A Genetic Study of Western Sephardic Jewish Men
Abstract: A study of men who have proven paternal descent from 18th Century male members of Western Sephardic synagogues who were of Iberian provenance. Detailed Y chromosome DNA sequence signatures will be obtained from the cohort. This is the first genetic study ofdescendants from this historically important Jewish community. The study may also offer insights into the genetic origins of the medieval Iberian community and possibly reveal individuals and communities around the world of Western Sephardic descent.
Background: The Expulsion of Jews from the Crowns of Castile and Aragon in 1492 followed almost a hundred years of persecution, including forced and voluntary conversions. One group of exiles moved to countries of the Mediterranean, principally settling in the Ottoman Empire. A second group moved to Portugal where, with indigenous Portuguese Jews, in 1497 they were compelled to convert to Catholicism. This study is of self-‐identified descendants of the post-‐1492 population in Portugal.
‘New Christians’ in Portugal developed a spectrum of identities but were generally not allowed to forget their origins. Leading members of this population formed a merchant class whodeveloped an international trade network, although other professions were also followed. Often facing persecution by the Inquisition on account of their origins and/or their real or imagined Jewish beliefs or loyalties, members of this group often adhered to their ancestral religion in countries tolerant of Judaism.
Never numerous, ‘the Nation’, played a notable role in the development of international trade and finance, in the European and Jewish Enlightenments, in the expansion of the Dutch and British Empires and often represented the first tolerated religious and ethnic minority in countriesof free settlement. During the 18th Century, the Nation’s international networks tended to be supplanted, and members in Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries were assimilated into the surrounding Catholic population. Jewish communities of the Nation in Amsterdam, London and elsewhere maintained their unique religious customs but were otherwise absorbed by the larger Ashkenazi population that had settled around them.
This study aims to establish a reference panel of highly resolved Y-‐chromosome SNP-‐marker based signatures corresponding to paternal lineages with near unambiguous genealogic origins in the Western Sephardic population.
Hypothesis: A DNA study of direct male descendants of the self‐identified Western Sephardic Jewish population, whose proposed ancestors identified themselves as part of A Nação (the Nation) and were members of the London, Amsterdam, Bordeaux, New York, Curacao and Jamaican communities will serve as a useful reference tool in identifying the contemporary worldwide dispersal of the former Iberian Jewish population in other regions of the world (e.g. Colorado, New Mexico, Brazil and other constituencies).
Aim 2: Once Western Sephardic Jewish descendants have been identified and consents obtained, the study will obtain buccal swabs from all study participants. The swabs will be processed at a certified commercial or academic institutional testing laboratory. Following standard DNA amplification, quality assurance, and analysis techniques, an initial subset of samples full Y-‐ chromosome sequencing will be carried out to identify novel or previously under-‐reported low-‐ frequency SNP-‐variants that delineate a given Y-‐chromosome lineage. The Y chromosome is passed on largely unaltered from father to son, although unique but genetically insignificant mutations occur from time to time making each lineage distinguishable from all others and hence genealogically useful. These SNPs will be added to a standard panel at least 100 Y-‐chromosome markers for genotyping of the entire sample set. The study will also include analysis of a suite of STR-‐markers – since many of the current publicly available genealogy databases and publications include such STR markers in their lineage designations.Aim 1: Using standard genealogical techniques, this study will seek to identify a cohort of no less than fifty documented descendants of Early Modern Western Sephardic Jews living in reliably documented locales such as London, Amsterdam, New York, and the Caribbean. To remain focused on the Western Sephardic population, identifiable descendants of other Jewish communities including Eastern/Ottoman Sephardim, North African and Middle Eastern Mizrahim (homonymously also called Sephardim), Ashkenazim, converts etc. will not be included in this particular study.
Aim 3: The DNA results thus obtained will be sorted into clearly identified Y chromosome lineages and then compared to existing data sets of worldwide populations – Jewish and otherwise – as one tool to determine whether other descendants of the‘Nation’ can be identified.
Relevance: As arguably the first globalized population, and often the first religious and ethnic minorities in countries of settlement, the Nation is important to world as well as Jewish history. The community is now small and this may be the last opportunity to easily gather genetic evidence. A DNA study may offer insight into the early international distribution of this community as well as the genetic origins of its parent Iberian Jewish community. Alongside genealogical research adhering to the Genealogical Proof Standard, historical research and other academic disciplines, this can then serve as an anchor for a more extensive study of former Iberian Jewish populations. Given the relatively limited number of generations – corresponding autosomal markers in this cohort may serve in the future as a bi-‐parental marker reference for population admixture.
Support: The Genetic Study of Western Sephardic Jewish Men is supported by the Avotaynu Foundation (New Haven, CT), the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy (Jerusalem), and the Brown Foundation (Teaneck, NJ).
The information gathered for this study is for educational and historical research purposes only. No data of medical significance will be processed or obtained nor is there any intention to commercialize the results. The Program may contact participants for historical information as part of the study. Following completion of the study, a public database associated with the study will list the surname of each participant, his test kit number, the name and birthplace of his most remote male ancestor, and his DNA results. No further identifying information for a participant will be shared without his permission.Participants will be informed of their kit number.
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Exhibit A: Consent Form for Participants in the Genetic Study of Western Sephardic Jewish Men
I have read the provided description of the Genetic Study of Western Sephardic Jewish Men. All my questions about the study and my part in it have been answered. I understand that my participation is voluntary and I freely consent to participate in this research study.
I expressly authorize the collection, processing, use, and disclosure of my data for historical research to the extent described in the Confidentiality section above.
I confirm that the data submitted to the study belongs to me or that I was explicitly authorized by the data owner to submit it on his or her behalf.
By accepting the terms of this consent form I have not given up any of my legal rights. I am free to withdraw my consent at anytime prior to the publication of results.
Name of Participant: __________________________
Mailing Address for DNA test kit:
Name or c/o: _______________________________
Country: ______________ Zip Code: ___________
Telephone, including country code: _____________________
Most Remote Known Direct Male Ancestor: _______________________________________
Place of Ancestor’s Birth/Residence: ____________________________________________
Once completed, please scan and email this signature page to WestSephDNA@gmail.com or send via post to Adam Brown, Study Administrator, WestSephDNA Project, 545 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, NJ 07666 USA
This project is for men with paternal ancestry dating back to the Jews/Men of the Nation/New Christians/Western Sephardim who formed the early membership of the Amsterdam Esnoga, Bevis Marks in London and related communities. Generally, participants or their direct male ancestor will bear an Iberian surname. If you know of any male who might meet these criteria, please feel free to inquire of them as to whether they might be willing to participate in the Study and, if so, ask them to contact the Study administrators at WestSephDNA@gmail.com
Karl Skorecki, M.D., Rappaport Faculty of Medicine & ResearchInstitute and Rambam Medical Center, Technion‐Israel, Institute of Technology Haifa, 31096 Israel, Email: Skorecki@tx.technion.ac.il
Adam R. Brown, J.D., Administrator, AvotaynuDNA Project and Managing Editor, www.Avotaynu Online.com, 545 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, NJ USA, Email: WestSephDNA@gmail.com
Wim Penninx, PhD., Delft University of Technology, Delft, Zuid-‐Holland, Netherlands
Michael Waas, M.A. candidate, University of Haifa, Department of Jewish History. Email: email@example.com