Did you know that an entire empire converted to Judaism in the 8th and 9th centuries? Not many people see Judaism as a religion that inspires entire peoples, and not since John Hyrcanus the Hasmonean and nephew of Judah the Maccabee did a large swath of people convert to Judaism. The Khazars, however, did, though their motivations for doing so and their lives as Jews remain shrouded in mystery. Are there Jewish Khazar descendants today? Judah HaLevy‘s famous philosophical treatise the “Kuzari” centers around a (fictitious, though interesting) dialogue with the King of these elusive people of the distant past.

For a more historical account than the Kuzari, pick up a copy of The Jews of Khazaria by Kevin Alan Brook. This work journeys back over a thousand years ago to the time when Jews ruled as kagans, kings, and governors in southern Russia, known then as Khazaria. These wise, tolerant leaders had converted to Judaism in the 9th century along with some members of the nobility and general population.

Recently, a politically-charged book by an Israeli professor renewed a controversial debate: Are modern Israeli Jews really descended from the ancient Israelites or do they descend entirely from converts like Khazars and Berbers?

The second edition of The Jews of Khazaria is the book that answers these questions definitively and without partisanship. You’ll find evidence for the predominant Israelite ancestry of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews in chapter 10. This is a must read for all those who are interested in learning the heritage of Israel’s people.