This section is the most comprehensive summary of Jewish genetic data. In recent years, advances in genetic technology and the broadening in scope of genetic studies to encompass more ethnic groups have allowed scientists to come to more accurate conclusions. Nevertheless, not all questions have been answered fully, and followup studies are necessary. At the present time, it is known that Eastern European Jews have a significant Eastern Mediterranean element which manifests itself in a close relationship with Kurdish, Armenian, Palestinian Arab, Lebanese, Syrian, and Anatolian Turkish peoples. This is why the Y-DNA haplogroups J and E, which are typical of the Middle East, are so common among them. At the same time, there are traces of European (including Western Slavic) and Khazar ancestry among European Jews. Ethiopian Jews mostly descend from Ethiopian Africans who converted to Judaism, but may also be related to a lesser extent to Yemenite Jews. Yemenite Jews descend from Arabs and Israelites. North African Jewish and Kurdish Jewish paternal lineages come from Israelites. Additional research is necessary, and it will certainly take several more years to sort it all out. What we can say for sure is that Jewish Y-DNA tends to come from the Middle East, and that studies that take into account mtDNA show that many Jewish populations are related to neighboring non-Jewish groups maternally. All existing studies fail to compare modern Jewish populations' DNA to ancient Judean DNA and medieval Khazarian DNA, but in the absence of old DNA, comparisons with living populations appear to be adequate to trace geographic roots.
Family Tree DNA: Genetic Testing Service
Get genetically tested to discover your relationship to other families, other Jews, and other ethnic groups
David Derbyshire. "Gene helps Jews resist alcoholism." The
Daily Telegraph (U.K., September 17, 2002). Excerpts:
"A study has shown that a genetic mutation carried by at least a fifth of Jews appears to protect against alcoholism. The same inherited trait is fairly common in Asian people, but is much rarer in white Europeans.... The study's author, Dr Deborah Hasin, from Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, said: 'This finding adds to the growing body of evidence that this genetic variation has a protective effect against alcoholism among Jewish groups.' The mutation, called ADH2*2, is involved in the way the body breaks down alcohol in the bloodstream.... Almost all white Europeans lack the ADH2*2 variation.... Past research has shown that the variant is found in 20 per cent of Jewish people. Those with the variant tend to drink less frequently, consume less alcohol overall or have more unpleasant reactions to drink. The new study, published today in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, looked at the relationship between the gene variant and alcoholism among 75 Israeli Jews aged 22 to 65."
"Still more, it has been resolved to put bones found in those sites through genetic testing. DNA studies... will reveal the mystery of the ghost ancestor..." - "El fantasma de los jázaros" by Alicia Dujovne Ortiz, in La Nación (Buenos Aires, Argentina), August 14, 1999 issue, Opinion section.
"Certain scholars in addition appear much to await genetic tests of the DNA of the bones taken for the study of the migrations and the authentication of the sites." - "L'histoire retrouvée des Khazars" by Nicolas Weill, in Le Monde (France), July 9, 1999 issue, page 12.
The DNA of the Crimean Karaites and Egyptian Karaites remain to be studied on a large-scale basis. Small-scale testing of Crimean Karaites occurred during the years 2005 and 2006 and the results were published in the 2nd edition of The Jews of Khazaria in October 2006.
After you've been tested for Y-DNA by a lab like Family Tree DNA, Ybase: Genealogy by Numbers allows you to compare your genotype with another large database to find people who may be related to you. Also check out another public database of haplogroups, Ysearch.org, which also allows comparisons with other people.
The website Genetics and Human Migration Patterns was recommended to me.
Aish HaTorah exposes the myth of a separate Jewish race: "Jews are not a race. Anyone can become a Jew - and members of every race, creed and color in the world have done so at one time or another. There is no distinguishing racial physical feature common only to Jews."
About.com also exposes the myth: "Being Jewish is not a race because Jews do not share one common ancestry or biological distinction. People of many different races have become Jewish people over the years."
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis explains the nature of Judaism: "One of the unique aspects of Judaism is its rejection of Judaism as a biological entity, an inherited spiritual DNA, racial or ethnic. The point is that being a Jew is not a matter of genes and chromosomes. To the contrary, Judaism is the first religion to recognize the 'ger', the stranger who chooses to identify himself with Judaism. Judaism is not rooted in race or clan or in a genetic matter but a religious tradition of choice."
The answer is that Jews are a religion and a civilization, but not a race or singular ethnic group (the latter two definitions marginalize proselytes). As Rabbi Rami Shapiro said: "There is only one response to Who is a Jew? that works: A Jew is one who takes Judaism seriously. One who takes Judaism seriously studies it, argues with it, and lives it." The proper name of the separate ethnic group that most Jews descend from is Israelite.
For historical and archaeological perspectives on these issues, visit our companion pages Are Russian Jews Descended from the Khazars? and Are Russian Jews Descended from German and Bohemian Jews?.