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And they took upon themselves the difficult obligations enjoined by the law of the Torah, such as circumcision, the ritual ablutions, washing after a discharge of the semen, the prohibition of work on the Sabbath and during the feasts, the prohibition of eating the flesh of forbidden animals according to this religion, and so on." - Abd al-Jabbar ibn Muhammad al-Hamdani, in his early 11th century work The Establishment of Proofs for the Prophethood of Our Master Muhammad "The Khazars write Hebrew [letters]." - Muhammad ibn Ishaq an-Nadim of Baghdad, in his late 10th century Kitab al-Fihrist The Karaite writer Jacob ben Reuben referred to the Khazars in Sefer ha-Osher as "a single nation who do not bear the yoke of the exile, but are great warriors paying no tribute to the Gentiles." "The Khazar Jews came to the court of Prince Vladimir and said: 'We have heard that Bulgarians (Muslims) and Christians came to teach you their religion...We, however, believe in the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' Vladimir asked them: 'What kind of law do you have?When the number had increased, they made the affair public, and induced the rest of the Khazars to embrace the Jewish faith.They sent to various countries for scholars and books, and studied the Torah.The greater part of these Khazars who use this script are Jews." - Ta'rikh-i Fakhr ad-Din Mubarak Shah, a Persian work composed in 1206 Khazaria is regarded as the "country of the Jews" (Zemlya Zhidovskaya) in Russian folk literature (byliny).And the Schechter Letter informs us that some of the Alan people (neighbors of the Khazars to the south) also adopted Judaism (see Golb and Pritsak, Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century, pages 113 and 115).Constantine Akropolites (1250-1324) copied 11th-century stories about Saint Zotikos and the leprosarium that he founded in Pera, a suburb of Constantinople.
For this was a man who came single-handedly to a king of great rank and to a very spirited people, and they were converted by him without any recourse to violence and the sword.
Unlike other treatments of the question, this essay uses recent discoveries, is meant to be objective, and is fully sourced so that you can be guaranteed of the authenticity of the information.
Although subsequent genetic evidence found no trace of Khazarian-related ancestry in any modern Jewish population, I'm keeping this essay online for the time being so you can analyze different writers' arguments for and against this proposition. The argument I committed to paper in 1997 or 1998 for publication in 1999 that Eastern European Jewish ancestry "is more complex than previously envisioned" has stood the test of time better than those other writers' arguments since we now have genetic evidence of Armenian, Greek, Italian, French, Berber, Slavic, and Chinese introgressions into the Eastern European Jewish gene pool whose core element is Israelite.
Judaism is almost always noted in our medieval documentary sources as having been the most important religion in the Khazar kingdom.
It is often the only religion cited when referring to the Khazars.
(See: "The Legend of Saint Zotikos According to Constantine Akropolites", ed. Miller, Analecta Bollandiana 112 (1994): 339-376.) In the early 10th century, the Jews of Kiev wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of one of the members of their community, whose name was Yaakov bar Hanukkah.