Home genetics kits could identify millions with Jewish roots

JPPI president says genetic tests tests could foster an "expanded circle of individuals" who feel an affinity for Jews and Israel.

August 31, 2014 00:49
2 minute read.
Ethiopian Jews

Uri Perednik poses with Ethiopian Jews in Addis Ababa.. (photo credit: Courtesy)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


Millions of people around the world may discover Jewish roots with the increasing availability of home genetics tests and concurrent growth in popularity of genealogical websites, according to a Jerusalem think tank.

The Jewish People Policy Institute, an independent body founded by the Jewish Agency in 2002, focused on Jewish continuity that conducted research regarding this issue, announced on Wednesday that earlier this summer it had recommended to the government, as well as Diaspora communities that they work to connect with people discovering that they have Jewish ties.

“Millions of people around the world may discover they have Jewish roots as a result of direct-to-consumer DNA Testing,” JPPI said in a statement, adding that it endorsed the provision of “information and points of connection for individuals who have discovered some Jewish ancestry through direct-to-consumer DNA testing.”

According to JPPI president Avinoam Bar-Yosef, such efforts would not focus on proselytization but rather on creating an “expanded circle of individuals with some Jewish roots who feel an affinity and identification with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

Such efforts, a spokeswoman for the think tank told The Jerusalem Post, could serve to buttress Israel’s standing abroad and help build bridges between Jewish communities and their neighbors abroad.

Furthermore, the JPPI said that the ability to determine prior familial links to the Jewish people could “offer opportunities for connecting, engaging and strengthening the bonds of the Jewish people.”

Citing a New York Times report from 2005 regarding American Hispanics embracing aspects of Jewish culture due to indications that they were descended from Spanish Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism, the think tank stated that the results of genetic tests “have the potential to deeply affect one’s self-conception of belonging to the Jewish people” and could “lead to other forms of Jewish engagement.”

“Just as the State of Israel has invested resources into the study and promotion of archeology, in part to demonstrate and strengthen the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, by investing in the fields of genetic research and molecular anthropology, Israeli scientists could be at the forefront of this growing field not only to demonstrate the historical connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, but to help refute studies that manipulate data in order to undermine that connection,” said Noah Slepkov, author of the JPPI study.

Slepkov was likely referring to some who claim that the Jews of today are unrelated to the Israelites of the Bible such as Israeli academic Shlomo Sand, whose book The Invention of the Jewish People, which claimed that contemporary Jews are the descendants of the Khazars, Berbers and other groups. Sand’s book became a bestseller in France leading to a significant backlash by Jewish groups.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

74th Annual Golden Globe Awards
January 24, 2019
Classic Holocaust TV miniseries to be shown in Germany