JEWISH IDENTITY AND DNA
The benefits and pitfalls of basing Jewishness on a genetic test
For thousands of years Judaism and its traditions have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and belief. “I am a Jew because my mother is a Jew, she is a Jew because her mother was a Jew… my parents kept the Torah because their parents kept the Torah,” and so on. However, with recent breakthroughs in genetic testing, experts have found that there could be a way of testing Jewishness through a simple saliva or blood test.
Recently, Rabbi Yosef Carmel, who is both co-head of the Eretz Hemdah Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies and a senior rabbinical judge on the private Eretz Hemdah rabbinical court in Jerusalem, says that says a genetic test could be used as proof of Jewish descent for certain Ashkenazim.
For thousands of immigrants, especially from the former Soviet Union, this could ease the process of proving one’s Jewish identity while trying to make aliya, before marriage and so on. For others, however, who have believed in their Jewish heritage for years, this genetic test could be their worst nightmare – it may shatter an identity they have internalized and cherish.
Due to religious persecution in the former
OLIM FROM the former Soviet Union, including an elderly man with his military decorations proudly pinned to his chest, arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport in 1991.