“An epic tale of ‘The Chosen People’ [Entine’s ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN] serves as an excellent catalyst for discussion as many continue to ask the question, ‘What does it mean to be Jewish?’ Engaging and informative reading for Jews and non-Jews alike”
–– Kirkus Reviews
Can Identity or Religious Roots be Found in a Pinprick of DNA?
Geneticists Are Mapping the Threads of a Shared Ancestry between Modern Christians, Mormons, Muslims and Jews
Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People
In a famous Harper’s Magazine article published in 1899, Mark Twain noted with some amazement that world Jewry, but one quarter of one percent of the human race, was “a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk . . . . What is the secret of his immortality?”
While Twain may have been writing about the stellar accomplishments of the world’s minority Jewish population, Jon Entine’s eye-opening new book, ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People (Grand Central Publishing; $27.99 hardcover; $34.99 Canada; October 24, 2007), reveals another sort of Jewish “immortality” altogether. Why is it that Jews, Twain’s puff of stardust, dominate the lists of Nobel Prize winners and top achievers in so many categories?
In his quest for the Lost Tribes – a central narrative for Christians and Jews alike – Entine examines how discoveries in the field of genetics are awakening Christians, Mormons, Muslims and others the world over to strands of a deeply persistent and far reaching shared Israelite ancestry in far flung corners of the globe. A scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, he, introduces readers to a black African tribe, the Lemba, almost certainly of Israelite ancestry and the probable builders of the only surviving architectural wonders of any note built in pre-industrial Africa. ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN recounts how some Hispanic Americans – unknowing descendants of Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition – are suddenly able to make sense of the Jewish practices their own parents and grandparents inexplicably incorporated into daily routines upon learning of genetic evidence of their own buried Jewish ancestry.
Judaism DNA is both a time machine and microscope, observes Entine, offering a fascinating journey back in history and an opportunity to reconnect with biblical ancestors. Tracking the mythic and actual migrations of Jews around the world, including Europe, South Africa, India, China and the United States (among Native Americans or Mormons), Entine examines the role of DNA in shaping ethnic and religious identity.
These advances in genetic research hold special significance for Jews and those interested in the Israelite roots of Western culture, according to the author.
“Like adoptees in search of their birth parents, Jewish men and women are besieging genetic researchers hoping to piece together the evidence of their ancestry erased during the Diaspora or Holocaust,” notes Entine.
While some search for evidence confirming ties to the Jewish Cohanim, a priestly line that traces its genetic lineage back to the time of biblical Aaron, others are on a life and death quest to determine if they carry certain disease mutations, including for breast cancer and neurological disorders, that disproportionately target Jews .
Entine’s insightful examination sheds new light on the relevance of issues of “chosen-ness,” the controversy over whether Arabs or Jews have an ancestral claim to ancient Palestine, the threat of Jewish assimilation, and more incendiary notions of racial strengths and weakness in this thought provoking book.
Those interested in learning more about what genealogists call their “deep ancestry,” will find more information about using the increasingly sophisticated tools genetic genealogy offers to probe ancestral vaults once thought lost to history in Entine’s book.
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Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People
Grand Central Publishing
$27.99 hardcover/$34.99 Canada
October 24, 2007
Jon Entine is an international columnist and adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. An Emmy winning TV producer for Tom Brokaw at NBC News and for 20/20 and PrimeTime Live at ABC News, Entine has been awarded numerous prizes and fellowships for his journalism. He is the author of the bestseller Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It.
October 31, 2007
Books: Jon Entine author of Abraham's Children: Race, Identity and the DNA
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