Mitochondrial DNA to establish matrilinear descent

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Sjoerd
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Mitochondrial DNA to establish matrilinear descent

Post #1

Post by Sjoerd »

Organelles are cellular compartments with a specific function. Mitochondria are organelles that specialize in "burning" nutrients to produce chemical energy. Mitochondria are descendants of bacteria, and they contain their own DNA. When a sperm fertilizes an egg, the sperm's mitochondria are destroyed, leaving only the mitochondria from the egg.Therefore, all of your mitochondria come from your mother, and mitochondrial DNA can be used to establish matrilinear descent over very long periods.

Mitrochondrial DNA studies have shown that the Jewish gene pool is largely of Middle-Eastern origin, and also that half of the Ashkenazi Jews are the descendants of only four women.

Now I have two questions:

- Would mitochondrial DNA research be accepted as evidence that someone is Jewish?

- If so, what about Palestinians? What if they turn out to be mostly of Twelve Tribes Israelite descent? Would that make them Jewish? Could they invoke the Right of Return?
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The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Listen to the fool''''s reproach! it is a kingly title!
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Jrosemary
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Post #2

Post by Jrosemary »

I think it's been known--oh, forever--that many Palestinians have Jewish ancestry. So do a tremendous number of people in Europe, who are now overwhelmingly Christian. As I understand it, none of them would be eligible for the law of return unless they still have a practicing Jewish grandparent, parent or spouse. (By practicing Jew I mean a Jew who hasn't converted to and isn't practicing another religion--not necessarily someone who's active in a synagogue.)

Of course, you don't need any 'Jewish' DNA to become an Israeli citizen via the Law of Return, because Judaism is not a race. If you convert to Judaism you can become an Israeli citizen via the Law of Return. It doesn't matter what race or ethnic background you come from.

To be covered by the Law of Return as a Jew (some gentiles are also covered) involves be recognized halachically as a Jew and as a Jew who hasn't converted to another religion. If you're not a practicing Jew, and your spouse, parents, or grandparents aren't practicing Jews, then--as far as I understand the matter--you're not covered by the Law of Return.

Something to keep in mind: The Law of Return is not the only way to become an Israeli citizen. Anyone can become a citizen via naturalization, by marrying an Israeli citizen, etc.

In my opinion, we need a workable two-state system; ideally with Jerusalem as a shared capital (though that may take a while.) Then the Palestinian state can set its own rules re immagration and naturalization. I doubt they'd be able to take in everyone who claims to be descended from Palestinian refugees, but options such as reparations should be on the table at the UN.

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Post #3

Post by JoeyKnothead »

Reasonable, even-handed take there Miss Jrosemary. You're a credit to your "race" ;)
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Or it drifted in from Georgia about 1953
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As long as it's pumpin' honey, it's gonna last

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Keepin' up the rhythm, steady as a clock
Doin' a little thing called the hillbilly rock
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Sjoerd
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Post #4

Post by Sjoerd »

Thanks for your answer, JRosemary. The halachic law always struck me as something that could have tremendous implications combined with modern DNA technology. It seems that I misunderstood the law, though. So, if I understand correctly:

- The daughter of a practising Jewish mother is Jewish, even if she isn't practicing
- *Her* daughter (from a gentile father) would also be Jewish, because her grandmother is practicing, even though she herself isn't practicing and neither is her mother.
- But *her* daughter (from a gentile father) wouldn't be Jewish, because her mother and grandmother aren't practicing Jews, even though her great-grandmother is.

Did I get it right now?
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Listen to the fool''''s reproach! it is a kingly title!
As the caterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.

William Blake - The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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Jrosemary
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Post #5

Post by Jrosemary »

Sjoerd wrote:Thanks for your answer, JRosemary. The halachic law always struck me as something that could have tremendous implications combined with modern DNA technology. It seems that I misunderstood the law, though. So, if I understand correctly:

- The daughter of a practising Jewish mother is Jewish, even if she isn't practicing
- *Her* daughter (from a gentile father) would also be Jewish, because her grandmother is practicing, even though she herself isn't practicing and neither is her mother.
- But *her* daughter (from a gentile father) wouldn't be Jewish, because her mother and grandmother aren't practicing Jews, even though her great-grandmother is.

Did I get it right now?
I'm going to be quite un-halachic and post my answer on Shabbat. (Sigh. I am a long way from being shomer Shabbat--a guardian of the Sabbath.)

The short answer is no--you haven't got it.

There are two issues here: who is halachically Jewish and who is covered by Israel's Law of Return. The answer is not identical.

A halachic Jew is anyone who's mother is Jewish--if you come from a matrilineal Jewish line, then you're a Jew even if your family has been Roman Catholic for centuries. (This is not an unheard of situation in some European countries; notably Spain.)

However, that's not enough to be covered by Israel's Law of Return. As far as I understand the matter, only a practicing Jew and his or her spouse, children and grandchildren are covered. (Again, by practicing Jew, I mean a Jew who hasn't converted to another religion and/or is not practicing any other religion. It doesn't mean active in a synagogue.)

So say you come from a long line of Roman Catholics, but you are halachically Jewish, because your mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's--and so on back to the 15th century--mother was a Jew. You would not be covered under Israel's Law of Return. If you decided to practice Judaism tomorrow, and drop Catholicism, you could. If you could prove the matralineal line, you might not even have to go through a formal conversion (although your rabbi is likely to advise a period of study so you know what you're getting into.)

In that case, as far as Israel goes, I think you'd be in the same position as a convert to Judaism. As long as you were only practicing Judaism and not any other religion, you, your spouse, children and grandchildren would be covered under the Law of Return.

But if you're a practicing Catholic from a long line of Catholics who just happens to be halachically Jewish, you're not covered by the Law of Return. If you wanted to become an Israeli citizen, you'd go through the normal naturalization process.

Now, note that the spouse, children and grandchildren of the practicing Jew might not be Jewish. If a Jewish guy marries a gentile, his spouse, children and grandchildren will all be gentiles--but they'd still be covered by the Law of Return.

(Of course, some branches of Judaism recognize patralineal descent in certain cases, but that's another issue. We already have a long thread on it here. :roll: )

So, again, being halachically Jewish and be covered by Israel's Law of Return are not the same thing. Some people who might, in a technical sense, be halachically Jewish aren't covered by the Law of Return, while some gentiles are.

That's my best understanding of the matter.

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Post #6

Post by Sjoerd »

Thank you again for your comment, and sorry for not answering sooner, I have been very busy.

First of all, let me make clear that I have no desire to criticize the Israeli policies on Palestinians. Although I definitely do not agree with everything that the Israeli government has done over the years, I think that the basic attitude has been a desire for peace, which cannot always be said of their Palestinian counterparts.

My curiosity is more fundamental, on what are good criteria to build a community. On the one hand, you can base a community on shared ideas, such as Christendom, Islam and political parties, but this presents the danger of intolerance and narrow-mindedness. On the other hand, you can build a community based on shared heritage or ethnicity, but this presents the danger of racism. I feel that the Jews have done it basically right, preserving their identity throughout the ages while largely avoiding both of the dangers, and I am very curious how this has been done.

So, halachically, many Palestinians are Jews, but they don't have a permanent invitation to become Israeli. Are there any feelings of connection or brotherhood among Jews towards these people? If so, is there any difference in feelings between Israeli and non-Israeli Jews? If not, has this matter changed the view among Jews of the halachic law and of Jewish identity, or aren't most Jews aware of Palestinians who are Jews?

Best wishes

Sjoerd
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Listen to the fool''''s reproach! it is a kingly title!
As the caterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.

William Blake - The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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Jayhawker Soule
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Re: Mitochondrial DNA to establish matrilinear descent

Post #7

Post by Jayhawker Soule »

Sjoerd wrote:Mitrochondrial DNA studies have shown that the Jewish gene pool is largely of Middle-Eastern origin, and also that half of the Ashkenazi Jews are the descendants of only four women.
Actually, it was about 40%. And there is no indication that any or all of them were Israelites.

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Post #8

Post by Jayhawker Soule »

Sjoerd wrote:So, halachically, many Palestinians are Jews, ...
Palestine was a place. Israel was a people.

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Re: Mitochondrial DNA to establish matrilinear descent

Post #9

Post by Sjoerd »

Jayhawker Soule wrote: Actually, it was about 40%. And there is no indication that any or all of them were Israelites.
Behar et al., 'The Matrilineal Ancestry of Ashkenazi Jewry: Portrait of a Recent Founder Event', The American Journal of Human Genetics 78 (3): 487–97. wrote: ..Both the extent and location of the maternal ancestral deme from which the Ashkenazi Jewry arose remain obscure. Here, using complete sequences of the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), we show that close to one-half of Ashkenazi Jews, estimated at 8,000,000 people, can be traced back to only four women carrying distinct mtDNAs that are virtually absent in other populations, with the important exception of low frequencies among non-Ashkenazi Jews. We conclude that four founding mtDNAs, likely of Near Eastern ancestry, underwent major expansion(s) in Europe within the past millennium..
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Listen to the fool''''s reproach! it is a kingly title!
As the caterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.

William Blake - The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Sjoerd
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Post #10

Post by Sjoerd »

Jayhawker Soule wrote:
Sjoerd wrote:So, halachically, many Palestinians are Jews, ...
Palestine was a place. Israel was a people.
If a group of persons identifies themselves as a people, I won't deny that they are a people.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Listen to the fool''''s reproach! it is a kingly title!
As the caterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.

William Blake - The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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