Jews Worldwide Linked by Common Genetic Ancestry

Jews really are a tribe.

The Chosen People have more than 5,000 years of history and culture in common. They also share distinct genetic traits linking them by blood throughout the millennia, a new study found.

A genome analysis of 237 Jews representing the world's three major Diaspora Jewish populations -- Eastern Europe's Ashkenazim; Southern Europe's and Turkey's Sephardim; and Syria, Iran and Iraq's Mizrahim -- found they are all genetically linked.

While the Jews studied also shared genetic traits with the surrounding gentile populations, they all had the same Middle Eastern ancestry, according to the study, "Abraham's Children in the Genome Era," published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

"We found that Jewish communities created their own genetic clusters," study co-author Gil Atzmon, a genetics professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told the New York Post.

"The Jewish communities share much more [genetic information] between Jews rather than non-Jews in the same geographic area," he added. The genetic analysis showed that the two major groups, Middle Eastern Jews and European Jews, diverged from each other approximately 2,500 years ago.

"The study supports the idea of a Jewish people linked by a shared genetic history," said principal investigator Harry Ostrer, M.D., professor of pediatrics, pathology and medicine at NYU. "Yet the admixture with European people explains why so many European and Syrian Jews have blue eyes and blond hair."

"The goal of the study was to determine a genomic baseline," said Atzmon. "With this established, we'll be able to more easily identify genes associated with complex disorders like diabetes that are determined by multiple variants across the genome. Armed with this information, we will be better positioned to treat patients."