Bearing the surname indicates that one's patrilineal ancestors were priests in the Temple of Jerusalem. A single such priest was known as a Kohen, and the hereditary caste descending from these priests is collectively known as the Kohanim. As multiple languages were acquired through the Jewish diaspora, the surname acquired dozens of variants.
Being a Kohen imposes some limitations: by Jewish law a Kohen may not marry a divorced woman, and may not marry a proselyte (someone who converted to Judaism). Nor should an observant Kohen come into contact with the dead.
An effort to trace whether or not people named 'Cohen' actually have a common genetic origin has been undertaken in the specific DNA signature associated with the name known as the Cohen Modal Haplotype.
- Transliterated via Russian language
- Schreiber, Mordecai (2011). The Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia. Taylor Trade Publications.
- Donin, Rabbi Haim Halevy (1972). To Be A Jew. A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life. Basic Books. p. 198.
- Donin p.291
- Donin p.304
- Sources for the genetic studies are given in the article Y-chromosomal Aaron.
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