Differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic

Last Updated on March 19, 2022 by QCity Editorial Stuff

The Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews are two culturally different groups. The Ashkenazi Jews descended from European settlers, while the Sephardic Jews descend from Middle Eastern settlers. One of the main differences between these two groups is that Jewish law dictates that one cannot convert to Judaism if they were born a Jew, but for someone who was not born a Jew, there are specific requirements to be considered Jewish. This article will explore some of these cultural and religious differences between the two groups.

There are many differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. For example, there is a difference in the way that they pronounce certain letters of the Hebrew alphabet. They also have different traditions when it comes to food and prayer. One thing that both groups do share in common is their love for Israel which has been a home for both cultures since ancient times. 

Comparison between Ashkenazi and Sephardic

Parameters of ComparisonAshkenaziSephardic
RegionAshkenazi Jews are of Northern and Eastern European descenSephardic Jews are of Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean, and North African descent
SkinAshkenazi Jews tend to have fair skin with light hair colorSephardic Jews tend to have darker skin tones and dark hair
SpeakAshkenazi Jews speak Yiddish or Hebrew as their first languagesSephardic Jews may speak Ladino (a Spanish-Hebrew mix) or Arabic
RiskAshkenazi Jews have a higher risk of Tay-Sachs diseaseSephardic Jews do
AlphabetAshkenazi Jews use the Hebrew alphabet for their prayersSephardic Judaism uses the Arabic alphabet

What is Ashkenazi?

The term Ashkenazi is used to describe a person of Eastern European Jewish descent. It is derived from the Hebrew word “Ashkenaz,” which was used to refer to Germany. Ashkenazi Jews are one of the major groups of Jews in the world, and they make up about 90% of the Jewish population in the United States. Many distinctive features characterize Ashkenazi Jews, including their culture, religion, and language.

In the world of genetic research, Ashkenazi Jews are a hot topic. This group of people has a unique genetic makeup that is worth studying. But what is Ashkenazi, exactly? And why is their DNA so interesting? Here’s a look at this distinct population and what makes their genes so special.

Differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic

What is Sephardic?

Sephardic Jews are descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. They have their own unique culture and customs, which make them a separate group within the Jewish community. While there are many different sects of Judaism, Sephardic Jews have their unique traditions that set them apart from other groups. If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating group of people, keep reading.

Sephardic Jews are those who trace their ancestry to Spain and Portugal. Though there is some debate over the definition of Sephardic, most people say that it includes all Jewish communities that have maintained some connection to the Iberian Peninsula, even if they no longer reside there. Some of the best-known Sephardic dishes include pastel de nata and salmorejo.

Differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic

10 Differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic

1. Ashkenazi Jews are of Northern and Eastern European descent while Sephardic Jews are of Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean, and North African descent.

2. Ashkenazi Jews tend to have fair skin with light hair color while Sephardic Jews tend to have darker skin tones and dark hair.

3. Ashkenazi Jews speak Yiddish or Hebrew as their first languages while Sephardic Jews may speak Ladino (a Spanish-Hebrew mix) or Arabic.

4. The culture of the two groups is different – for example, some Jewish holidays that are celebrated by one group aren’t celebrated by the other.

5. Many people in the United States think all Jewish people come from Europe when this is not true at all – it’s a misconception that needs to be corrected.

6. There are many more differences between these two groups but I’ll leave them up to you to find out on your own.

7. Ashkenazi Jews have a higher risk of Tay-Sachs disease than Sephardic Jews do.

8. Ashkenazi Jews use the Hebrew alphabet for their prayers, while Sephardic Judaism uses the Arabic alphabet.

9. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah is celebrated by both groups but has different meanings to each one.

10. The traditional dish served during Hanukkah in the US is latkes (a type of fried potato pancake), which originated with European Ashkenazi culture. 

Interesting Statistics or Facts of Ashkenazi

1. Ashkenazi Jews are an ethnic group of Jews who descend from Eastern European Jewish communities that historically practiced Judaism and gradually converted to Christianity.

2. The word “Ashkenaz” is the Medieval Hebrew name for Germany, where they lived in large numbers during medieval times.

3. They are descended from ethnically diverse populations, including the ancient Israelites (and thus share a common genetic history with other Middle Eastern peoples) as well as local Europeans such as Celts, Slavs, Italians, and French.

4. The term “Ashkenazi”, sometimes used by Jews themselves for self-designation purposes or by outsiders to refer to them collectively, was first applied to German Jewry in the 11th century CE.

5. As of 2013 about 6 million people were living in Israel who had at least one grandparent who was born outside of Europe but within the former Soviet Union; these include descendants of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from Russia and elsewhere.

6. In 2006 it was estimated that 80% of world Jewry is Ashkenazi – roughly 120 million people worldwide.

Interesting Statistics or Facts of Sephardic

1. Sephardic Jews are descendants of Jews that lived in Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and the Middle East.

2. The Spanish Inquisition forced many Sephardic Jews to convert to Christianity or leave Spain. 

3. A study found that people with one Jewish parent were more likely than those without a Jewish parent to have an affinity for Judaism.

4. Famous Sephardic Jews include Albert Einstein, Leonard Cohen, and Marlon Brando. 

5. There is a difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardic cooking – Ashkenazi cuisine consists of Eastern European dishes while Sephardic cuisine has Mediterranean influences.

6. In the Torah there is mention of “Sepharad” as being the land where Abraham’s family settled after they left Ur Kasdim (Ur of Chaldees) but this place was never identified with any specific country or region.


Ashkenazi Jews are mostly of Eastern European descent and Sephardic Jews are typically descendants from Spain, Portugal, North Africa, or the Middle East. Ashkenazim represent 90% of all Jewish people in Israel today. In contrast to their counterparts who fled persecution during World War II, most American-born children of Russian immigrants identify as Ashkenazi rather than as Russian Orthodox Christians because they were raised with a different culture and language at home. -The two groups have been living separately for over 1000 years but share some commonalities such as adherence to a similar set of holidays and customs rooted in Judaism. Some differences do exist between these communities, however: while both groups practice matrilineal descent (passing down one’s ancestry through mother’s lineage) and a kosher diet, the two groups use differing calendars.


Resource 01: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/genetics-dictionary/def/ashkenazi-jews
Resource 02: https://www.ushmm.org/collections/bibliography/sephardim-during-the-holocaust

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