Negotiating Jewishness through genetic testing in the State of Israel




genetic ancestry testing, Jewishness, essentialism, citizenship


In Israel, several hundred thousand citizens form a minority group that wishes to be acknowledged as Jewish by the state authorities. Most of them immigrated from the former Soviet Union and cannot provide sufficient evidence of their maternal ancestors’ affiliation with a Jewish community. This has a direct impact on their civil rights. Based on a scientific research article on matrilineal genetic markers among Eastern and Central European Jews, the rabbinical dean of an institute for advanced Jewish studies in Jerusalem proposed to accept, under certain conditions, the presence of specific genetic markers as legal proof of “Jewishness.” Genetic testing here is meant to become a tool for empowerment and (re)claiming Jewish status. This case raises many questions concerning a biological understanding of Judaism and shows how genetic ancestry testing could be used to uphold the religious orthodox narrative.


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How to Cite

Kohler NS. Negotiating Jewishness through genetic testing in the State of Israel. TATuP [Internet]. 2021 Jul. 26 [cited 2022 Oct. 3];30(2):36-40. Available from: