4 Mitochondrial Lines Can Now Prove Ashkenazic Jewish Descent in Israel

An Israeli court has declared DNA as a legal proof of as proof of Jewish descent for certain Ashkenazi Jews, especially for those from the former Soviet Union who don’t have paper documentation available. The finding should help Jewish descendants worldwide prove their Ashkenazi ancestry from their maternal ancestors and even obtain an Israeli passport, if they wish. You can find the article by Jeremy Sharon in the Jerusalem Post at: http://bit.ly/2wCpVTJ.

My thanks to newsletter Ernest Thode for telling me about the article.

15 Comments

The court may have ruled, but the religious court (which handles Jewish law in Israel) has not yet agreed. It is a moot point. Also many genetic genealogists know that there are many reasons why an expected result might not be seen. It is an extremely limited tool for an extremely limited segment of the population. And many reasons why people will not get the results they are looking for. I am not against this, but I understand the limitations! Many do not.

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Some four decades ago I was having a discussion with an orthodox rabbi, and asked what determined Jewishness. His reply was: “It comes from the mother with her mother’s milk, so to speak. If a mother is Jewish, so is her child.” It was a startling statement, considering it’s a patriarchal culture and religion (as are Christianity and Islam). Three thousand years ago mitochondrial DNA was not known about, but saying one’s ethnicity comes from the mother makes sense in that respect since mtDNA is passed to each offspring of the mother, but only the males get the yDNA.

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    There’s a more practical reason. You may not know the identity of the child’s father, but you can be pretty sure of its mother.

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    You are correct, Dan Meerson. The Rabbi also said that if a marauding army came through the day after a couple made love and she were raped, and then produced a child nine months later, no one would know who the father was, but the child was still Jewish because of the mother. He also said the father may not be known, but, of course, the identity of the mother is always known.

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    They also get a “thumbprint” of his maternal dna but cannot pass it along.

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    My Jewish wife says “The reason for recognizing Jewish heritage through the maternal line is: we know who the mother is.”

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The article didn’t mention the lines…

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So what are the 4 lines?

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The story failed to say what the mtDNA markers are. That would be useful for those of us who have a small amount of Jewish DNA and can’t figure out where it came from.

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This is a private court. Their ruling authorizes exactly nothing.

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The concept of matrilineal Judaism and conversion is a rabbinic, common era invention. Prior to that your status was determined by your father or husband. A man could become a Jew by getting circumcised, not that anyone checked and if a Jewish man married a non-Jewish woman she automatically assumed her husband’s religion. Some of the most prominent women in the bible were not Jewish, or more correctly Judean, since Jewish is a later concept. For example, Ruth the great-grandmother of King David was not Judean/Jewish. So, if your mitochondria come from Ruth you may still be rejected by the rabbis.

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What are the 4 lines? Is there a link we can access? Thank you so much.

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From the Jerusalem Post we find that
1) … According to the rabbi, experts in Jewish genealogy and history have determined that fully 40% of all Ashkenazi Jews are descended from just four Jewish women who left the Middle East over 1,000 years ago and settled in Europe.
2)… there is a certainty of at least 90% and up to 99% that someone bearing specific genetic markers in their mitochondrial DNA is descended from one of these women.
3) … The concern of a slippery slope in this case seems less valid, because the mtDNA testing only applies to one segment of Ashkenazi Jews, …

But the question remains as to the marker or markers of the four women.. and in truth, even that will pinpoint a location-Palestine-and has nothing to do with the artificial constructs of ethnicity or even which branch of monotheism that any or all four would have professed. It would have been more professional to have named the criteria needed to be included into this group that ties to these women… for instance, a Haplogrouping such as J1c16-linked to modern Eastern Europe- which originates in the ME by way of North Africa/Andalucía-any of which could have followed any of the 3 monotheistic religions prevalent in the areas (Judaism, Christianity. or Islam). As it was noted, no DNA is an ethnic or religious marker… nor is it indicative of the false idea of ‘race’.
We are all 99.9 % alike…

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I realize it’s all speculation since this ruling isn’t changing anything official, but it’s still an interesting idea. I have plenty of proof for all 4 of my grandparents that they were Jewish, as I am, but if I had to go just on mtDNA, I don’t know if I’d qualify. Although I’m Ashkenazi as far back as I can find (and my autosomal DNA confirms it), my mtDNA is an unusual (but well-documented) Sephardic line. How would that fit? Who knows?

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