Is Being Jewish All in the Genes?

Genetic studies bolster traditional notions of peoplehood, but Jewish leaders' reactions to the findings may surprise you.

Excerpted with permission from New Voices, the national Jewish student magazine and part of the network.

The Center for Human Genetics at New York University is filled with the constant hum of busy students, doctors, and patients. There's nothing to indicate that the work researchers are doing here has the potential to radically alter millennia-old conceptions of Jewish peoplehood.

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Incongruous as the setting might seem, though, scientists at the Center for Human Genetics are investigating some of the most fascinating and longstanding questions of Jewish history. Dr. Harry Ostrer, the head of the center, is one of the many scientists around the world using the tools of modern genetic research to uncover the ancient roots of the Jewish people, long the exclusive province of historians. The results of genetic research could have a tremendous impact on the way Jews view themselves and their community.

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