February 23, 2020

Is There Such a Thing as "Jewish DNA?"

“The Chief Rabbinate’s interest in genetic testing as a tool to establish Jewishness should set off a historical warning light for everyone, but particularly for Jews.

Over the past year the rabbinical courts began proposing that individuals in the process of “clarifying their Jewish states” undergo genetic testing: specifically of mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from the mother. Dozens of Israelis have undergone the test in the past year, and it has helped about two-thirds of those whose Judaism had been in doubt.

Every year, more than 4,000 Israelis are required to prove whether they are Jewish. In most cases they are the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who want to register for marriage. Until recently, the process involved presenting documents, such as birth and death certificates. Now, as if Judaism is a matter of race, not religion, rabbinical courts are inviting people whose documents did not satisfy them to undergo a DNA test.”

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