Genetic Testing Proves Bene Israel Community in India Has Jewish RootsThe study sounds very interesting, although it is based on only 18 individuals, which doesn't sound like many to me. Elements of the statement could be phrased more clearly. It says that the study "reveals genetic proof of the Jewish roots of the Bene Israel community," but also "while Bene Israel individuals genetically resemble local Indian populations, they constitute a clearly separated and unique population in India." The rest seems to imply that the separate and unique element can be identified specifically as Jewish, but it doesn't quite spell it out. Maybe I am parsing too finely, but some clarification would be helpful.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016 9:30:00 AM
TAU–Cornell collaboration provides insight into unique community whose history is largely unknown
A new study from Tel Aviv University, Cornell University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine reveals genetic proof of the Jewish roots of the Bene Israel community in the western part of India. They have always considered themselves Jewish.
"Almost nothing is known about the Bene Israel community before the 18th century, when Cochin Jews and later Christian missionaries first came into contact with it," says first author Yedael Waldman of both TAU's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Cornell's Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology. "Beyond vague oral history and speculations, there has been no independent support for Bene Israel claims of Jewish ancestry, claims that have remained shrouded in legend."
"We found that while Bene Israel individuals genetically resemble local Indian populations, they constitute a clearly separated and unique population in India," Waldman says.
How the community grew
"The results point to Bene Israel being an 'admixed' population, with both Jewish and Indian ancestry. The genetic contribution of each of these ancestral populations is substantial," adds study co-lead author Arjun Biddanda of Cornell.
The results even indicate when the Jewish and Indian ancestors of Bene Israel "admixed": some 19-33 generations (approximately 650-1,050 years) ago.
"We believe that the first encounter involved Middle-Eastern Jews and was followed by a high rate of tribal intermarriage," says Waldman. "This study provides a new example of how genetic analysis can be a valuable and powerful tool to advance our knowledge of human history."
There are some past posts (here and links) on genetic testing of another group in India called the Bene Menashe, who have the tradition that they descend from the lost ten tribes of Israel. Whatever the historical merits of the claim, their genetic profile does seem to have Middle Eastern connections. Past posts on genetic studies and their implications for the history of Judaism are collected here and here.