Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Genes of the Jews

The journal Nature just published "The genome-wide structure of the Jewish people," a large-scale analysis of the genes of Jewish people from around the world, from India to Ethiopia to Europe to Iraq ... and it reminds me why I'm so excited about genetic analysis.

Two of the most interesting findings (in my view!):

1.) Despite large geographical and historical differences, the two major groups of Jews (Ashkenazim and Sephardim) are genetically extremely similar to each other. This is similar to the recent finding that Irish and Scottish genes are very similar. It is biologically accurate to refer to the Jews as, well, Jewish, whatever their history, and the biological evidence is that they have been a separate people for a long, long time. (This also shows that they rarely intermixed the people around them -- except in India and Ethiopia. Ethiopia is such a unique nation ... )

2.) The New York Times reports that the Iraqi and Irani Jewish communities branched out from the other Jewish communities 2500 years ago, correlating with the Babylonian exile and destruction of the first temple. So we can read that part of the Bible in the genes.

Now I want to know, can genetic analysis find the Lost Tribes mixed in with others? Probably not but ... I have tons of questions. Bring on the genes!

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