Jewish DNA Speaks

Print this page Print this page

But what about "nation," "people," and "race"? Social scientists view "race" as a toxic concept, one that will inevitably be used to promote inequality and rationalize domination. Some are therefore also suspicious of genetic research, which they see as a means of re-inscribing race as a social category and covertly legitimizing inequality. Among scientists themselves, no reputable researcher would use the term "race." At the same time, however, geneticists and medical scientists do not shy away from acknowledging the reality of human biological groupings.

As for "nation" and "people," Jews are indeed a nation in a loose biological and historical sense. Peoplehood, a modern term, is in a somewhat different category: ultimately, it signifies a voluntary condition, entered into with God and as a personal choice to share a group fate or destiny. With the continuing reality of geographical movement and intermarriage, the decision to perpetuate or to join a people on a journey that has already lasted for millennia has become more profoundly consequential than ever—more consequential, one might venture, than its biological ramifications alone.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Alexander H. Joffe is an archaeologist and historian specializing in the Middle East and contemporary international affairs. From 1980 to 2003 he participated in and directed archaeological research in Israel, Jordan, Greece and the United States.