The ben­e­fits and pit­falls of bas­ing Jewish­ness on a ge­netic test

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - • ILANIT CHERNICK

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.

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