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.
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.