling gentiles, Jews warring against gentiles, marching out against them in great armies! Jewish royal tombs, undiscovered on the Volga to this day!


"Listen," I said. "Maybe I can come back some time to visit you. I'd love to hear more about all this."


"They'd cut our throats," he said.


A madman!

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Hillel Halkin is an Israel-based translator and author, most recently of Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel." (Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.

04/15/04: There was a plan
07/28/03: An ugly idea whose time has come
02/21/03: The immorality of losing
12/17/02: You don't have to be Orthodox to cherish the Sabbath



© 2004, Hillel Halkin