Negotiating Jewishness through genetic testing in the State of Israel

Noa Sophie Kohler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


• In Israel, several hundred thousand citizens form a minority group that wishes to be acknowledged as Jewish by the state authorities. Most of them immigrated from the former Soviet Union and cannot provide sufficient evidence of their maternal ancestors’ affiliation with a Jewish community. This has a direct impact on their civil rights. Based on a scientific research article on matrilineal genetic markers among Eastern and Central European Jews, the rabbinical dean of an institute for advanced Jewish studies in Jerusalem proposed to accept, under certain conditions, the presence of specific genetic markers as legal proof of “Jewishness.” Genetic testing here is meant to become a tool for empowerment and (re)claiming Jewish status. This case raises many questions concerning a biological understanding of Judaism and shows how genetic ancestry testing could be used to uphold the reli-gious orthodox narrative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-40
Number of pages5
JournalZeitschrift fur Technikfolgenabschatzung in Theorie und Praxis / Journal for Technology Assessment in Theory and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - 26 Jul 2021


  • Jewishness
  • citizenship
  • essentialism
  • genetic ancestry testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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