Where did the Jews originate? For Bennett Greenspan, the founder and president of Family Tree DNA, there’s little doubt, and it can all be proven with a swab of cheek cells. The overwhelming majority of Jews living today should be able to trace their roots back to the Middle East with a little DNA testing, he maintains, and all those who claim otherwise, as far as he’s concerned, have their history wrong.
Greenspan was referring to the controversial book written by Tel Aviv University historian Shlomo Sand, which asserts that the Jews of today did not originate in the Middle East and that a “nation-race” of Jews never existed. Most of today’s Jews, he argues in The Invention of the Jewish People (2008), are the descendants of people who lived elsewhere in the world and were converted to Judaism. However, a major study published two years later by Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, claims that many contemporary Jews do, indeed, have a distinctive genetic signature and can trace their ancestry back to the Middle East.