#Interfaith: Ancestry DNA Test for a Half-Jew

The DNA kit
The DNA kit

By: D.M. Miller

The ancestry DNA kit I had ordered is finally here, and I can’t wait to send it in and see what happens. Oh sure, I know who I am and who my parents are, and what can a DNA test really do to change that? Yet somehow, there is still a mystery… what will those results show?

Religion and culture have always been intriguing to me, but ethnicity is also an important part of who we are. Some will say it doesn’t matter, that people are people, but there is nothing wrong with admitting that we are different from one another. Different does not have anything to do with value. All the pieces of a mosaic come together for a complete work of art, but each piece is unique, beautiful by itself and beautiful put together with the rest.

The world may be a mosaic, but so are we as individuals. In an earlier post, I had mentioned being the product of an interfaith couple. My mother was German, supposedly 100 percent, although her grandmother was from Austria, and her mother always said they were the same people. That’s not necessarily true. There are many Slavs in Austria. It’ll be interesting to see what comes back, but I’m almost positive it won’t say I’m 50 percent German.

The bigger mystery is my Jewish side. Ok, I’ll be P.C. and say, Ashkenazi.  For those who are unfamiliar with that term, it means “European Jewish.”

Putting aside religion, there are three main Jewish ethnicities: Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi. Many times Sephardi and Mizrahi are blended together because the Sephardim, or Spanish Jews, ended up in North Africa or the Middle East, and the Mizrahim are the Middle Eastern Jews. So many are really the same people. In fact, we’re all the same people. DNA testing has shown that the Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Mizrahim are more closely linked to each other genetically than to the non-Jews of their host countries. What does that mean? Well, basically that Jews are Jews, no matter where we are.

There are other Jewish ethnicities that don’t have the same genetic link, but the key here is that the three main groups are all Middle Eastern and some have a little bit of European ancestry mixed in. So an Ashkenazi like myself, called a “European Jew,” is more Middle Eastern genetically than European, and of course it all has to do with Jewish history. Before the Diaspora, we were in the Middle East. Read the Torah, the Old Testament or the Bible, whatever you want to call it.

These were all things I had to learn. Growing up, we knew my father was a Russian Jew, but we never knew if we should say we’re Russian or we’re Jewish. Well, we’re definitely not Russian. Now I know the correct term is Ashkenazi. A lot of Jews will get bent out of shape if someone says they’re “half-Jewish.” That’s a big no-no, although honestly, it’s just easier to say half-Jewish than Ashkenazi because most non-Jews have never heard the term.

Some use the word “ethnoreligious” to describe what Jews are- an ethnicity AND a religion. Others hate that term, partly because of Hitler’s “Jewish blood” reasoning to determine who was a Jew (“quarter-Jews” and “half-Jews” were included in the Nuremberg Laws, which would classify me as a “Mischlinge”- a crossbreed- both Jewish and Aryan), and partly because there are other Jewish ethnicities like Ethiopians, for example, or the people who convert. But apart from religion, Jews are a people just like Italians are a people or Spaniards or… Germans. Which brings me back to my own DNA test.

What will the Jewish side show? According to what I’ve read, the so-called “Jewish gene” is passed from father to son or from mother to child. But it was my FATHER who was the Jew, and I am his daughter, not son. So what does that mean? I have no ethnicity on that side? Of course I do!

As sure as someone with a Chinese father is half-Chinese or someone with a Greek father is half-Greek (assuming the mothers are some other ethnicity), I am half-Ashkenazi or half-Jewish. I even look like my father for the most part. But what will the DNA test show?

I’ll let you know!


D.M. Miller’s debut novel, The Religion of the Heart, is available on Amazon. Click here.

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11 thoughts on “#Interfaith: Ancestry DNA Test for a Half-Jew

  1. I’ll be fascinated to see your results! I very nearly ordered the DNA test when it was on sale a few weeks ago but couldn’t justify the cost in the end for the specific question I wanted answered. You’re the first person I’ve seen buying one that isn’t an ancestry testimonial!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! Yes, I’ve been wanting to order one myself for quite some time, but the cost was a deterrent for me too until I finally decided it was worth it in my case. (Actually, I wanted to do it long before I ever heard about ancestry.com offering the test.) They are often offering it on sale in case you change your mind. You never know- there might be a big surprise in the results! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think there’ll be much in my ethnicity that’s a surprise. I was more hoping for clues about my great grandmother. Apparently she was the illegitimate child of someone in the peerage and we’ve never been able to find any proof as to who her father was. I’ve heard that it will sometimes show up people that are likely to be family members but I don’t think the service is as widely taken up over here as it is in the States so it’s a careful balance of price vs likelihood of someone related actually taking the test too. And if it is someone in the peerage, their family history will be so well documented that they’d never be on an ancestry website.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, I see! That probably would be difficult. I wish I could afford to hire a genealogist because on the Ancestry website, I’ve only been able to get so far. Apparently you need to actually go to some of these places to see the records, and I don’t think I’ll be flying out to Eastern Europe anytime soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved your article. It’s such a fascinating topics, isn’t it? I was more surprised by what my results didn’t show than what they did. I look forward to seeing what you find out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a rich family tree you have! I often wonder what my genetic heritage looks like. My mom was adopted, so a large part of my family tree is unknown. And now, because my husband was adopted as well, our children’s heritage is even more of a mystery.
    I hope you post the results!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I, as you, have only a portion of Jewish linage. HOWEVER, according to Jewish law if your mother is Jewish, you are Jewish. (Think conquering armies and the children that happen.) Even if it’s your father, Judaism still would consider you Jewish. (Such as Angela Warnick Buchdahl who’s a rabbi and cantor who’s mother is of Korean descent.) It’s like pregnant. You’re either pregnant or not, there’s no such thing as half or sort-of. Though it’s a religion with a definite strong genetic linage, you don’t have to participate, you don’t have to believe, if you are “part” you ARE Jewish.

    Hope this helps you. I hope you find interesting results in your genetic testing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your input. As for being Jewish through paternal lineage alone, according to Halakhah, the answer is no, but Reform Judaism is a different story. It’s one of those eternal arguments. On the other hand, however people classify me religiously speaking, ethnically, I’m half Ashkenazi.

      If you’re interested, I posted the results from the DNA testing here: https://dmmillerauthor.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/ancestry-dna-test-results-as-it-turns-out-i-am/

      Like

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