DNA and Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews Paperback – 1 Sep 2004
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Using DNA analysis, it has become possible to find definite answers to questions of Biblical tradition and genealogy. Chapter One discusses two pioneering studies that detected Y-Chromosome markers which occur with high frequency in the Jewish priestly line of Kohanim. This genetic signature which is known as the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH) proves their direct lineage from a common ancient ancestor.
Research amongst Diaspora communities revealed that Jewish people around the globe are closely related, distinct from their host communities, and share a common geographical origin in the Middle East. Chapter Three looks at the genetic and biblical Matriarchs through studies of the mtDNA which is transferred through the female line. The results confirm that individuals like Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel and Leah were real individuals, not mythical constructs.
The Ancient Hebrews and the question of the Lost Tribes are covered in Chapter Five, a historical overview of Ancient Israel, early exile communities, legends of the lost tribes and a look at modern groups that claim Hebrew roots, complete with the results of genetic tests.Read more ›
It focuses on the DNA makeup of the Kohanim in both Sephardic (Iberian, North African and Middle Eastern Jews) and Ashkenazic( North, East and Central European Jews) communities and shows that the genetic differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews are minor.
The author shows a marked understanding and knowledge of a number of disciplines.
Rabbi Kleiman explains how the Kohanim and the Jewish people have passed the test of time and of tradition, and tradition has passed the test of science.
Science has proved that Jewish men from communities in the Middle East: Iran, Iraq, Kurds, Yemenites and Roman Jews as well as Ashkenazim/European Jews- all have very similar almost identical profiles.
The author quotes Professor Michael Hammer who comments:
"Despite the long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level. The results support the hypothesis that the paternal gene pools of Jewish communities from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East descended from a common Middle Eastern ancestral population, and suggest that most Jewish communities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora".
The genetic research confirms that most Jews today are indeed the descendants of ancestors who came from the Middle East.
Jews everywhere are closely genetically related.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
With DNA and Tradition, Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman has written a book, if not for his grandmother, then for the scientifically challenged, like myself.
The premise is simple enough. If all kohanim descended from Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, then they should share certain genetic traits.
From there it becomes more technical. A sampling of Jewish males from Israel, England, and North America were asked to contribute cheek cells in order to extract their DNA. From that study, 98.5 percent of the kohanim tested were found to have the YAP (Y-chromosome Alu Polymorphism) marker.
In a second study, scientists collected more DNA samples and expanded their selection of Y-chromosome markers. Confirming their hypothesis, they discovered that a particular array of six chromosome markers was found in 97 of 106 kohanim tested. The odds against this happening by chance are less than 1 in 10,000.
This set of markers is now known as the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH). In Skorecki's words, "the simplest, most straightforward explanation is that these men have the Y-chromosome of Aaron. The study suggests that a 3,000-year-old tradition is correct and has a biological counterpart."
Motivated by the findings, more scientists got on board. By analyzing the Y-chromosome, which is passed virtually unchanged from father to son, they sought to ascertain whether "the scattered groups of modern Jews are actually the modified descendants of the ancient Hebrews of the Bible."
The samplings were expanded to include 29 different population groups (seven of which were Jewish). These populations were divided into five groups: Jews, Middle-Eastern non-Jews, Europeans, North Africans, and sub-Saharan Africans. The findings proved that Sephardi (from the Near East) and Ashkenazi (from Europe) Jews have nearly identical genetic profiles.
This profile, they subsequently discovered, is of Middle Eastern origin. Among other factors, this discovery is attributable to a low rate of intermarriage between Diaspora Jews and local gentiles.
"Since the Jews first settled in Europe more than 50 generations ago, the intermarriage rate was estimated to be only about 0.5%... Ashkenazi Jews are still closer genetically to Sephardic and Kurdish Jews than to any other population."
Interestingly, among the Jewish communities sampled, North Africans are thought to be the closest genetically to the Jewish/Hebrew population of the First Temple period around 2,500 years ago.
WHILE THESE discoveries may not impinge on Halacha, the implications are no less salient. Dr. Harry Ostrer, chairman of the Human Genetics Program at New York University, sums it up: "Recent work from genetics labs has validated the biblical record of a Semitic people who chose a Jewish way of life several thousand years ago. These observations are the biological equivalent to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls."
Kleiman furthers the significance when he quotes the famous sage, the Hafetz Haim: "We will immediately need kohanim [when the Temple is rebuilt] who are knowledgeable in the Service. Without kohanim there is no purpose to the building of the Temple."
Peppered throughout the book are biblical references to various prophecies and promises. One example is the ingathering of the exiles - something Israel is witnessing now as it receives a huge influx of immigrants from Peru to Ethiopia. Some of these people are considered to be members of the Lost Tribes, and these genetic breakthroughs have helped legitimize their status.
One example is the community of Djerba, off the coast of Tunisia, which has a tradition of having arrived there before the destruction of the Temple. They also have a group of people who consider themselves kohanim. In the past, such claims have been hard to prove and uncomfortable to question. Now, however, scientists can genetically test a sample of these kohanim, and have discovered that they all have the CMH.
Kleiman also dedicates parts of the book to the history of kohanim, the history of the Jewish Exile, and various accounts of Lost Tribes. He provides many interesting tidbits about the origins of some Jewish names.
For instance, the common Sephardi last name Mazeh is an acronym of the Hebrew words mizera aharon hakohen - from the seed of Aaron the Priest. Similarly, the popular Ashkenazi last name Katz is often an abbreviation of kohen-tzedek, or righteous priest. Another common name, Rappaport, is said to have come with the family of 16th century Rabbi Avraham Menahem Hakohen Rapa, of Porto, Italy.
One of the more compelling quotes I came across was from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: "The kabbalists actually maintained that everything that exists is the result of tzerufim - various permutations of the letters of an alphabet. It now turns out that this is not a metaphor at all. It is actually, literally true... the DNA string of those characters is all a series of letters - A, C, G, and T - which, as it were, extend to perform this huge language that is the DNA."
The author also explores legends of lost tribes and DNA tests of some Mormon claims. Several genealogical websites are provided; including a few that would be of interests to the general public. This book is brief, well organized and easy for the layman to read. It is well documented without being cumbersome.
Using DNA analysis, it has become possible to find definite answers to questions of Biblical tradition and genealogy. Chapter one discusses two pioneering studies that detected Y-Chromosome markers that occur with high frequency in the Jewish priestly line of Kohanim. This genetic signature has become known as the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH).
Further studies of Diaspora communities revealed that Jewish people around the globe are closely related to one another, distinct from their host communities, and share a common geographical origin in the Middle East. Chapter Three looks at the genetic and biblical Matriarchs through studies of the mtDNA, which is transferred through the female line. Studies seem to confirm that people like Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel and Leah were real individuals, not mythical constructs.
Chapter Five deals with the Ancient Hebrews and the question of the Lost Tribes. It provides a historical overview of Ancient Israel, early exile communities, legends of the lost tribes and a look at modern groups that claim Hebrew roots, complete with the results of genetic tests. These groups include, amongst others, the Pathans of Afghanistan, Georgian, Kurdish and Bukharan Jews, the Bene Menashe of India, tiny communities in China and Japan, plus the Ethiopian Jews and the Lemba people of Southern Africa. The priestly Buba clan of the Lemba has a significant percentage of the aforementioned CMH. The Khazar question is also explored here.
The next chapter goes into more detail on the history of the Ashkenazi of Europe and the Sefardi of the Middle East and Mediterranean communities. Genetic studies reveal that these two broadly defined groups are closely related despite the long years of separation. This chapter contains the results of numerous genetic studies and includes a map of the history of Ashkenazi movements in Europe.
Chapter Seven addresses the question of who a Kohan is, discusses Aaron the High Priest and his descendents and includes a table of Kohanim Down The Ages. There is a fascinating section on Kohan names, which include Cohn, Kahn, Kaplan, Rappaport and Shapiro, and how they were adapted or derived. This interesting chapter also describes the duties and personality of the Kohanim, their lineages, plus the Tribe of Levi and their genealogy with a list of surnames that include Levy, Lewis, Segal and Horowitz. This section concludes with information on organizations working towards the reactivation of the Kohanim.
The next chapter is devoted to ancestor research, providing helpful information on Biblical and Rabbinical genealogy, how to go about searching out one's ancestors, special interest groups, online resources and a bibliography of useful books. All the tools needed for tracking down your forebears are provided here.
The next chapter is just as interesting as chapter seven as it examines the genetic indications of the historical Abraham. The CMH marker is also a signature of the Judeo-Christian patriarch. Research reveals that large populations in the Middle East, like Lebanese, Kurds and Armenians, share this marker. There are also Europeans, like Hungarians and the southern and central Italian people, that carry this genetic signature.
The last chapter provides a summary of the latest findings from molecular genetics as they relate to Biblical genealogy. The conclusion is that DNA research has verified both the oral and the scriptural tradition. It concludes with an illuminating section on the spiritual heirs of Abraham and his biological heirs through Jacob, to whom the land was given as an inheritance forever.
The Appendix includes three scientific studies; from Nature: Y-Chromosomes Of Jewish Priests (1997), and Origins Of Old Testament Priests (1998). The article from the Proceedings Of The Natural Academy Of Sciences of the USA (2000) is titled Jews And Middle Eastern Non-Jewish Populations Share a Common Pool of Y-Chromosome Biallelic Haplotypes.
There are illustrations, maps, charts and tables throughout the text and the book concludes with bibliographic notes arranged by chapter. I highly recommend this well-written and beautifully crafted work to all those who cherish our Judeo-Christian tradition. Not only does it reveal close correspondences between scripture and science, but also provides other insights with significant implications for the future. I also recommend Abraham's Children by Jon Entine.
To start off, the review called "Based on the wrong starting point" does not have the facts of the book right. The reviewer Arthor Koestler wrote, "According to the author, the book is constructed around a scientific comparison of the genetical properties of sefardita and askhenazim Jews. But accordingly to the book, the samples were obtained from anatolian sefarditas, theoretically expelled from Spain in 1492."
This statement is completely incorrect. DNA and Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews is based on genetic testing of Yemenite Jews, Iraqi Jews, Syrian Jews, Libyan Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Moroccan Jews, Spanish Jews, Indian Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, the Lemba, the Samaritans and a number of non-Jewish middle eastern ethnic groups. If one reads page 29 of DNA and Tradition it states that the, "findings were that Jewish men from communities in the Near East: Iran/Iraq, Kurds, Yemenites and Roman Jews, as well as Ashkenazim/European Jews - all have very similar, almost identical genetic profiles!" Page 30 of DNA and Tradition provides further detail on the specific communities and their histories.
The reviewer Arthur Koestler also does not seem to know that the term "Sephardic" is often applied, though incorrectly, to all Jews who are not Ashkenazi. This is mostly in the non-Jewish world, but sometimes it is the case in Israel. The reason is because many Sephardi Jews, African Jews, and Middle Eastern Jewish share some of the same traditions. At one time there was only one Chief Rabbi in Israel and he was always Sephardi (from the Middle East mostly) until the division of the Rabbinate into Chief Sephardi Rabbi and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi. Also, Sephardi Jews always had contact with the Jews of North Africa and Iraq long before the Khazars ever converted. Yemenite Jews are recognized as being different from both Sephardim and Mizrakhim (Middle Eastern Jews) mainly because they have different Jewish traditions. Yet, there are times when compared to Ashkenazim that all Sephardim, Mizrakhim, and Yemenites are called Sephardi.
Furthermore the review called "Based on the wrong starting point" states, "If this hipotesis is correct, then the jews expelled from Spain in 1492, can be wrongly catalogued as true "sefarditas", as they could be mainly composed of poor, khazarian jews newcomers, that were forced to return as near as possible to their original land -anatolia- when the conversion process was executed."
This assertion is again wrong and DNA and Tradition covers the possible influence of the Khazars. It was found that there were similar DNA between Levites from the Middle East and North Africa, but when it came to Ashkenazi Levites they found more differences. One of the theories that the book talks about is that that many of the Khazars who converted to Judaism were priests in their former religion. After converting to Judaism it is believed that they claimed to be Levites in the Eastern European communities they joined due to their past as priests in their former religion. This only affected the Levites and not the Kohanim in Eastern Europe since the Kohanim all over the world have strict rules on whom they can marry, and often check backgrounds before getting married. Check pages 85 and 95 of DNA and Tradition. Levites don't have all of the rules placed on the Kohanim thus it is understandable that the Levites may have more differences. Also, the Kohanim and Levites who converted during the Inquisition often were not allowed to be Kohanim anymore once their genealogy was questionable so the idea that Kohanim and Levites with questionable background made their way into Sephardi communities is false especially since most Sephardim are real strict on bloodlines and such. This is why many of the forced converts to Catholicism upon return to Judaism in some cases formed their own communities, and were only later augmented by other Jewish communities.
Also, there were no Khazars in most of North Africa and there are a number of Jewish communities in North Africa who were known to be there long before the Khazars converted to Judaism. Several groups of Northern African Jews are know to have been Africa at or around 586 BCE and even the Muslims of North Africa know this. Also, a number of Spanish Jews had already left Spain before the Inquisition and never had contacts with the Khazars. There is also the fact that there are three distinct Moroccan Jewish groups and only one of them was made up of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who stayed separate from the other groups. There were no Khazars in Yemen, Ethiopia, South East Africa or India so the Khazar excuse does not hold up in trying to bring down this book.
Further the writer of the review "Based on the wrong starting point" states, "I don't see in the book any comparison -by example- between current spaniards and palestinian DNA haplotypes, to see the most than probable coincidences, then if the author wants to shut down forever the khazarian origin theory, this genetical study must be accomplished."
Yet, on page 187 there is a DNA report which shows the comparison between Jewish DNA and Palestinian DNA. On page 187 of DNA and Tradition there is a study called Jewish and Middle Eastern Non-Jewish Populations Share a Common Pool of Y-chromosome Biallelic Haplotypes performed by PNAS the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. In this study the DNA of Yemenite Jews, Iraqi Jews, Syrian Jews, Libyan Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Moroccan Jews, Spanish Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Samaritans, the Lemba, and Palestinians was compared and found to be similar. Based on this statement I am not sure the reviewer Arthur Koestler even read the book DNA and Tradition.
The book DNA and Tradition: The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews is a really good book with a dearth of information on how the testing was performed and the fact that the testing was performed by more than one medical group, and on a number of Jewish and non-Jewish communities shows the balance in the scholarship. Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman did a wonderful job of backing up the research and giving lots of sources from different backgrounds.
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