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Jacob's Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History Paperback – May 12, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300151284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300151282
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #650,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Duke University geneticist Goldstein was part of a team that did groundbreaking, headline-making research on Jewish genetic history. Goldberg clearly and succinctly explains such concepts as haplotypes and genetic drift as he reviews such findings as that more than half of contemporary Cohanim, or priests—traditionally believed to descend from the biblical Aaron—actually share a genetic marker called the Cohen Modal Haplotype. Among other subjects, he also explores evidence consistent with the claim of the obscure Lemba tribe of southern Africa to be descendants of ancient Israel. Lastly, in taking on a 2005 study of a group of so-called Jewish genetic diseases—such as Tay-Sachs—and their putative evolutionary connection to high intelligence among Jews, Goldberg notes that this hypothesis is easily testable but firmly rejects pseudoscientific genetic determinism. Goldberg's role in much of the research into Jewish genetic history, his sober, unsensationalist tone and his emphasis on the limited conclusions that can be drawn from such work lend credibility to his account of his stunning results. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Even readers unfamiliar with science will have no difficulty understanding this excellent book. David Goldstein clearly explains how modern genetics integrates with multiple aspects of Jewish history and demography."—Kenneth Kidd, Yale University
(Kenneth Kidd)

"Goldstein is one of a handful of people qualified to write a book such as this, and he succeeds very well in providing accounts both of scientific studies and of Jewish historical background."—Stephen Schaffner, Program in Medical and Population Genetics, The Broad Institute
(Stephen Schaffner)

“To complement the rich heritage of ancient Jewish text, Dr. Goldstein brings a new kind of ancient record—the history contained in our DNA. From the patterns of DNA variation among populations, he gleans insight into the social history of the Jewish people. Dr. Goldstein is a superb scientist and a captivating storyteller. Jacob’s Legacy is a gem.”—Eric Lander, Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project
(Eric Lander)

"An inspiring example of a magnificent analysis, written for a  general audience, showing how multidisciplinary research using information from history, genetics, anthropology and more can give precious light on a great ethnos, the Jews."—Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, professor of Genetics emeritus active, Stanford Medical School
(Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza)

"With a special gift for translating complex scientific concepts into language understandable to all, Goldstein delivers an accessible, personal, and fascinating book that tells the history of a group of people through the lens of genetics."—Duke Today
(Duke Today 2008-07-22)

"[An] important and illuminating book—written with keen intelligence and deep love of its subject. . . . [A] short but masterful book."—Jerome Groopman, New Republic
(Jerome Groopman New Republic 2008-06-12)

"To paraphrase the old ad for rye bread, you don't have to be Jewish to love this book. It is a specific—and gripping—example of how the lens of genetics will eventually inform our understanding of all peoples."—Michelle Press, Scientific American
(Michelle Press Scientific American 2008-08-01) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Along the way he drops many little tidbits of knowledge that enhance the story and entrance the reader.
L. Veid
In Jacob's Legacy, David Goldstein, ("I am a geneticist. But I am also a Jew.") demonstrates the remarkable synergy from combining genetic and historical research.
Gary C. Marfin
This book is well supported and scholarly but, is easy to understand which is why I make the recommendation for college students.
Shelby Ingle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Goldstein presents what is known about Jewish genetic history, much of it based on his own research. Unfortunately, conclusions tend to be tentative at best, not only because of the limitations of genetic analysis, but because of the limitations of the DNA samples available. As Goldstein says, most DNA collection is motivated by a desire to understand disease, not human history. Goldstein has competent writing skills, but when he tries to involve the reader in the development of his own ideas, rather than in his final understanding, he is more confusing than he needs to be. Goldstein, as a good scientist, is careful and objective.

===================================Summary===============================

The Y chromosomes (unique to males) of Jews in Europe are more typical of semitic populations than of their European neighbors.

More than half of Jewish Cohanim share a "Cohen Modal Haplotype", and 64% share a cluster of related Y chromosome types, which are found in only 14% of Jewish Israelites (Jews not Cohan or Levites). Comparable results are found in both Ashkenazy and Sephardic communities which separated several hundred years ago . This strongly suggests that the Cohan designation does in fact pass from father to son and that the Cohan designation is derived from ancestors living many years ago. Additional genetic analysis suggests the common ancestor could have lived in the time of Moses and Aaron. Interestingly, there are some other small groups of people with high incidence of the Cohan type Y chromosomes, particularly a clan of the Lemba tribe in Africa whose rituals and oral history suggest a possible Jewish ancestry. Presumably, black pigment could have derived from females and evolution.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Gary C. Marfin on November 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In Jacob's Legacy, David Goldstein, ("I am a geneticist. But I am also a Jew.") demonstrates the remarkable synergy from combining genetic and historical research. The historical record suggests the possibility that the Jewish high priests might today be distinguished genetically from those of the Jews who were not high priests. Indeed, Goldstein and his colleagues were able to identify significant genetic similarities, and further to suggest that the ancestral generation (Generation 1) goes back roughly 3,000 year, or within the approximate time of Solomon, which is what the historical record would suggest. Similarly, the historical record points to the possibility that a Bantu speaking tribe in Africa (the Bantu people themselves displaying a impressive record of migration and settlement) might be of Jewish descent. Here again, Goldstein and his colleagues were able to show that one in ten of the Y chromosomes were revealed to be within the Cohan Modal Haplotype identified earlier in the study of high priests. The most surprising result in the book is the possibility, which Goldstein could not falsify, that Ashkenazi Jews may trace their origins, not so much to the ancient Israelites, as to the Khazari sources.

The historical events covered in Jacob's Legacy demonstrate a well-balanced combination of historical sources and modern genetic analytical techniques. Further, Goldstein's summaries of the historical record and his digressions on the larger meaning of the Jews in history are exceedingly concise and work to place Jacob's Legacy in the larger context of global history. If Goldstein set out to convince his readers that genetic and historical analysis can be combined to enrich their understanding of the past, he has succeeded admirably. This slender volume delivers a solid punch.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Outside Food on August 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book, a summary of research on genetics of Jewish people, is by a person in the best position to tell the story: a geneticist and a Jew. Goldstein's research deals with tracing heredity as far back as possible, and it is his project that is probing connections between Jews all over the world. He shows it is possible that Jews who think they are descendents of high priests from the days of the First Temple really are, and that Africans who believe they originated with the early Hebrews actually did. He also contrasts genetic descent through males and females and offers an explanation of why hereditary diseases found mostly in Jews may confer an advantage. The technical portions are easy to understand and the book is no longer than it needs to be. It's a fast, jargon-free read and is highly recommended.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Permutt on October 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What I like best is Goldstein's measured approach to presenting his conclusions. There is much here that could have been said sensationally or one-sidedly, but Goldstein is skeptical and even-handed, the more remarkably so as he is presenting his own research.

The writing is just OK. Even this is something to be grateful for: accurate, comprehensible writing about science by a scientist.

It doesn't compare, though, to classics of popular science. The conclusions could be summarized in a short article. Instead of using the extra pages to give a really understandable picture of methods and context, Goldstein gives us a fluffy narrative: I thought about studying this, then I got ready to study it, then I had lunch, I liked the salad, etc., along with some lame, professorial jokes that students would laugh at because it's expected of them.
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