Researchers say the study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, puts to rest age-old questions about whether Jews are a group of unrelated people who share a religious ideology or a distinct ethnicity with common ancestry.More on that second study--
“The debate is over,” said Dr. Edward R. Burns, one of the lead authors of the study. “The Jewish people are one people with a common genetic thread that evolved in the second or third century BC.”
The study, “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era ,” [available here] compared the genetic analyses of 237 Jews, including Sephardic (Middle Eastern) and Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews — as well as an analysis of 418 non-Jews worldwide, and found that the Jews were more closely related to each other than to their fellow countrymen.
Past studies have reached similar conclusions, but they looked at smaller populations and considered only blood groups, mitochondrial DNA (a type of DNA passed down by mothers) or Y chromosomes (passed down by fathers).
For this inquiry, researchers conducted a genome-wide analysis of the major groups of the Jewish Diaspora — Ashkenazi Jews; Italian, Greek and Turkish Sephardic Jews; and Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian Jews.
The study — and a second genetic study published Friday in the journal Nature [available here] — scientifically undermines arguments made by those who challenge Jews’ historical relationship to Israel, such as former White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who resigned last week after saying Jews in Israel should “go home” to Germany, Poland and the United States.
Turns out, the Jews in Israel are already there.
“It seems that most Jewish populations, and therefore most Jewish individuals, are closer to each other [at the genetic level], and closer to the Middle Eastern populations, than to their traditional host population in the Diaspora,” Israeli geneticist Doron Behar, author of the Nature study, told the BBC.In addition to the claim that Jews are merely a religion and nothing more, there is another claim that is also debunked by the findings of the study:
Behar’s study examined the genes of people from 14 Jewish communities and compared them to 69 non-Jewish communities, finding — as the American Journal of Human Genetics did — a common ancestral Middle Eastern link among all Jews.
One key difference in Behar’s study is that it also included Ethiopian and Indian Jews; he found that those communities were genetically closer to their non-Jewish neighbors than the other Diaspora groups were to theirs. This may be due to a higher degree of genetic, religious and cultural crossover when the Jewish communities in these areas became established.
Both studies also find that Jews have a strong genetic link to modern Palestinians, Druze and Bedouins, following another traditional understanding of both the Jewish and non-Jewish populations of the region. (Israeli Jews and Palestinians sometimes refer to each other as “cousin,” a term used to recognize the common Biblical understanding that both groups descended from Abraham.)
DNA analysis in both studies shows that European Jews are related to Middle Eastern Jews and non-Jewish Middle Eastern people, a finding that also repudiates claims by some that Ashkenazi Jews are the descendants of Slavs or Khazars, a north Caucasus group, who converted to Judaism in the ninth century.It's not as if anti-Semites have any lack of claims to make against both Jews and against Israel--nor will 2 scientific studies prevent the same old claims from being made--but now it is clear that those kinds of claims and the people who make them are not to be taken seriously.
“It de-legitimizes the attempts to suggest that there is an alternate origin to Judaism,” said Paul Root Wolpe, professor of bioethics at Emory University in Atlanta, who was not part of the study. Despite “all of the attempts to try to rewrite the Jewish people’s understanding of their own history, over and over again genetic studies show that there is more truth to the tale.”
Wolpe notes that Jewry had a similar reaction in 1997, when a Y chromosome study revealed a strong genetic marker that seemed to support the Biblical account of a priestly family, the Cohanim, descended from Moses’ brother Aaron.
Technorati Tag: Jewish Genealogy and Jewish DNA.