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Center for Jewish Genetics blog

23andMe Provides Jewish Users with Discredited Genetic Theory

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The Sarnoff Center has previously cautioned that direct-to-consumer genetic tests, such as those sold by 23andMe, provide incomplete and potentially misleading information about health risks. Now, 23andMe ancestry testing is also raising eyebrows for telling some users with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage that they descended from an extinct tribe in Central Asia rather than the region now known as Israel in the Middle East.

Forward.com ran a breaking news story last week explaining how the report impacts Jewish identity on both a personal level and a societal level. The idea that Jews descended from the nomadic Khazar tribe, known as the Khazar theory, has been discredited by geneticists and historians alike.

23andMe has since removed the theory from genetic reports.

Our takeaway? Ancestry testing can provide valuable information to help users connect with long-lost relatives. And, while some users may also gain insight into their family’s possible geographic origins through ancestry testing, we recommend proceeding with caution. Test results may provide unexpected – or in this case, even unfounded – information.

Read more about differences in genetic testing or contact our genetic counselor for additional information.

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