A just-published, “definitive” study of Jews of North African origin has set their place on the genetic map of the Jewish Diasporas. This completes research of contemporary Jewish populations following previous work on Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Mizrahi Jews who originated in Europe and the Middle East.
The study – led by Prof. Harry Ostrer of the departments of pathology, genetics and pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at New York’s Yeshiva University, was just published online in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences...
The findings support the historical record of Middle Eastern Jews settling in North Africa during classical antiquity, converting non-Jews to Judaism and marrying local populations, thereby forming distinct populations that stayed largely intact for more than two millennia...
In addition, each group showed Middle-Eastern ancestry and varying degrees of mixing with surrounding populations.
Two of the major Jewish populations – Middle Eastern and European Jews – were found in the Einstein study to have diverged from each other about 2,500 years ago.
North African Jews exhibited a high degree of endogamy – a term that refers to marriage within their own religious and cultural group – in accordance with their community’s custom.
Two major subgroups within this overall population were identified – Moroccan/Algerian Jews and Djerban (Tunisian)/Libyan Jews. The two subgroups varied in their degree of European mixture, with Moroccan/Algerian Jews tending to be more related to Europeans, which most likely resulted from the expulsion of Sephardi Jews from Spain during the Inquisition starting in 1492.
Ethiopian and Yemenite Jewish populations also formed distinctive genetically linked clusters, as did Georgian Jews.