Some Colorado Indians have genetic Jewish roots

TEL HASHOMER (JWN and agencies)—Geneticists at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer have found that a group of Native Americans in the state of Colorado has some Jewish genes dating from the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

The researchers identified a common marker on a unique genetic mutation of the BRCA1 gene. This mutation, often referred to as the “Ashkenazi mutation,” is found among European Jews of Ashkenazi origin. It is associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The discovery began with research by Prof. Jeffrey Weitzel, a cancer genetics expert at the City of Hope Hospital near Los Angeles, who studied 110 American families of Hispanic origin. He found they had a common ancestry: people who had immigrated to the United States from Mexico and South America.

Weitzel’s discovery of the BRCA1 mutation in these Hispanics led him to suspect a genetic connection between them and European Jews. This came when a similar study at Sheba found the missing link: The mutation was also found in a group of Mexican Indians who had emigrated from Mexico to the United States over the past 200 years and settled in western Colorado.

A comparative study found that Weitzel’s Hispanics and the Mexican Indians all shared a common ancestor: a Jew who emigrated from Europe to South America about 600 years ago, around the time when Christopher Columbus discovered America and the Jews of Spain were expelled.