Jewish DNA

I did DNA testing recently and was surprised to find that I am partially “Ashkenazi Jewish.” I have always felt an affinity for the Jewish people and this confirms it! Does this mean I am Jewish? Is there anything more I need to do?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for sharing the interesting info about yourself. The truth is, we generally do not consider DNA to be a complete proof of Jewishness. You didn't mention what percentage of your DNA is “Jewish" but even if the percentages were quite high, it would not be taken as conclusive proof. Human DNA has been pretty well mixed up today, and there are many impeccable Jews with "non-Jewish" DNA, as well as non-Jews with "Jewish" genes. (Imagine two sisters who lived hundreds of years ago, and one of whom converted. The non-Jewish sister would have descendants with "Jewish" genes.) Thus, DNA evidence is certainly grounds for further research but on its own is not conclusive.

In addition, Jewishness follows the strictly maternal line, so it would have to have been your mother's mother's mother's mother etc. who was Jewish for you to be as well. If your Jewish ancestry came via any other route, it would not make you Jewish.

Thus, as it stands, you would not consider yourself Jewish – although if your DNA percentages are fairly high, it is certainly good reason to research your ancestry more fully. I will write that we often hear from people like you who have some Jewish roots, even if they are not technically Jewish, and they often feel a natural affinity for Judaism and for Israel.

If you do feel very “Jewish” inside, you might want to look into conversion. Sometimes, if a conversion court feels there is a reasonable chance a conversion candidate is Jewish already, they will have him undergo conversion without reciting the blessing, just in case the ceremony is not really necessary.

Alternatively, you may find the Noahide movement most appropriate for you. A Noahide is a person who believes in the God of Israel and observes the Seven Noahide Laws given to all mankind. A non-Jew who believes in and prays to God and who observes these universal laws can have a warm relationship with God and earn his share in the hereafter. (Note that according to Judaism, one does not have to be Jewish to earn a share in the World to Come.)

Today there is a fairly widespread movement of Noahides (also known as Bnei Noach). There are several websites devoted to Noahide law and practice, with much information, guidance and support.

Here are some links about the Seven Noahide laws as well as our main article on conversion:

http://www.aish.com/jl/jnj/nj/48961716.html

http://www.aish.com/atr/Seven_Laws_of_Noah.html

http://www.aish.com/jl/jnj/nj/80405497.html

http://www.aish.com/jl/jnj/nj/48962366.html

Here is also a past response about researching one’s roots:

http://www.aish.com/atr/Tracing_Jewish_Roots.html?catid=907779

My wishes that God guide you along the path best for you!

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