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Author: Emily Miller Budick. Date: June 22, Publisher: Oxford University Press. Document Type: Book review. Length: 1, words. As Alan Mintz notes in his preface to Michael Weingrad's American Hebrew Literature : The astonishing power of the English language to absorb successive waves of immigrants from vastly disparate lands is one of the great sources of America's coherence as a society. Precisely because of that power, equally astonishing are the pockets of foreign-language culture that resisted linguistic integration and remained apart from or parallel to the rule of English.

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Finally, 23andMe, a DTC company that reports the proportion of Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry to public participants, was approached. A schematic diagram of the proposed benchmark. For brevity only offspring selected to mate in the next generation are shown. To obtain the admixture components, we applied a supervised admixture analysis to the dataset of Jewish communities Supplementary Tables S2 and S3 as described in Elhaik et al. In such analysis, the nine admixture components of each individual are computed with respect to nine putative ancestral populations whose genomes correspond to those of native populations from different parts of the world.

Having a panel of putative ancestral populations allows deriving the same admixture components for individuals of various cohorts.


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The admixture components of the simulated Israelite populations i. These admixture components were derived from the same nine admixture distributions reported by Elhaik et al. By projecting the distribution of admixture components along geographical coordinates, Das et al. They then randomly selected these values for each admixture component and normalized them to sum to 1. These components formed the nine admixture components of individuals that represent native Israelites. The authors also showed that the admixture signatures can be accurately predicted to Israel using GPS, a biogeographical application that converts genomic data into geographic coordinates Elhaik et al.

Admixture proportions of all populations included in this study. The x -axis represents individuals. Each individual is represented by a vertical stacked column of color-coded admixture proportions that reflects genetic contributions from nine putative ancestral populations. Given the large number of scientific studies proclaiming that Jews are distinguishable from non-Jews e. Both individuals have failed to correctly identify even a single Jewish individual.

No criticism on the benchmark was received. Failing to satisfy these assumptions dwarves the chances to pass the proposed benchmark. These are also the dominant components among North African Indian Jews also differ in their admixture pattern The genetic similarity between all individuals was assessed by calculating d between all individuals. These results are at odds with the assumptions of the biological Jewishness school. For coherency, edges are shown between genetically similar individuals. Biological Jewishness emerged in the late 19th century and quickly became the leading scientific dogma despite its failure to furnish an empirical evidence for over two centuries.

This pursuit has never ceased despite the constant failures, with seekers routinely embarking on new scientific technologies, oftentimes driving innovations themselves, claiming each time to unearth the hallmark of biological Jewishness, only to be disappointed again and again Efron, , ; Falk, To evaluate the validity of these claims, we proposed a benchmark to assess whether genomic data can predict Jewishness. Our benchmark consists of genomic data of Jews and non-Jews hybridized over two generations allowing claimants to prove their ability to predict the Jewishness status of the terminal offspring Figure 1.

The two individuals who attempted to predict the Jewishness status of the terminal offspring have failed. Our findings suggest that claimants of biological Jewishness make assertions that they are unwilling or unable to back in a blinded-experiment, but they do not prove the absence of biological Jewishness.

Testing whether such genomic feature or trait exists requires sequencing the genomes of ancient Judaeans and meticulously comparing them with modern day Jewish and non-Jewish individuals, looking for biomarkers that are uniquely shared with the Jewish cohort. However, as our second analysis implies Figure 3 , the potential outcomes of such experiment make it unlikely to be performed. In such case, we can ask whether it is reasonable to expect a Jewish biomarker to exist.

Archeological evidence and recent historical thinking suggests that the first Israelites grew out of the sedentarization of local Canaanite populations and nomadic pastoral tribes of unknown origin drifting into Palestine sporadically in the late Bronze Age Finkelstein and Silberman, ; Frendo, Interestingly, dietary restrictions were the sole difference from their neighboring tribes, as no swine remains were found in their campsites. It is unclear when these tribes have adopted Judaism, which was formulated with strict rules against exogamy much later, but it is reasonable to assume that the traditional bride-exchange, still common among modern day Bedouin tribes e.

Moreover, it is unlikely that the religion gained wide public acceptance until the days of Ezra and Nehemiah 5th century BC; Patai and Patai, ; Patai, ; Sand, Even after this period, the Judaeans remained under the influence of other cultures and faiths and exchanged genes with neighboring and invading populations. As long as Patrilineal Jewishness was the norm, offspring born to either Jewish or non-Jewish mothers were considered Jews through their paternal descent.

The Judaeans have been proselytizing their neighbors from their early days, but these activities intensified during the early centuries A. Even after the rise of Christianity 4th century AD and Islam 7th century AD , the Judaisation of slaves continued for several centuries until banned by the religious authorieties Sand, The last notable conversion took place in Khazaria in the mid-8th century AD and included the Khazarian elite and some of the Khazar people Sand, ; Elhaik, Massive conversions to Judaism were renewed only after the establishment of the state of Israel DellaPergola, The Israeli Law of Return that passed in , but was corrected in , provided Israeli citizenship to anyone who had one Jewish grandparent or a Jewish partner similarly defined as anyone with one Jewish grandparent.

The law was criticized for allowing non-Jews to become citizens, but it allowed Israel to absorb an enormous number of immigrants, primarily from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, many of whom converted to Judaism DellaPergola, ; Cook, The newcomers did not remain socially isolated for too long. During the early s, Israelite Jews had low consanguinity rates 2. Major demographic shifts also took place in the other side of the ocean where the second largest Jewish population lives.

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In , Reform Judaism, the leading movement among US Jews, acknowledged the Jewishness of both matrilineal and patrilineal descent, which nearly eliminated the necessity to convert to Judaism. The smaller Conservative and Orthodox movements maintain loyalty to the matrilineal descent and reject out-marriage DellaPergola, Movements into Judaism were almost always followed by counter movements out of Judaism DellaPergola, If Jewishness is not biological, it is of interest to critically assess the scientific framework, particularly the assumptions, arguments, methodology, and conclusions used to support the counter argument.

Interestingly, a review of genetic studies carried out between and concluded that Zionist ideas had a negative impact on the objectivity of genetic research Kirsh, To the best of our knowledge, a critical evaluation of recent studies, particularly those employing genome-wide analyses, was never compiled. While a comprehensive review is beyond the scope of this paper, we highlight four problems with contemproary research.

Red, Black, and Jew: New Frontiers in Hebrew Literature

This label was not questioned when these mutations were found in high frequency among Hispanic Americans. Instead, it has been proposed that they descended from Spanish Jewish conversos , who were forced to abandon their religion in the 15th century. A similar interpretation was made when Native Americans from Colombia were also found to be carriers. It later became clear that a large number of mutations exist among women who do not fit any local genetic testing criteria and that screening programs should be extended reveiwed by Mozersky and Gibbon, Conversions, assimilations, and later acceptance of individuals of non-Jewish backgrounds or even those with remote Jewish background into Jewish communities allowed Judaism to grow and expand throughout the Old World and sustain the Jewish population in Israel.

These demographic processes contrast notions of imagined genomic homogeneity, which does not even exist within Judaean skeletons Haas, The arguments in favor of genomic homogeneity are supported by two fictitious chapters in Jewish history Sand, The assumption of biological Jewishness implied from these chapters forms the rationale for nearly every genetic investigation that focuses on Jews or more commonly Ashkenazic Jews e. Though evidence points to the contrary e. In the absence of evidence for biological Jewishness, the accuracy of this design cannot be empirically tested. However, testing a meager number of reference populations, representing a trifling 0.

Principal component PC and structure-like analyses are the hammer and chisel in large scale analyses, at least partially because they can produce a multitude of resuls in support of various conclusions McVean, ; Parsons et al. For example, Behar et al.

By contrast to a supervised admixture analyses e. However, none of these components was unique to Israelite or Middle Eastern populations. A similar argument was recently made in favor of a Middle Eastern origin for Indian Jews Chaubey et al. Admixture analysis of worldwide populations. The x -axis represents individuals from populations sorted according to their reported ancestries. Each individual is represented by a vertical stacked column of color-coded admixture proportions that reflects genetic contributions from putative ancestral populations. Indian Jews are underlined.

There is much similarity between the claims about Jewish group membership made in the 19th century Efron, and those made later on. In all cases, authors cling to very small differences in a small number of genomic markers.

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The fallacy here is obvious. Although dispelled on numerous occasions Zoossmann-Diskin, ; Klyosov, ; Tofanelli et al. Hammer et al. There are a few more reasons to doubt that the end results of this pursuit would be different. Second, these surnames are distributed unevenly among Jewish communities. Third, the semantic similarity between Cohen Kahan and Khagan, a royalty title used by Turkish people, has been recently postulated to indicate a pagan-Shamanistic background Das et al. Finally, without demonstrating a genomic similarity to priestly and Judaean ancient DNA, interpretations in favor of a these origin are speculative, at best.

While the financial drive behind DTC genetic companies is obvious, several authors raised concerns that much of the subjectivity of genetic research in this field is driven by political motives e. It is more than an issue of who belongs in the family and can partake in Jewish life and Israeli citizenship. It touches on the heart of Zionist claims for a Jewish homeland in Israel. One can imagine future disputes about exactly how large the shared Middle Eastern ancestry of Jewish groups has to be to justify Zionist claims.


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There is evidence to indicate that proselytization or even religious affinity, which translates into political support Slepkov, , is another strong motive. Here, we propose the first benchmark to test claims that Jews are genomically distinct from non-Jews.


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Most members of academia, the public, and industry invited to prove those claims did not partake the benchmark, and those who attempted to identify Jews from genomic data failed. Moreover, our benchmark was designed to infer only a binary notion of Jewishness, corresponding to the law of Return and the Halacha, not the innovative depiction of discrete Jewishness, though such claims also derive from the binary notion of Jewishness.

The growing field of omics offers vast opportunities to search for such biomarkers throughout the genome, exome, methylome, cellome, chromatinome, transcriptome, alleome, proteome, lipidome, interactome, spliceome, ORFeome, phosphoproteome, metabolome, mechanome, epigenome, histome, and phenome.

Advances in the antibodyome and auto antibodyome as well as connectome, glycome, and kinome should also be considered. Special attention should also be paid to the physiome and neurome.