Jewish genetics

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A survey of some recent genetic studies of Jewish history - migrations during the Diaspora, etc.as well as some old results from Maurice Fishberg in the early 1900s

Transcript of Jewish genetics

  • 1. A genetic history of the Jewish people Dave Shafer CHJ

2. The Torah gives a lot of Jewish genealogies that start with Noah and go for many generations. But this is not science, it is hearsay. Here we will look at DNA evidence to trace some of the long history of the Jewish people. 3. DNA research on ancestry is quite complicated and very technical and has nuances and fine points that we will skip over to give a simpler view of this subject. 4. Much of this material comes from this 2012 book by genetic scientist Harry Ostrer, M.D., Professor of Pathology and Genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Director of Genetic and Genomic Testing at Montefiore Medical Center. He has spent over 20 years researching Jewish genetic history. 5. Any discussion of racial differences is a highly charged and possibly dangerous activity. Yet there is an increasing amount of hard scientific genetic facts that throw much light on Jewish history as well as that of other groups. Why should this be suppressed? Should it be? We will discuss this after this talk. Genetic research can reveal surprising things about our distant past. 6. Neanderthal man takes a selfie. Neanderthals were very similar to us, but with 13% larger brains than us. Like us, when nude they always walked with the right leg forward, to conceal the naughty bits. Recent genetic studies have shown that most of us are about 3% Neanderthal in our genetic makeup, due to this mixing shown here. But none of sub-Saharan Africa has any and the Basques in the Pyrenees have more than us. Genetics can show the history of a population groups travels very long ago. 7. People with an anti-Jewish and/or anti Israel agenda can look toward this new and evolving information in hopes of finding ammunition against for example the idea of an ancient Jewish historical right to the land of Israel. Any information about innate differences between races can lead to bad outcomes, as history has painfully shown. But within the Jewish community this material can lead to a better understanding of the long span of Jewish history, with its many separate diasporas. At CHJ and SHJ, whether you were born Jewish or came to Judaism, this material here ought to be of interest as part of ones general education about all things Jewish. 8. Maurice Fishberg was a physical anthropologist in NYCity and wrote this classic study in 1911. Today most geneticists carefully avoid the word race and use euphemisms which mean exactly the same thing. 9. Jewish genetics The extreme crowding of living and working conditions on the Lower East Side led many to think that these Jewish immigrants were an unhealthy presence in the city, with TB and other illnesses being rampant. And that therefore Jewish immigration should be reduced. Maurice Fishberg set out to find the facts, using census and medical records. The facts proved to be the opposite to the popular beliefs. Jewish TB rates were much less than those of surrounding ethnic ghettos in New York. He speculated that this might be due to eating kosher food and fewer risk factors like syphilis and alcoholism. 10. Annual TB deaths by ward in New York City, 1897-1899 Lowest TB rates were in wards 10, 11, and 13, where the % of Jews was the highest 11. Was there something special about the Jews who came to America, from other countries, to account for this unexpectedly good health statistic? Fishberg did more research. Why was Jewish health better than that of gentiles? 12. It turns out that world- wide, back in the early 1900s, Jews outlived Christians everywhere. In Budapest the life expectancy was 37 for Jews, 26 for Christians (much infant mortality) while in London it was 49 years for Jews, 37 for Christians. Despite a low birth rate this longevity (due to several causes, like better hygiene, kosher food preparation, etc. ) led to an increase in Jewish populations. Tsk! Tsk! Smoking is bad for you 13. Using the crude tools at his disposal, Maurice Fishberg, back in the early 1900s, started to do some basic research on a very simple question - who are these people, the Jews, his people? And associated with that is the age-old question who is a Jew? Fishberg started out by looking for easily measurable physical aspects of Jewish people (eye color, hair color, head shapes, etc.) and assembled some statistics that sometimes led to surprising conclusions. Fishberg approached his studies as a scientist, with an open mind. Decades later the Nazis would do their own studies of this type, with a racist agenda that was happy to fudge data to suit their pre- existing opinions. 14. Fishberg measured the cephalic index (ratio of head height to width) of several thousand New York Jews, both men and women. 40 years later the Nazis would make their own measurements as part of their racial purity campaign. Jewish men showed a sharp peak in their data, sharper than other ethnic groups, implying a tighter genetic base and little intermarriage. Jewish women showed two separate peaks, implying two different genetic strains. Head shape data 15. Fishberg also considered the status of blonde or red head Jews was this evidence of intermarriage? But the Torah talks of several red headed Jews King David, Esau, and others. And blue eyes and fair skin may also go back millennia in the Jewish genetic makeup. Woody Allen as a Hassid in Annie Hall 16. Worldwide about 4% of Jews have red or auburn hair, especially beards in men. About 20% of Jews have blue eyes, with a lot of country variability. Here is movie star Kirk Douglas, with blue eyes and auburn hair. He was born Issur Danielovitch from Russian Jews Young Kirk and his 6 sisters 17. Maurice Fishberg, 100 years ago, thought that Jews were a distinct group in appearance and said that One can pick out a Jew from a thousand non-Jews without difficulty If that is true it is probably only true of Jews recognizing other Jews. Maybe there is sometimes a Jewish expression, more than distinctive facial features, that other Jews can recognize. This expression may come from life experiences. 18. There was a Get Smart episode where two Arab KAOS agents dressed in sheik's robes were rhapsodizing about the impending destruction of several free world capitals: ARAB 1: "New York." ARAB 2: "Gone!" ARAB 1: "London." ARAB 2: "Vaporized!" ARAB 1: "Paris" ARAB 2: "Obliterated!" ARAB 1: "Tel Aviv" ARAB 2: "Uh, no. Not Tel Aviv." ARAB 1: "Why not?" ARAB 2 whispers something in ARAB 1's ear. ARAB 1: "Funny, you don't look it." The old joke with the punch line Thats funny, you dont look Jewish goes back to the early 1900s and was a staple in vaudeville and early TV. But I remember as a kid in the 1950s watching Myron Cohen (I think) on the Ed Sullivan show tell this old joke and he changed the key word to German instead of Jewish. A joke told with a heavy Yiddish accent but the word Jew was never mentioned. 19. The classic question who is a Jew? When George W. Bush was president Hu became premier of China. Here is an imagined conversation, back then, between Bush and Marty, a Jewish aide. Bush You look pensive Marty, whats on your mind? Marty Who is a Jew? Bush What? Youre kidding! He certainly looks Chinese to me! Marty Who? Bush Hu Marty Thats what I said Who? Bush Im saying, Hu doesnt look Jewish! Marty - Who doesnt look Jewish? - What an odd thing to say! Bush - Hu looks Chinese Marty Who looks Chinese? Sorry boss, Im just not following you here. Etc. Etc. (Credit here is due to playwright Jim Sherman for this concept) 20. The Nazis had no trouble answering the question Who is a Jew and considered all possible family tree variations. For them it was purely genetic. These are the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. In some rare instances a Jew could be given the status of an honorary Aryan by marriage when the gentile spouse was a very important person. 21. An extremely rare pristine copy of a Nazi- prepared picture book for school children, showing them how to recognize Jews and the dangers they posed. Here the Jewish man is offering them candy and says you can have more if you come with me. Fishberg found that the stereotype with the hooked nose was actually rare in his survey of NYCity Jewish immigrants from all over Europe. The book, called The Poisonous Mushroom warned that Jews are like poisonous mushrooms, that children should stay far from. 22. From the same Nazi childrens book. A lecherous Jewish doctor is about to examine and then abuse a pure German girl. She bashes him in the face and runs away. A different page in the book homes in on the Jewish nose as a sure way to spot those who children should stay far away from. Note here his exaggerated nose. 23. These days the internet makes it much easier for anti- Semites to inform the public how to spot Jews by sight it is that telling Neanderthal look. But did the Neanderthals wear glasses? 24. Of course you have to be careful with info you get from the internet. Reality is often somewhat different from what you find there. For example, you may read on the internet that the North Korean air force has launched a training exercise. But shown here is the reality. Online anti-Semitic rants depend on an uncritical acceptance of their facts. My info on Jewish genetics comes from multiple reliable sources and not primarily the internet. 25. Some early genetic results have had to be revised due to more sophisticated analysis techniques. The field is still evolving and it is a good idea to take a skeptical stance towards what you see on the internet about genetic research. 26. South Korea is 99.9% Korean and .1% Chinese. North Korea is probably 100.000% Korean and has a very proud view of itself as an extreme of racial purity. Race has always been a very charged topic world-wide. In the Torah (Numbers 12:1) we read that Moses had a black wife and his sister Miriam spoke of this i