• Who is a Jew?
  • Who is a Jew?
  • Who is a Jew?
  • Who is a Jew?
  • Who is a Jew?

Who is a Jew?

by added on 1 July 2015, Comments Off on Who is a Jew? , filed under Artistic Process (Israel)


Doris Arkin, Anamnesisa
2013, iron, iron wire, concrete, plaster, thread, dia. 220
Basis and (Super-) Structure, June 20, 2015
BASIS for Art and Culture

Not sure Doris Arkin was actually thinking this question when she created Anamnesisa, but the philosophy of anamnesis really touches on this issue. In Israel, I get asked this question a lot and I really don’t know how to answer it, “Are you a Jew?” Most Jews seem pretty confident they’re a Jew and they’re confused by my confusion. Yet, I have not found one Jew who could answer this question with any degree of clarity. Who is a Jew? Is this a religious person who practices Judaism? Is it a culture? Is it genetic? Is being a Jew a race? A religion? Who, exactly, is a Jew?

IF being Jewish is a religion, then how can a person still be a Jew and be non-religious? The majority of Jews in Israel are not religious. A conservative estimate puts the non-religious Jews (which includes the Prime Minister) at about 80%. So. If 80% of Jews are non-religious, how could being Jewish be a religion?

What is Jewish culture? As far as I understand (and I am prepared to stand corrected), the bulk of Jewish culture (notwithstanding matzo balls) is based on religion. Maybe matzo balls are based on religion, too, and I just don’t know it. Do non-religious Jews celebrate holidays the way atheists celebrate Christmas? Is this called Jewish culture? Does that mean a person who is culturally Jewish (eats matzo and had a bar/bat mitzvah) is a Jew? 

Can a Jew be genetically tested for “Jewish” genes?
How DNA Can Reveal Jewish Ancestry
Russian-speakers who want to make aliya could need DNA test

I decided to check it out and submitted a query through an online form to a genetic lab in Israel. See correspondence below…


From: [] On Behalf Of
Sent: Saturday, February 28, 2015 1:05 PM
To: gga
Subject: website forms
Importance: High








Does your lab test for Jewish DNA? If not, can you refer me to a lab in Israel?

Refferal AgentMozilla/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 8_1_3 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/600.1.4 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/8.0 Mobile/12B466 Safari/600.1.4


מאת: Avishag Zimberg-Bossira
‏‏נשלח: ‏‏יום רביעי 04 מרץ 2015 09:01
‏‏אל: Dani Bercovich
‏‏עותק לידיעה: Anat Egozi
‏‏נושא: FW: website forms

הי דני,

Jewish DNA?!?!?!?

אתה יכול בבקשה להוריד את הגברת מהרעיון?


Subject: genetic test that indicate the religion of humans
Date: 2015-03-04 09:24
From: Dani Bercovich <danib@GGA.ORG.IL>
To: Avishag Zimberg-Bossira <Avishag@GGA.ORG.IL>, Anat Egozi <anate@GGA.ORG.IL>, Yoram Plotsky <yoram@GGA.ORG.IL>
Cc: “” <>

Dear Esther Buckareff,

There is no genetic test that indicate the religion of  humans!!

Nazi Germany would have love to have a genetic test that indicate a person religion (like Jewish)!!

There is mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms which are more common (but not exclusive) to some of the different Jewish ethnic groups, and there is an 6-12 STR polymorphisms sits on the Y chromosome which are common in “COHANIM”.

Hope this help you.


Prof’ Dani Bercovich, PhD,
Scientific Director,
GGA – Galil Genetic Analysis,
Kazerin P. O. Box 3664
Israel 12900
Tel: 972-4-9007100
Fax: 972-4-9007111


Esther Buckareff <>
Date: March 4, 2015 at 9:43:45 AM GMT+2
To: Dani Bercovich <danib@GGA.ORG.IL>
Subject: Re: genetic test that indicate the religion of  humans

Hi Dani,
Thanks for clarifying. It is fascinating to me that you refer to being Jewish as a religion vs a race or cultural group like Scottish, Irish, East Indian, North American Indian, Asian, etc. etc. It begs the question “Who is a Jew?” which then brings up a multitude of sociopolitical issues that concern Israeli laws regarding immigration, land rights, and so on. Does this mean that non-religious Israelis are not Jews? Does it mean that someone whose ancestors were religious but they, themselves, are atheist – or converted to Muslim or Christian, etc., are now no longer Jewish? Isn’t something like 50%, or more, of Israelis non-religious? Does this mean they are not Jewish? According to your point of view, the answer is yes. At least half or more of Israeli citizens are not Jewish. 

I am a documentary filmmaker and I would love to interview you on the issue of Who is a Jew? 

There are several companies in the U.S. that are selling genetic testing to determine if a person is a Jew or not (googling it produces the company names/prices). I’ve heard your point of view stated elsewhere but there are others who dispute it by claiming that there are DNA tests to determine whether or not a person has Jewish ancestry – AND that Jews are genetically superior.

Btw… Do you know of a company in Israel that offers  DNA testing for COHANIM? 

Sent from my iPhone


Dani Bercovich <danib@GGA.ORG.IL>
Date: March 4, 2015 at 10:31:28 AM GMT+2
To: Esther Buckareff <>
Subject:‏‏RE: genetic test that indicate the religion of  humans

Hi Esther
The GGA lab perform the COHANIM test as a “recreation genetic test”. This cost 1850 NIS and the TAT is 5-7 weeks
As for the genetic labs in the US which offer tests to find “Jewish origin”, this is exactly like 23andme test, which is Google “BELOF” way, of collecting DNA samples for low price to sale it after to drugs companies for there research on new drugs.

There are some genetic variants, which affects health, like the mutations in the BRCA genes which affects Brest or ovarian cancers, but these mutations are also found in non Ashkenazi or non Jewish women’s as well. Finding only one of the common Ashkenazi mutation in a human dose not automatically defend that this person as Jewish. But if you find a lot of these mutations in one person, then it is more likely that there is Jewish inheritance in this family.

In GGA we have a genetic test that screen 94 most common mutations in the Jewish Israeli population (all ethnics: Ashkenazi and non Ashkenazi). We found that about 15% of the population is a carrier of one of the 94 mutations. Some times, we found peoples that harbor three or four of these mutations (they are probably more “pure Jewish origin”).

Hope this helps

I’m still not clear.  Plato would say I know the answer to this question, I just can’t remember.