Photo: AFP
Are you also a distant relative of Albert Einstein?
Photo: AFP

Study: Ashkenazi Jews are offspring of one family

Researchers finds that most Ashkenazim around the world can be traced back to 'bottleneck' of just 350 people, who lived in Europe anywhere between 600 and 800 years ago.

Have you ever been teased and called "an Ashkenazi nerd"? Well, you may take comfort in the sensational findings of a new study that all of the world's Ashkenazi Jews are the offspring of one family, which means you may be somehow related to Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and many other Jewish geniuses.



The research was conducted by a team led by Israeli scientist Itsik Pe'er, an associate professor at the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science.


The study, published in the Nature Communications journal on Tuesday, found that most Ashkenazi Jews living across the world can be traced back to what is referred as a "bottleneck" of just 350 people, who lived in Europe anywhere between 600 and 800 years ago, JTA reports.


In order to obtain their findings, the researchers analyzed the genomes of 128 Ashkenazi Jews, and then marked the contrast between those of European non-Jews, to discover what genetic traits Ashkenazim possess that made them unique. They also compared their genes to the DNA of 26 Flemish people from Belgium.


The result was a bit perturbing, with researchers finding the Ashkenazi's genetic similarities inordinately sharp, tracing their genes back to the "bottleneck" from the Middle Ages.


It also prompted Prof. Pe'er to note in an interview with Live Science that, with Ashkenazi Jews, "everyone's a 30th cousin." In other words, he told Yedioth Ahronoth this week, if an Ashkenazi man marries an Ashkenazi woman, there is a good chance that they are distant relatives.


Regarding the Flemish participants, roughly 46 - 50% of the DNA sampled from the Jewish participants were found to have originated from ancient Europeans, with most deriving from the Middle East over 20,000 years ago.


As the Los Angeles Times reports, approximately 80% of "modern Jews" are Ashkenazi according to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Today, there are ten million Ashkenazi Jews around the world, 2.8 million of which reside in Israel.


It should be clear, however, that the study's goal was not prove how talented and successful Ashkenazi are, but to find a medical solution to serious genetic disorders among Ashkenazi Jews, including cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs and breast cancer.


Through the study, authored by Prof. Shai Carmin of Columbia University, the researchers hope to develop medications for these diseases based on a "genetic adjustment," which will reduce their frequency among Ashkenazi Jews.


Shalom Life contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 09.11.14, 20:47
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