What Does A Jew Look Like?

Well folks, my genetic test from 23andme.com came back. FINALLY!

This is me:

This is me.

This is me. It is a fairly dorky picture.

I think being 100% European makes me “white,” though I’m actually more peachy. I have blonde naturally wavy hair and blue eyes. (Actually, they turn greenish blue sometimes.)

My father’s ancestors came from Friesland, England, and Norway. My mother’s family came from Austria, France, Poland, and Sweden. My parents both have blond hair and blue eyes. Some of my relatives have red hair, some brown.

me 1976

I am three years old in this picture.

So, how am I Jewish genetically?

This is a trick question. There is no Jewish gene, Catholic gene, or Baptist gene. Judaism is a religion, a people, and a culture. Jews in Ethiopia are dark skinned. Jews from Europe have light skin. Jews who are from the Middle East have olive skin. Jews in the polar regions… have skin covered in warm clothing!

I’m Jewish because I practice Judaism, studied under a rabbi, and went in front of a rabbinic court to declare my intentions to the Jewish community. I have a Jewish name and a certificate declaring that I am Jewish.


I do, however, have one of the Ashkenazi haplogroups: K1a9. K1a9 originated in the Rhine basin. It is a European haplogroup. Ashkenazi is a culture. Only 40% of the Ashkenazi population has one of the four maternal haplogroups typically associated with the Ashkenazi population. The maternal haplogroup comes from the mitochondrial DNA and is passed on to you by your mother.

The K Haplogroup

I have Haplogroup K, a subgroup of R.
Age: 35,000 years
Region: Near East, Europe, Central Asia, Northern Africa
Populations: Ashkenazi, Druze, Kurds
Highlight: One branch of haplogroup K ties about 1.7 million Ashkenazi Jews living today to a single maternal ancestor.

K split off the more ancient haplogroup U8 about 35,000 years ago. Since then, haplogroup K has been involved in migrations from the Near East into Europe, most notably the founding and expansion of Ashkenazi Jewish populations.

My Maternal Haplogroup is K1a9. 40% of today’s Jewish population come from 4 haplogroups. K1a9 is one of 4 that is typically associated with the Ashkenazi population. To be considered Ashkenazi, you do not have to have one of the Ashkenazi haplotypes. Only 40% of the Ashkenazi population has one of these 4 haplogroups. The term “Ashkenazi” refers to Jews of mainly central and eastern European ancestry, in contrast to those of Iberian (Sephardic), Near Eastern, or North African origin (Ostrer 2001).

“A few branches of haplogroup K, such as K1a9, K2a2a, and K1a1b1a, are specific to Jewish populations and especially to Ashkenazi Jews, whose roots lie in central and eastern Europe. These branches of haplogroup K are found at levels of 30% among Ashkenazi. But they are also found at lower levels in Jewish populations from the Near East and Africa, and among Sephardic Jews who trace their roots to medieval Spain. That indicates an origin of those K haplogroup branches in the Near East before 70 AD, when the Roman destruction of Jerusalem scattered the Jewish people around the Mediterranean and beyond.

About 1.7 million Ashkenazi living today – about 20% of the population – share a single branch of the K haplogroup, K1a1b1a. The diversity of that haplogroup among Ashkenazi suggests that it arose in the Near East between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago, and that everyone who shares it today could have shared a common ancestor as recently as 700 years ago. A similar pattern in two other K branches that are common among the Ashkenazi, K1a9 and K2a2, as well as the N1b branch of haplogroup N, has led researchers to conclude that 40% of the Ashkenazi living today – about 3.4 million people – could descend from as few as four women who lived within the last 2,000 years.” (23andme.com)

My Heritage Breakdown by Region

As recently as 500 years ago, my heritage is as follows:

100% European

63% Northern European

30.6% European Non-Specific

5.6% Eastern European

.8% Southern European

My Hair and Eye Color Markers

Each marker is listed with a description from 23andme.com.

Eye Color
Marker SNP: rs12913832
My Genotype: GG (Other options: AA, AG)
Gene: HERC2
Chromosome: 15

“Scientists have known for a while that eye colors like green and hazel (variations of the brown eye color found in the majority of the world’s people) can sometimes be explained by SNPs in a gene called OCA2. The OCA2 gene encodes a protein called the “P protein” that is located in melanin-producing cells. While the exact function of the P protein is unknown, it is essential for normal pigmentation and is likely involved in the production of melanin.

The SNP linked to eye color that 23andMe provides data on is not actually in the OCA2 gene. Instead it is located nearby, in another gene called HERC2. Scientists think that this SNP affects how much P protein is made from the OCA2 gene.

Two copies of the A version of the SNP in HERC2 almost always result in brown eyes. One copy of the A version and one copy of the G version can produce brown or green eyes—which color probably depends on other variations in the OCA2 gene, or in other genes. Two copies of the G version of this SNP usually results in blue eyes—but green eyes are possible too, also due to other SNPs.

Three studies have found that blue eyes most often result if a person has two copies of the G version of this OCA2-controlling SNP, suggesting that the genetic origin of the trait can be traced back to a single point in human evolution. The authors of one of the studies hypothesize that the mutation event that created this version of the SNP happened somewhere around the Black Sea between about 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. During that time generations of migrating farmers gradually carried agriculture from the Near East to northern Europe, where blue eyes are most often found. These same researchers found that blue-eyed individuals from the Mediterranean (five from Turkey and two from Jordan) also have the G version of this SNP, suggesting that blue eyes the world over can be explained by variation in this one SNP.” (23andme.com)

Eye Color: Blue vs Green
Marker SNP: rs1393350
My Genotype: GG (Other options: AA, AG)
Gene: TYR
Typical odds of having blue instead of green eyes, if eyes are non-brown.

“A study of people from Iceland and the Netherlands found that variations in a gene involved in melanin production affect a person’s odds of having green as opposed to blue eyes. Assuming a person already has non-brown eyes, the study found that each A at rs1393350 increases the odds of having blue rather than green eyes about 1.4 times. (23andme.com)

Eye Color: Blue vs Green
Marker SNP: rs12896399
My Genotype: TT (Other options: GT, GG)
Gene: Across several
Slightly higher odds of having blue instead of green eyes, if eyes are non-brown.

“A study of people from Iceland and the Netherlands found that, assuming a person already has non-brown eyes, each T at rs12896399 increases the odds of having blue rather than green eyes about 1.5 times. (23andme.com)

Hair Color – Propensity toward having red hair
Marker SNP: rs1805007
My Genotype: CT (Other options: CC,TT)
Gene: MC1R
Substantially higher odds of having red hair.

“Red hair comes in a wide range of shades, from strawberry blond to auburn. It is most common in Ireland, Scotland and other places where people have a significant proportion of Celtic ancestry. A study of people from Iceland and the Netherlands found that many cases of red hair are due to versions of the SNP rs1805007 in the MC1R gene. This gene encodes a protein involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that is in your hair, skin, and eyes. Each T at rs1805007 was found to increase one’s odds of having red hair by about 6.1 times. Unsurprisingly, red hair is also associated with other pigmentation traits, such as light skin and a large number of freckles.” (23andme.com)

Hair Color: Blond vs Brown
Marker SNP: rs1667394
My Geneotype: TT (Other options: CT, CC)
Gene: OCA2
Typical odds of having blond hair (vs. brown hair).

“Hair color is determined by the amount and type of melanin pigment it contains; there are a number of genes that help determine hair color by regulating melanin production. This study of 6,918 people from Iceland and the Netherlands found that each C at rs1667394 decreased a person’s odds of having blond vs. brown hair by about 5 times. The SNP lies in the gene OCA2, which plays a role in pigmentation.” (23andme.com)

Hair Curl
Marker SNP: rs17646946
My Geneotype: GG (Other options: AA, AG)
Gene: TCHH
In Europeans, slightly curlier hair on average.

“Whether your hair is curly or straight, it’s probably a lot like the hair you see all around you in your family. That’s because genetics play a large part in determining hair texture. No single “hair curl” gene has been discovered, however.

Studies (including 23andWe research that used survey answers provided by 23andMe customers) have shown that variation near the TCHH gene determines a small part of hair curl in Europeans. On a scale of 0 to 5 (0 being straight, 5 being super curly), each copy of the A version of rs17646946 was associated with a reduction of about 0.29 curliness points.

The TCHH gene encodes a protein called trichohyalin, which is known to be expressed at high levels in hair follicles and has been shown to be involved in cross-linking of the keratin filaments found in hair in skin.

23andMe researchers have also identified another SNP associated with hair curl. This association, however, has not yet been replicated by other scientists. Read more in the Hair Curl Preliminary Research Report. You can also learn about a genetic variation found mainly in people with Asian ancestry that has been associated with hair thickness in the Hair Thickness Preliminary Research Report.” (23andme.com)