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Jews, Italians Share Genetic Links

It’s both business and personal, Sonny

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James Caan as Sonny Corleone.(Wikipedia)

There is now a scientific basis for the time-honored principle that Jews can play Italians and Italians can play Jews. The largest-ever genetic analysis of the Jewish people revealed that Jews in disparate parts of the world have genetic commonalities, and also close DNA similarities to the Bedouin, the Druze, the Palestinians … and the Italians.

Notably, ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews have a genetic bond.

As for ugly Mexican bandits? Still no word.

Jews Worldwide Share Genetic Ties [Nature News]

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This stuff is fascinating, but I don’t think it’s the first study to establish these relationships. With respect to Italy, there has been a Jewish community there going back millenia, with a high percentage of Calabrian in South estimated to have Jewish ancestry. I wonder of that is what the evidence is actually showing.

Archimedes, the great Syracusan (and Greek) mathematician in Sicily addressed some of his work to a Jewish colleague, identified as such by his name.

I see the article notes that it undermines, again, the thesis propounded by pseudo-scholar Shlomo Sands, among others, that Ashkenazic Jews have no actual genetic relationship to the indigenous people of the Middle East. Not that you would have had to dig deep to discover this.

It is true that some CITY of Sicily, especially port ones, had a large Jewish population, before the expulsion. The refugees went e.g. to Istambul and founded some kehillot with the name of the city (interestingly, Siracusa became Sargosa and they pretended to come from Saragoza, Spain). Thanks to the Inquisition records is even possible to track a certain amount of genealogical trees – which, by the way, end up with marrying Catholics by the beginning of the 18th century.
The people trying to invent a secret marano population in RURAL Calabria are fooling themselves and the world. Lot of things on the web but nothing from archival sources (oh, yes: some nice Jewish wedding officiated in Southern Italy, usually among American Jews. Good for tourism, anyaway).

Nahum, the best resource for tracking genetic research is PUBMED, founded by (Jewish) Nobel Laureate Harold Varums. It lists, and links to, every medical paper published in the world, often with an abstract that it basically comprehensible to a layperson. You can search by any subject, scientist, journal, institution, etc.

Which expulsion are you referring to? Jewish heritage in Sicily goes back to Roman times.

Sorry–Jewish history in Syracuse goes back to pre-Roman, Greek times.

From the excellent, online “Best of Sicily” Magazine:

“The first Jews to arrive in Sicily probably settled as traders in Syracuse during the final centuries of the ancient Greek era. The Romans brought some Jews to Sicily as slaves or poorly-paid servants, though it appears that only a minority arrived under such conditions. By the time the Arabs arrived there were flourishing Jewish communities in Messina, Panormos (Palermo), Syracuse, Mazara and elsewhere.”

The article is from the July 2006 issue; maybe the writer, Vincenzo Salerno, could contribute something to Tablet

nahum says:

Sicily was part of the Spanish dominions, and Jews were expelled in 1492.

Nahum, yes, Sicily came under Spain’s sway after having been subject to a multitude of empires, but I think we’re in agreement here.

Incidentally, would Trotsky count as an ugly, Mexican bandit?

This seems confirmed by the legend that the founders of Rome had come from (Middle Eastern) Troy/Ilium and that they had lingered long in Carthage, a Phoenician/Canaanite colony. Seemingly, the ancients discerned a Middle Eastern origin for at least part of the population and a dominant one at that.

allenby says:

did you really mean..arabs, right ?
because “palestinians” do NOT exist. It’s a MYTH, created by arabs, which started in 1964 when yasser arafat created his terrorist organization, PLO.
The fact is that Palestine actually is Israel, by this name ISRAEL was called before 1948. The name Palestine was given by the Romans after they expelled almost all Jews from Judea, Samaria… Few thousand Jews remained and they were those who maintained an ABSOLUTE JEWISH majority in Palestine all 2000 years. Arabs were a small minority. So, “palestinians” is a lie. most of the arab population today in Israel and in Judea and Samaria is based on those arabs who started coming in the beginning of 20th century with a new wave of Jewish immigration from Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine. These arabs were coming for jobs. That’s how they settled and created all these villages in Israel and Judea and Samaria.
So, to say that we Jews have similarities with “palestinians” is a joke. NO, we don’t have Nothing in common not with arabs and not with so called “palestinians”. Period.
We might have something in common with italians…maybe.
Even these Jews who are originating in arab countries will deny this as well.
Not even 0.00001% in common.

    Now I see why Hitler and many others put Jews in gas ovens. As many Germans have said the only mistake Hitler made was no finishing the job.

Rachel says:

Perhaps “Palestinian” refers to the central Levant region, ie Jordan, although borders are arbitrary as people have the ability to move around. (Look at the Jews.)

Lois says:

The Jews are descended from Abraham through Isaac. The Arabs are descended from Abraham through Ishmael. How is it that they have nothing in common?

Robin Margolis says:

Traditional Jewish thought says that all Arabs are descended from Ishmael, son of Abraham. I would suggest that the Palestinians may be descended from the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who lived in modern day Jordan, and were forcibly converted to Judaism by the Maccabbee dynasty.

The Edomites became very good Jews, joining Jewish armies of resistance to the Roman Empire.

That would explain the genetic connection that the study found.

With regard to the statement by one commenter that the Palestinians do not exist as a people with a culture, that is incorrect. There is a Palestinian culture, and even a distinctive Palestinian accent of Arabic.

For more information about the “realness” of the Palestinians, right-wing Israeli historian Benny Morris has written an amazingly baalnced and fair account of the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001

joel novak says:

It has been estimated that 20% of the Roman Empire was Jewish. So what’s new?


Ephraim H. Mizruchi Ph.D. says:

What a strange article. Evidence for the connections is claimed but no identification of Haplogroups involved. FamilyTree does have some of these data. Why hasn’t Tracey cited some? What are these “threads?” I have yet to see that word in any of the scientific literature associated with DNA. Is it my ignorance that explains it?

Other studies show that the Bedouins are closest to the original Arabs from Arabia, who are not semitic even.

I’m confused. Can you shed some light?!v=bMv7u-8EZYI&feature=related

Check out this great historical account. true and funny at the same time.

Mike says:

The reason Italians and Jews are genetically similar is because they’re both heavily descended from Neolithic farmers who migrated from the Near East north into Europe (Italy) and south into the Middle East (Palestine) approximately 9-13,000 years ago. More recent phenomenon, like the Jewish diaspora migrating to Italy during the time of Rome, or other later interactions, is less likely to be the source of the genetic similarities.

While I can’t speak for whomever wrote this article, I can say that there is some truth to it. My father was 1/2 Spanish, 1/2 Italian and my mother 100% Calabrese Italian…or so we thought until some DNA testing recently (with Family Tree DNA). What we discovered was that my father’s paternal line was exactly what you’d expect for his Northern Italian father, matches with Italy, Switzerland, etc…but for my mother’s maternal line…she did not match anyone in Italy at all.

What she did match was a few groups of Sephardic Jews…specifically the Crypto Jews of Belmonte, Portugal. There are some articles online that discuss how 30 women from Belmonte had their DNA tested and 28 of them were found to all descend from one female ancestor. My mother’s match confirmed that we also share this ancestor…and the match was a 6.2% with family tree (4% is considered a strong match)…which started to explain why I’ve been asked if I was Jewish a few times (some of my siblings look much more Semitic than Italian).

We then had one of my mother’s brothers get tested…and he confirmed the same results for the maternal line but we also got to see my mother’s father’s paternal line…and he ended up being Jewish as well. No significant Italians hits…but heavy Ashkenazi ancestry (Levite, Cohen) which explained why he was commonly asked if he was a Jew (and he indeed looked it!). Both of my parents are deceased so we couldn’t ask them for more info…but it seems although some of my relatives lived in Italy…they were definitely not Italians. :)

For the record, the haplotype for the Belmonte Jews is HV0b (zero b, not the letter O), and my uncles Y-DNA Haplotype is J2.

tony mazzeo says:

I’m a Scilian Italian and all my closest friends are Jewish.My best friend passed away a few years ago was my Brother.Even though we had different parents,he was my Brother.His family was amazing and went through hell.His Father lost most of his family in the Holocaust.I witnessed his Dad’s numbered tatoo on his arm,along with his Aunts.I could go on and on.My other Jewish friends are the best.I believe we share the family traditions,beliefs and business sense that keep us linked together.The Italians and Jews share a bond that will never die.

I have sicilian blood by 37.5% and 12.5% Napolitan blood! Probably no Jewish DNA is in me (Sicilians have barely 10% of having any such DNA and Napolitans usually ahve less)! Italians of Sicilian kind and Jews usually share little bond or none (the Jews were found I think to be to central Italains of florence)! Ditto for Italians of Naples!

    “I have sicilian blood by 37.5% and 12.5% Napolitan blood! Probably no Jewish DNA” Yeah bobby boy the DNA scam artists really found a sucker in you! So you are proud of you supposed 12.5% of “Napolitan” heritage!So proud that you can’t even spell the word correctly, let me help you Neapolitan.You are typical of a clown that buys into “race” theories.Every DNA study on race is contradicted by another study and it is anything but scientific.

Pardon nme I amde a mistake or two! I misspelled Sicilians in line 2! and I meant to say in conclusion (the Jews were found I think to be closest to central Italians of Florence)!

And I mispelled ” me” and “made”! I need sleep! But what I wrote as far as a point stands! Jews are genetically probably not close to me or most other Sicilians and almost all Napolitans!

Nicholas Parolisi says:

I am 100% Italian (Sicilian all the way)! I have had my DNA checked and all I have is mainland Italian DNA and some small strain of ancient Greek DNA! I am not a Jew at all! The Jews made only a very small genetic contribution to today’s Sicilians and only to maybe 10% of all Sicilians tops at that! In short if you are Sicilian don’t count on being even a bit Jewish–but do count on being ancient Greek descended!

    “I am 100% Italian (Sicilian all the way)!” Then in the next sentence you write “and some small strain of ancient Greek DNA!”So your 100% Italian and also Greek??Anyhow all mankind originated from sub Saharan Africa, so everybody has African DNA and nobody on the planet is 100% anything. You obviously want to pound your chest and laughingly claim you are a “pure” Sicilian, Well the term pure Sicilian is a oxymoron since Sicily is a island with a mulatto multi racial population.The average dark skinned Hispanic is “whiter” than the average “pure” sicilian LOL!!!

    “In short if you are Sicilian don’t count on being even a bit Jewish–but do count on being ancient Greek descended!”Actually fat nick if you are Sicilian you can count on sub Saharan recent negroid ancestry, from roman slaves boinking local wops.You Sicilians are also descended from moors from north Africa and it shows very clearly, in your swarthy,grease covered appearance.You are right Jews and Sicilians are like night and day literally, you Sicilians on average are as dark as night and Ashkenazi Jews are as light as daytime.

Shalom Paisans,

I forgot all about my original post until my brother told me some folks had replied to it. I think the concept of being “100%” Italian or anything else needs to be put to pasture, especially in this new era of DNA testing. Nicholas – may I ask which company you used for DNA testing? I originally used DNA Tribes which showed me to be of mostly mainland Italian stock as well…however I later learned that it was only showing me the DNA I inherited from my NY Italian paternal grandfather. Their samples for Jewish DNA (especially Sephardic) are practically non-existent. If you really want to know if you have Jewish ancestry…you need to have your DNA tested with Family Tree DNA. And if you’ve already done this…would you mind sharing your haplotype?

I’m not trying to say that all folks of Italian heritage have Jewish ancestry…but I’ve always thought that many do…heck I’ve seen so many Italians I thought were Jews and vice versa that it’s all starting to make sense now. My family even hired a Rabbi to check our family history on the Calabrian side and our Jewish heritage was confirmed in stone. I was also recently “outed” by a Jewish lawyer who said he knew I was one of the clan the first day he met me!

Regardless – I think it’s great to embrace ones culture – be it regional, biological or otherwise…but we Italian-Americans need to stop hiding in the No We Couldn’t Possibly Be Jews Closet – because some of us have some very unique and interesting heritage that should be remembered and embraced. :)

My family is from the Abruzzi. Of course, there was plenty of movement within Italy, so a Calabrian could have slipped in there. I also have some Austrian ancestry through illegitimacy. I took the FamilyTreeDNA autosomal DNA test and was amazed that my results came back with a very strong (majority) Jewish match. I think it’s very possible that Italian Jews in the past were compelled to becomme Christian or were given a choice to become Christian or leave. I have read that the church took Jewish children from parents and raised them as Christian. I think anyone who believes all Jews were expelled from Italy is in denial. Jews converted–willingly or unwillingly. If I do have Jewish ancestry, it is likely from Conversos.

lucy says:

Jews and ITalians are not related in modern times. Their relationship goes back 1,000’s of years to prehistoric times.

alfredo says:

I suppose that some have genetic similarities with those of OMAN and Yemen
(Moscato famielies).

alfredo says:

Also I would like to notify the studies made at the Jerusalem Mental Health Center
by Professor Ezrath Nashim and published some 20 years ago about on NATURE, about the Manic-depressive illness,found common in people with jewish heritage in Mediteranean area, illness supposed to be due to a genetic alteration on X-chromosome. I hope more studies will be made for the cure of this illnees that causes much suffering.

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Rashi Rosenzweig says:

It should be noted that the very first “Ashkenazi” Jewish community after the destruction of the Second Temple and sacking of Jerusalem was comprised of Jews who were captured and exiled to Rome. There has been a Jewish presence in Italy for over 2ooo years. Jews then migrated northward to the ancient Rhineland of Germany and Gaul (ancient France).

It’s not surprising that there are many genetic and obvious similarities between Jews and Italians.

Karen DeBiase says:

J 2 Y DNA is common in North Africa and the Middle East. It is also found in high numbers in Greeks and southern Italians, possibly through either Neolithic farmers via the Balkans or in part ancient Jewish or moorish communities. There is no DNA test to prove one is Jewish. A testing company that tells you that is playing to hopes. J2 can as easily be from a Moorish or Berber ancestor as a Jewish one. Let’s not forget the Moors controlled Sicily and Southern Italy for many years. Of course Italians and Jews looks similar – both Mediterranean.

    But recent studies show that north african (berbers or arabs) are clearly different from modern jews. Jews fit the east mediterrean region, which means that do belong to Israel, contra Sand et al.

frankguerin says:

One plus of our being a race is that we cross all ethnic lines.   The Ashkenazic community in America, notoriously exclusionary of all not descended from ancestors in Eastern Europe or Minsk, will finally have to accept the rest of us.  I’m tired of being told “you don’t look Jewish” or “you’re not a ‘real Jew’ ” because we hail from Italy and Ireland and can’t be categorized.  Our Christian conversions in both countries (before returning to our roots) were to preserve our families and properties, and in Italy since the 1500s where my great-grandfather sacrificed his faith publicly to run a Jewish underground in Calabria  – thus helping to continue “the race”.  In fact, our roots go back to early Hebron! 

My only concern with the study is one mentioned earlier;  that is, how did they insure for example that their Italian Catholics were indeed Gentile many generations back?  Or the Palestinians were not from earlier Jews?  Hopefully, the examiners had a strong background in genealogical research, because Italians (and Spaniards who fled to Italy) had numerous ways of obscuring their true origins that went on for centuries.  Also, records for Palestinians were re-written, hidden or burned in an effort to convert those people to Islam, and present them as Muslims historically.  There is actually a very old descendancy of Palestinian Jews in Southern Italy and another group from the WWII era (both of whom identify as Italian Catholics), who probably wonder why they “look different” or have certain practices reminiscent of Middle Easterners.  

I am very interested to see how all this combined research progresses over the decades, and how this impacts medical knowledge as well.

Los Alamos says:

I’m Jewish and My Genetic Test on 23Andme says I’m 45% of Italian origin – that’s even higher than my Ashkenazi percents!
P.S – I have no idea where did those Italians genes come from, but my whole list of genetic relatives have a high correlation to Italians too.. Any Ideas?


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Jews, Italians Share Genetic Links

It’s both business and personal, Sonny

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