Category Archives: genealogy

On Being a Jew

Before I explain how I ‘became’ a Jew, I should first explain how I ‘became’ a Palestinian.  It all started with my interest in genealogy. Several years ago a new company came out with the idea of genetic genealogy. If you sent them a sample of your DNA, they would analyze it and hopefully tell you something about your ancestors that is not traceable in existing records.

The first test I did was a Maternal DNA test. It specifically looks at a part of the X chromosome that is passed down mostly unchanged from mother to daughter for thousands of years. Through it, they identify what’s called your haplogroup. It’s like a female trail into the deep past. Also, it can be matched to people who shared the same female ancestor. My matches were few, but one stood out from the others. This person was a Palestinian! Incredible! To find such a match in a population that has been in one place for thousands of years was a genealogical jackpot!

So, I am a Palestinian.

But then, another new company with a broader test caught my interest. At first, the information I received was helpful, but it was when they upgraded their product to include cousin matching that it got really interesting. By identifying common strands of DNA, they would be able to match you to your biological cousins, (in the database), from first to distant.

My initial cousin match was very exciting, but when he sent me a list of peculiar Eastern European surnames, I was completely confused. Only after a few more matches contacted me, did I see that I was matching to Ashkenazi Jews. The Ashkenazim exist as a DNA grouping because of centuries of endogamy which is the polite word for cousin-humping.  They have been good ole-fashioned Middle Eastern cousins-humpers for a very long time, resulting in a close genetic relatedness amongst them. Even though I am only part Ashkenazim, I share common DNA strands to the majority of the population. We, my Ashkenazim brothers and sisters, are the hillbillies of the world. Yee (oy vey) Haw!

At first, I was stunned by my discovery, but then I felt like I had been given a heavy weight to bear. You see, already having ‘become’ Palestinian, I had begun researching more about Israel, and examining what exactly was happening over there. What should have been a celebration of my new found Jewish heritage did not make me feel good.

Let me try to explain by first telling you a story. I heard it many years ago. The story was told by a man who was there when it happened. He probably didn’t tell many people about it. He told my parents, and my mother told me. I might be the only one left who knows it, which is even more of a reason to share it with you now.

This man was originally from an Eastern European village. I don’t think it was a very big place. It was likely one of those small nondescript places where nothing much ever happens, and everybody knows everybody else. One day, the Nazis marched in. They marched in and ordered several of the young men in the village to dig a deep and long pit. When the pit was finished, the Nazis then gathered up all the Jews and lined them up at the edge of the pit. I don’t know whether they had the Jews face them or look away. I don’t know whether they did them in groups. I don’t know any of the details, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. Details cannot make this story any better or any worse. It’s horrible any way. So, they raised their rifles, (or machine guns), and shot all the Jews who then fell dead into the pit. After it was done, they ordered the young men to fill it in. But before they did, some of those men climbed into that pit and picked over the warm bodies of their neighbours, taking whatever worldly goods they considered of value.

And then I look at Israel…

I look at Israel and see the militarization, the ruthless secret service, the propaganda, the unashamed racism, the greed, the violence, the disrespect for human life, and I think, is this what those Jews died for…the kind of society Goebbels would drool over…the kind of society that killed them?

No! I can’t believe that! Those innocents who died that day were my people. They lived decent lives. They hurt no one. They worshiped the One and Only God, not a state or a government. They were my people, and they did not die for that!

You see what I mean by the word ‘weight.’ I’ve cried more than once over it.

I’ll tell you something though…something else about Ashkenazim DNA…something important. In spite of centuries of endogamy, we have the most remarkably varied haplogroups. There is not one area of this globe that is not represented in our DNA. From the Middle East to Europe, East Asia to South Asia, Australia to North Africa, South Africa to North America, South America to everything in between…the entire beautiful family of man is represented in our Jacob’s ladder. This is the real pride of being a Jew…our special secret that YHWH has placed there and no man’s evil can remove. The secret that all of God’s precious children are within our hearts, and that every last one of them warms our veins with this glorious and sacred gift of life.

Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right. Psalm 106:3

A Family Mystery

The Plate[1]

Here is my mystery. A plate fired by the Wedgewood company. It was my grandmother’s most prized possession, and also her secret possession. As you can see, it appears to show the Royal British Coat of Arms.

In my attempt to unravel the mystery, I have contacted the Wedgewood Museum, and had others contact Wedgewood, but to no avail. They do not respond. I’ve also tried other British museums, but the ones who do respond have little to no information.

I was able to learn that it was fired a few years before or around the time of my grandmother’s birth, so it could have been given to her parents. It is also some type of private commission which means it was not sold commercially.

If anyone has any ideas, please comment below, (comments are moderated.)

The skinny black lady in the back is my great grandmother. The girl in the front holding the doll is my grandmother.