Genetic map of North African Jews

A new genetic analysis focusing on Jews from North Africa supports the historical record of Middle Eastern Jews settling in North Africa during the classical age, marrying locals, and forming distinct populations that stayed largely intact for more than 2,000 years.

The study, led by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our new findings define North African Jews … and enhance the case for a biological basis for Jewishness,” said study leader Dr. Harry Ostrer, professor of pathology, genetics and pediatrics at Einstein and director of genetic and genomic testing for the division of clinical pathology at Montefiore Medical Center.

Ostrer noted that obtaining a comprehensive genetic fingerprint of various Jewish subpopulations can help reveal genetic links to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other common diseases.

In a previous genetic analysis, the researchers showed that modern-day Sephardic (Greek and Turkish), Ashkenazi (Eastern European) and Mizrachi (Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian) Jews are more related to each other than to their contemporary non-Jewish neighbors. —