Synopses & Reviews
Who are the Jews? Where did they come from? What is the connection between an ancient Jewish priest in Jerusalem and today's Israeli sunbather on the beaches of Tel Aviv?
These questions stand at the heart of this engaging book. Geneticist David Goldstein analyzes modern DNA studies of Jewish populations and examines the intersections of these scientific findings with the history (both biblical and modern) and oral tradition of the Jews. With a special gift for translating complex scientific concepts into language understandable to all, Goldstein delivers an accessible, personal, and fascinating book that tells the history of a group of people through the lens of genetics.
In a series of detective-style stories, Goldstein explores the priestly lineage of Jewish males as manifested by Y chromosomes; the Jewish lineage claims of the Lemba, an obscure black South African tribe; the differences in maternal and paternal genetic heritage among Jewish populations; and much more. The author also grapples with the medical and ethical implications of our rapidly growing command of the human genomic landscape. The study of genetics has not only changed the study of Jewish history, Goldstein shows, it has altered notions of Jewish identity and even our understanding of what makes a people a people.
"Duke University geneticist Goldstein was part of a team that did groundbreaking, headline-making research on Jewish genetic history. Goldberg clearly and succinctly explains such concepts as 'haplotypes' and 'genetic drift' as he reviews such findings as that more than half of contemporary Cohanim, or priests traditionally believed to descend from the biblical Aaron actually share a genetic marker called the Cohen Modal Haplotype. Among other subjects, he also explores evidence consistent with the claim of the obscure Lemba tribe of southern Africa to be descendants of ancient Israel. Lastly, in taking on a 2005 study of a group of so-called Jewish genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs and their putative evolutionary connection to high intelligence among Jews, Goldberg notes that this hypothesis is easily testable but firmly rejects 'pseudoscientific genetic determinism.' Goldberg's role in much of the research into Jewish genetic history, his sober, unsensationalist tone and his emphasis on the limited conclusions that can be drawn from such work lend credibility to his account of his stunning results. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Even readers unfamiliar with science will have no difficulty understanding this excellent book. David Goldstein clearly explains how modern genetics integrates with multiple aspects of Jewish history and demography." Kenneth Kidd, Yale University
"An inspiring example of a magnificent analysis, written for a general audience, showing how multidisciplinary research using information from history, genetics, anthropology and more can give precious light on a great ethnos, the Jews." Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, professor of Genetics emeritus active, Stanford Medical School
"Goldstein is one of a handful of people qualified to write a book such as this, and he succeeds very well in providing accounts both of scientific studies and of Jewish historical background." Stephen Schaffner, Program in Medical and Population Genetics, The Broad Institute
About the Author
David B. Goldstein is professor of molecular genetics and director of the Institute for Genome Science and Policy's Center for Population Genomics and Pharmacogenetics, Duke University. He lives in Durham, NC.