Jon Entine’s Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People is a history of Judaism through the lens of what DNA research has produced in the last ten years.  While Jewish history is worth studying in its own right, ancestral DNA testing has added to the story a dimension previously unknown.  For example, there’s a group of Hispanics in New Mexico who found out they were descended from Sephardic Jews, and they didn’t know.  Their Jewish ancestors converted to Catholicism, probably due to social pressure as they kept up some Jewish traditions at home.  There’s a tiny tribe in Africa called the Lembas, who weren’t thought to be Jewish even though they claimed to be; turns out they were right.

Part of the book discusses whether Jewishness can be considered racial, spiritual, or both.  I don’t know enough about Jewish politics to say, having not read anything except this book.  It seems like a pretty complex topic that I’m not going to try to dissect.  But if you’re interested in how genetic testing can change history and culture, and how ancestral DNA testing science was developed, I recommend Entine’s book.

Random fact: There’s a genetic thread that winds through the Jewish priesthood, too.  The Cohenim pass their titles on from father to son, and that DNA can be traced back to the first priests in ancient Israel.  How cool is that?


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