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Theorizing "Jewish Genetics": DNA, Culture, and Historical Narrative

Egorova, Yulia

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N. Valman

L. Roth


In June 2010 two papers appeared in major scientific journals - Nature and the American Journal of Human Genetics – which attempted to address the question about the “genetic structure” of the Jewish people (Behar et al 2010; Atzmon et al 2010). Both papers set out to assess the degree of Jewish communities’ “genetic” relatedness to each other and to their non-Jewish neighbours, and to explore whether the origin of contemporary Jews could be traced to the Middle East. Atzmon et al. examined seven Jewish populations and concluded that their “[genetic] comparison with non-Jewish groups demonstrated distinctive Jewish population clusters, each with shared Middle Eastern ancestry, proximity to contemporary Middle Eastern populations, and variable degrees of European and North African admixture”. More specifically, the paper states that the study it is based on “refuted large-scale genetic contributions of Central and Eastern European and Slavic populations to the formation of Ashkenazi Jewry” (2010: 850). Behar et al. suggest in a similar vein that the results of their study “trace the origin of most Jewish Diaspora communities to the Levant” (2010: 238). These papers contribute to a sizeable body of genetic research that has endeavoured to test the account of Jewish history, according to which contemporary Jews are genealogically connected to ancient Hebrews. This research has added a new dimension to the debate about what it means to be Jewish, injecting new meanings into the “ethnic” discourse about Judaism and Jewish culture.


Egorova, Y. (2014). Theorizing "Jewish Genetics": DNA, Culture, and Historical Narrative. In N. Valman, & L. Roth (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of contemporary Jewish cultures (353-364). Routledge

Publication Date Sep 15, 2014
Deposit Date Jan 23, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jan 26, 2015
Publisher Routledge
Pages 353-364
Series Title Routledge handbooks
Book Title The Routledge handbook of contemporary Jewish cultures.
Chapter Number 27
Publisher URL


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