Fake Banner
    Are Jews A 'Race'? Can DNA Explain High Jewish IQ?
    By Jon Entine | May 8th 2012 12:16 PM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Are modern Jews a ‘race’—the descendants of an ancient tribal people, as Biblical lore has it? Or do they trace their ancestry to Eurasia as Shlomo Sand, author of The Invention of the Jewish People, and Arthur Koestler in The Thirteenth Tribe, claim?

    The latest DNA research offers extraordinary insights into the origins of the Jewish people and its impact on each of us. I addressed this controversy a few years ago in my book, Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People.

    Now, Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist and professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, takes on the subject from the perspective of a scientist. His new book, Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People, reaffirms the findings in Abraham’s Children, claiming that Jews are ‘different’, and the differences are not just skin deep.

    “Who is a Jew?” has been a poignant question for Jews throughout history. It evokes a complex tapestry of Jewish identity made up of different strains of religious beliefs, cultural practices and blood ties to ancient Judea and modern Israel.

    Jews exhibit, he writes, distinctive genetic signatures. Considering that the Nazis tried to exterminate Jews based on their supposed racial distinctiveness, such a conclusion might be a cause for concern. But Ostrer sees it as central to Jewish identity. Geneticists have long been aware that certain diseases,from breast cancer to Tay-Sachs, disproportionately affect Jews. Ostrer, who is also director of genetic and genomic testing at Montefiore Medical Center, goes further, maintaining that modern Jews are a mostly homogeneous group with all the scientific trappings of what we used to call a “race.”

    Read Jon Entine's review of Legacy in the Jewish Daily Forward

    Jon Entine, author of Abraham's Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of The Chosen People, is founder and director of the Genetic Literacy Project at George Mason University.


    Geneticists have long been aware that certain diseases,from breast cancer to Tay-Sachs, disproportionately affect Jews.
    That merely reveals that for a while, they have been selecting mates within their own group. It's not necessarily indicative of an overall "distinct genetic signature". There are far more genetic similarities among all members of our species.
    In the case of Tay-Sachs, especially, it's caused by just one gene. The prevalence of dark hair among certain ethnic groups is controlled by more than a single gene. But would that suggest that they are even more likely to be a race? I don't think so.
    Enrico: I think you'd benefit from reading either Ostrer's book or Abraham's Children rather than generalize based on a few lines taken out of context. No one suggests that Tay Sachs or any disease gene or collection of genes is a genetic signature for Jewishness. However there are identifiable markers that link most modern Jews to the Near and Middle East. Jews are an identifiable genetic population, much as the Basques or the Amish or (using a larger population as an example) West Africans. That's more or less the definition of a race. I analyze the "race concept" in great detail in a previous book, Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It, as well as in Abraham's Children. I believe you'd find if of interest.
    That's more or less the definition of a race.
    The controversy over the term "race" extends beyond the classification of humans and to all taxonomy. And it's there maybe because the genetic differences are so small, not because the term itself is tabooed.

    You mention that there are other identifiable genetic populations. I admit that I might be guilty of implying that the investigations are not worthy. After all , the surname-Y chromosome research turned out to be useful in forensics.
    Importance? The central focus of population genetics today is to find the genetic roots of diseases. Medical genetics is all about looking for patterns and those patterns tend to correlate to populations.
    Yes, but hold on. Not all people working on population genetics use the category of race, and the genetic roots of diseases are investigated by scientists who are not necessarily population geneticists.
    "Jews are an identifiable genetic population, much as the Basques or the Amish..."

    Of course not.
    Basques mainly belong to haplogroup R1b of Y-chromosome - the same as the majority of Western Europeans. So do the Amish. Ashkenazi Jews also have a huge share of R1b, along with Eastern European R1a and Middle-Eastern J.
    Also, phenotypically it's impossible to tell Basques from, lets say, Spaniards, Welsh, Irish, Italians, etc. The same is with Jews. The reason is that racial markers (not to mention phenotypes) evolved much, much later than most of the main modern haplogroups and are very-very superficial. Otherwise Hitler would've looked like a Berber, while Thomas Jefferson would've been Black...

    I think the self-selection has some value for science now.  Researchers learn a lot because Ashkenazi Jewish people kept to their own for so long. 

    Isn't it interesting that Jews have always said you were Jewish if your mother was a Jew and thousands of years later we find mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited - and that has told us a terrific amount about where people came from.

    The 'race' business is not a widespread science discussion but it should be a discussion science has - unfortunately groups freak out when it is even discussed scientifically, like tackling multi-racial breast cancer prevalence. 

    "Scientific research supports the idea that there is more diversity in the Jewish genome than the European gentile genome.

    Scientific research supports the idea that Jews are part of the Mediterranean race, but have lost some of their original blood.

    Scientific research supports the idea that Southern Europeans have Middle Eastern Ancestry (like Jews) and Northern Europeans have Southern European Ancestry (which means they also have Middle Eastern Ancestry).

    Yet political acts, including Quack Doctors, in the Zionist and Neo-Nazi movements, continue to incorrectly push the idea that Jews are a “separate race.” In actuality, Jews are squarely in the Mediterranean race based on autosomal genetic studies and Jews today are not pure. The Mediterranean race is not different enough from either Norther Europeans or Southern Arabs to be a completely different race.

    They say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    This may be expanded into an Editorial when I have more time."

    "Scientific research supports the idea that Southern Europeans have Middle Eastern Ancestry (like Jews) and Northern Europeans have Southern European Ancestry"

    Northern Europeans do not have Southern European ancestry. First of all, because there's no such thing as "genetically Northern Europeans" and "genetically Southern Europeans"! Northern Europeans mostly belong to I1, N, R1a and R1b haplogroups. Southern Europeans mostly belong to R1b, R1a, I2, J, E and G haplogroups. There's is some extraodinary distant relation between I and J. There's even more distant relation between R and N. Most of these haplogroups came from a rather vast region between Near East, Middle Asia, Arabian Peninsular and Causcasus...

    Zionists have Never claimed that Jews were a separate race to my knowledge. Zionists claim that Jews are inherently middle eastern--direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews/Israelites--and, as such, are the indigenous population of Ancient Israel. Genetics supports this claim actually and disproves the argument that Jews are either Khazars or Europeans by and large, although there is some admixtures.

    None of this equates to a claim for a separate race. What is more, is places Jews squarely as being part of the northern and western levant ancient ethnic groups. Jews are closely linked to Kurds, for example. So, if anything, Jews are part of the middle eastern "races". (as a side note, I hate the term race.... It is such a poorly defined, politically loaded, and ultimately useless term.)

    I am Jewish. I don't know of too many of us who have any respect for genetic markers. It reminds us of Hitler. If you look back you will also find that this is pseudo-science. There was real science done at Hebrew University, not by this professor, which showed just the opposite. If you go on the European genetic genome map, although rough, you will also see how distributed the Jewish genes really are. In fact, the Palestinians are more likely to be the real Jews than most of the Jews, other than the Cohen tribe. Sorry, but what really binds us is not some phony science, created by politicians, but rather a set of values around the Torah. Thanks for posting. Shabbat Shalom!

    You may be Jewish but as for high IQ, not so much. You do not speak for Jews nor scientists. The genetic markers cited by Ostrer are considered state of the art science by 99%+ of the world's geneticists. Ostrer's reputation as a population geneticist is impeccable. Your claim about the Palestinians as the "real Jews" is easily disprovable by viewing their mtDNA, Y chromosome and autosomal markers. There are not politicians that have weighed in in support of using DNA as a marker of Jewishisness...in fact, just the opposite, politicians have taken the stand that Jewishness is purely a matter of faith. So you are wrong--ignorant really--on all accounts. Jon Entine (www.jonentine.com)