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November 13, 2014 5:41 pm

Family Tree DNA Founder: Data Proves Jews Came From Mideast

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DNA molecule. The founder DNA genealogy company Family Tree DNA says that most Jewish people descend from Mideast ancestors. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – The founder and president of Family Tree DNA, one of the top U.S. genealogical genetic testing companies, said genetics prove that the Jewish people’s ancestors originated in the Middle East.

“We’re not interlopers who came here from Eastern Europe, and we’re not Serbs or Kazars,” Bennett Greenspan said during a guest lecture on Wednesday at the Netanya Academic College in Israel, Haaretzreported.

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Greenspan refuted the idea stipulated in a book written by Tel Aviv University historian Shlomo Sand that modern Jews are not descendants of people who migrated from the Middle East, but of people who lived elsewhere and converted to Judaism. Yet another study published n 2012 by Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, showed that many Jews today do have distinctive genetic traits that can be pinpointed back to the Middle East.

“You can use whatever polemic you want to discredit the Jews or discredit the nation, but saying that we weren’t here is a lie,” Greenspan said. Among “no less than 75 percent of Ashekanzi, Sephardi or Mizrahi Jews, their ancestors came from what we call the general Middle East” based on Family Tree DNA database data, he added.

Another study, recently conducted at Columbia University based on the genetic sequencing of 128 Ashkenazi Jews and published in the Nature Communications journal, showed that modern Ashkenazi Jews descend from a small group of about 350 individuals who lived between 600 and 800 years ago.

The ancestors of current Ashkenazi Jews were both European and Middle Eastern, according to the study, likely due to the fact that Middle Eastern Jews had settled in Europe and mixed with the local population.

Today’s approximate population of 10 million Ashkenazi Jews descends from a very small group of ancestors due a “bottleneck” effect, a drastic reduction in population size that occurred for unknown reasons about 25-30 generations ago, according to the study.

“[Among Ashkenazi Jews] everyone is a 30th cousin… They have a stretch of the genome that is identical,” Itsik Pe’er, an associate professor of computer science and systems biology at Columbia University, told Live Science.

Interestingly, one test conducted by Family Tree DNA on a Saudi Arabian man showed that 7 percent of his ancestors were Jewish.

“I told him the difference between him and me is that he’s a Muslim Arab and I’m a Jewish Arab. Period. Just like there are Christian Arabs. But the majority of us men, whether we’re Saudi, Palestinian, Syrian or Jews—the majority of us came from the Middle East a long, long time ago. Some of us left. Some of us didn’t. DNA shows that,” Greenspan said.

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    The origin of Eastern European Jews, (EEJ) by far the largest and most important Ashkenazi population, and their affinities to other Jewish and European populations are still not resolved.

    Studies that compared them by genetic distance analysis of autosomal markers to European Mediterranean populations revealed that they are closer to Europeans than to other Jewish populations [1-3].

    In contrast, according to the Y-chromosomal haplogroups EEJ are closest to the non-Jewish populations of the Eastern Mediterranean (table 3, figure 4).

    “EEJ are the largest and most investigated Jewish community, yet their history as Franco-German Jewry is known to us only since their appearance in the 9th century, and their subsequent migration a few hundred years later to Eastern Europe [4,5]. Where did these Jews come from? It seems that they came to Germany and France from Italy [5-8].

    It is also possible that some Jews migrated northward from the Italian colonies on the northern shore of the Black Sea [9]. All these Jews are likely the descendents of proselytes.

    Conversion to Judaism was common in Rome in the first centuries BC and AD. Judaism gained many followers among all ranks of Roman Society [10-13].”

    The autosomal genetic distance analysis presented here clearly demonstrates that the investigated Jewish populations do not share a common origin.

    The resemblance of EEJ to Italians and other European populations portrays them as an autochthonous European population.

    **The demographic histories of three Jewish populations exemplify how different demographic patterns make the uniparental markers more reliable for Iraqi (Babylonian) Jews and Yemenite Jews and less reliable for EEJ. Both Yemenite Jews and Iraqi Jews resemble populations from their regions of origin according to autosomal markers [1,3,30-32].

    **Babylonian Jews numbered more than a million in the first century AD [35], and constituted the majority of the population in the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris in the 2nd-3rd centuries AD [36]. Gilbert [37] estimates that by 600 AD there were 806,000 Jews in Mesopotamia, and according to Sassoon [38] it was inhabited by about a million Jews in the 7th century. In the 14th century the estimates for Baghdad alone range from 70,000 to hundreds thousands [38].

    *By comparing the structure of the STRs network among the various Ashkenazi populations and among the various European non-Jewish populations they reached the conclusion that a single male founder introduced this haplogroup into Ashkenazi Jews in the first millennium.

    –Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin1,2,3 et al.

    1 Department of Haematology and Genetic Pathology, School of Medicine, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
    2 Department of Human Genetics, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Israel
    3 Current Address: Blood Bank, Sheba Medical Center, Ramat-Gan 52621, Israel

    “The origin of Eastern European Jews revealed by autosomal, sex chromosomal and mtDNA polymorphisms”

    biologydirect.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1745-6150-5-57

  • Claudia Cornelia Mutschie Steinmeyer White

    I have substantial reasons to assume that Albert Einstein must have been my genetic Grandfather. I am from Augsburg, not far from Fischach, where Einstein’s grandparents and many of my family members came from. My Grandmother, Christina Johanna Steinmeyer, had always been involved in the Augsburger Theater and she had been one of Albert Einstein’ s sexual liasons. She conceived my father in April 1930 and gave birth to him on the 24. of January 1931. Appearantly there was some letter exchange going on at that time between someone in Augsburg and Einstein, who was at that stage visiting the USA, France and his home Berlin. Can You help me and my siblings to gain clairity regarding our genetic origin?
    Thank You, Cornelia Steinmeyet

  • Amos

    Where does he say they have only Middle Eastern ancestry? The article says over and over that it’s the majority of Jews. Also, it admits there WERE converts, which even today, is permitted in the religion. The point he is making is one of statistical significance. Because Israel’s Jew hating detractors keep saying the Jews are non-indigenous interlopers. That is just not accurate – and flies in the face of the evidence we now have.

  • There seems to be contradictory statements in this article. If the Columbia study of 128 Ashkenazi Jews concludes that

    “The ancestors of current Ashkenazi Jews were both European and Middle Eastern, according to the study, likely due to the fact that Middle Eastern Jews had settled in Europe and mixed with the local population”;

    How can one then state that Ashkenazi Jews are completely of Middle Eastern ancestry? That would be misleading. It would be more honest, though less politically motivated, to say that Ashkenazi Jews are of mixed heritage, as the Columbia study illustrates.

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