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Monday, May 7, 2012

DNA Study of Jews Covers 3,000 Year History

Nadene Goldfoot
Are Jews a race as Hitler's regime tried to make out?  Are we so different from other people?  Being an amateur genealogist has led me into the study of my family's dna, and with that to John Entine's book:  Abraham's Children-race, identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People in 2007.  He has just written an excellent overview of another new book just out.  It's "Legacy" by Harry Ostrer, which is a genetic history of the Jewish people.

DNA studies have only been around for the past 10 years since the human genome was first mapped that have led to so much information.  This has now become the new age of genetics.  It was found that we Americans, coming from all the countries of the world were found to be 99.9% genetically identical.  That 0.01% now is found to be the key that holds all our differences; so is crucial.   It makes us not only individuals but connects us  to our own group.  It is made up "of 3 million nucleotide pairs which determine our skin or hair color and susceptibility to certain diseases" among other things.

The term "race" is passe today.  Instead, we use population and  clime.  Race refers to "region of ancestral origin."  We Jews are found through DNA to link to sizable Jewish communities of North America and Europe for sure, as that's where most of the Ashkenazi Jews came from.  The exciting part is that it's also true that we link up with Yemenite and other Middle Eastern Jews who have relocated to Israel.  Besides that, scientists have found The Black Lemba of southern Africa carry the J1 gene, which is called the Cohen gene, so there's another link.  We find we are linked also to the Cochin Jews of India of which I met some in Israel.  However, the Bene Israel of India were not linked to us as their family histories had taught them, nor did the Ethiopian Jews as well whose history was that they were the descendants of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.  I say that perhaps their ancestors were simply in the train that brought Sheba and her handmaidens that came to visit Solomon and as the story progresses, went back to Ethiopia quite pregnant.  It obviously wasn't caused by the Jews surrounding Solomon.  The latest I know of are the Pashtun Tribe of Afghanistan who also claim to be from one of the lost tribes.  DNA has turned up a few of my distant cousins from this population.

80% of Jewish men and 50% of Jewish women can trace their ancestry back to the Middle East.  The men, in leaving Eretz Yisrael on trading missions often married women in these new lands, so until there was a community in certain places, did not have the rule of being Jewish because the mother was Jewish.  Scientists have also found that we here today  came from 4 Jewish women in the distant past, but Jon doesn't mention that as there is so much to talk about.

What makes us a little different is that though we make up only 3% of the USA population, we have won more than 25% of the Nobel Prizes for American scientists since 1950.  We're not taking over the world.  It just happens that our DNA is producing some very smart people.  Maybe the skill involved is a good memory, as we also have our quirks and our diseases carried by our DNA such as genetic mutations causing breast and ovarian cancer, Tay-Sachs, etc.  We turn out doctors and lawyers, and you can't belong to these professions without brains, so not only does environment and a pushy mother help, but the genes for it as well.

It's scary for Jews  to bring up this subject as the Nazis used it against us.  However, this is a new era and we have Jews among the top genetic researchers in the world.  Maurice Fishberg in the 20th century went around measuring head sizes but he and other phrenologists were so wrong.  Skull shape doesn't give us information about human differences except what's important for the hat industry.  The sociologist and cultural anthropologists, many of whom were Jewish, claimed that there was no differences between ethnic groups, but are finding that they were wrong.

Our Jewish identity has many threads, including DNA.  Arthur Koestler's book, The Thirteenth Tribe, made the insinuation that all Jews in Europe came from the Empire of Khazaria, which was what was to be later, part of the USSR.  The Royal family had converted to Judaism, and did not force the rest of their people to do so.  Instead, they either remained pagan or took up Christianity or Islam.  It's been found that my father could be from the Royal family as our DNA amounts to just 5% of the Jewish population.  If this is so, then we have been following Judaism since about the middle 600's and intermarrying with other Jews, thereby mixing up those Jewish genes. Update is that it is not my father's haplogroup but that of another group of Jews, most likely Hungarians that could be directly from Khazaria.  There goes my chance to have royalty from Khazaria in my roots, although we could carry some tiny segments from that empire.

Judaism is a religion, and now, perhaps there is some truth in that it is from a particular population from the Middle East that we refer to as Eretz Yisrael, our Jewish Homeland..  We gave up converting people long ago.  In fact, if you want to become Jewish, you usually have to ask a rabbi 3 times before he will take you seriously.  We're not the world's most beloved people with all the anti-Semitism that abounds.  We are, as it turns out, a wonderful subject for DNA science, and become good subjects for study along with East Asians, Amish, Icelanders, aboriginals, Basques and African tribes as well because we have all remained isolated for centuries because of geography, religion or the culture.  .

Other books on the subject I have read are: Jacob's Legacy by David B. Goldstein, a genetic view of Jewish history, 2008,  and Tracing Your Jewish DNA for Family History & Ancestry by Anne Hart; merging a mosaic of communities, 2003.  Koestler's book came out in 1976, before all this DNA study, and caused quite a stir.It mostly covers the Khazar Empire of Eastern Europe. which was wiped out by Genghis Khan and Russia.


1 comment:

Dov Henis said...

Update Comprehension Of Culture-Genetics

Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People by Harry Ostrer

A genetic history of a cultural phenotype is the progeny of its cultural history.

Genetics is the progeny of culture. Culture, the reaction to and exploitation of circumstances, shapes the genetic expressions and profile. Genes are organisms, life’s primal organisms.

See Darwin, Pavlov and cause and cure of addictions…

Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)