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!