This is the drosh, the Torah commentary, I wrote for my Bat Mitzvah on June 14, 2014. My Torah portion was Sh’lakh L’kha, specifically Numbers 15:14-16.
I gave a shorter, and less technical version, at the actual service. The only changes were to the genetics portion in the beginning (I also did not read anything in boxes). Below is the full version, with appropriate links.
D’var Torah Cyndi Norwitz June 14, 2014
Today I am a woman!
Yesterday I was a woman. And the day before that. And so on back nearly 35 years. Still, today means something. It doesn’t change who I am physically, but it does change me.
Today I am a Jew!
I’ve been a Jew my whole life. So were my parents. And their parents. And their parents. And back as far as my genealogy hobby *cough* obsession can take me. Today though, I’m a different Jew. A year of study and the accomplishments of this ceremony mean something. I’m not more Jewish, but I am more Jewish.
The stories my family told me are that I am Jewish all the way back. DNA tests confirm that. 94-100% [spoken version: nearly 100%], depending on the algorithms. After the initial influx into Europe about 1-2000 years ago, Jews have been mostly marrying each other to the point that “Jewish” shows up as separate as Italian or Finnish. You can’t tell one Jew from another though. Even Ashkenazi vs Sephardic is hard. A Jew from Romania looks like a Jew from Latvia. We just moved around too much. When you look to see which populations this “Jewish” group matches best, it’s not other Europeans. It’s non-European Jews, Palestinians, Druse, and other folks from the Middle East.
One way to get more precise is to look at the paternal line (through Y-DNA) or the maternal line (through mt, or mitochondrial, DNA). Each of us gets our mtDNA from our mothers, and only women can pass it on. [Beginning of section I removed, see end of page for replacement text.] Every generation gets exactly the same sequences. Except sometimes, every few thousand years, there is a mutation. Those mutations allow us to track groups through time by location.
Imagine two sisters. One has identical mtDNA to her mother and passes it on to her daughters, and their daughters. The other sister has a single letter in the DNA that is different, a mutation. She passes that on to her daughters and their daughters. Those two groups are related but no longer the same. Repeat the process over hundreds of generations and you will end up with dozens of groups, each differing from the other by a small handful of mutations. Some of the groups migrate, then split up and migrate again, and you end up with different mtDNA’s all over the world.
My mtDNA is U6a7a1b. The U’s were one of the early splits in human history, after a bunch of us left Africa 60-70,000 years ago. A group of U’s moved from Western Asia into Europe. About 35,000 years ago, U’s split up. The ones that stayed in Europe became the U5’s. U2’s moved into India. The ones that went back to Northern Africa are my people, the U6’s.
Over the next 30,000 years, the branch of my maternal ancestors split another 5 times, mostly within the Maghreb, Northern Africa west of Egypt. My branch became Jewish and eventually moved to Spain. With the Inquisition 500 years ago, this branch, now Sephardic, spread over Europe, back to Africa and the Middle East, and to the Americas. The furthest back I can take my maternal line, the line I have the least information about, is to my great grandmother Hermina Goldberger of Kosice, Slovakia. I am the only known U6a7a1b from Slovakia outside my immediate family. [end of section I removed]
Years before present
U6a7 Maghreb 29000
U6a7a1b Sephardic 1400
“On mtDNA grounds, it is known that after the Out of Africa migration around 59–69 kya [thousand years ago], the U branch of macro-haplogroup N spread radially from somewhere in western Asia around 39–52 kya. This reached Europe, signaled by haplogroup U5, North Africa by haplogroup U6, and India by haplogroup U2. Coalescence age for U5 correlates closely with the spread of Aurignac culture in Europe and, from an archaeological perspective, it has been argued that Central Asia, not the Levant, was the most probable origin of this migration. In absolute agreement with this vision, we propose that, in parallel, U6 reached the Levant with the intrusive Levantine Aurignacian around 35 kya, coinciding with the coalescence age for this haplogroup.”From: The history of the North African mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U6 gene flow into the African, Eurasian and American continents. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014
So how did my maternal ancestors become Jewish in the first place? One theory, not that we can ever prove or disprove it, is that we were part of the “mixed multitudes.” Torah, in Exodus 12:38, says that as the children of Israel left Pharaoh, “And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.” The word for mixed multitude, עֵרֶב רַב (Erev’rav) even shares a root with Maghreb. Related also to words for west, evening, and mixed grill.
The mixed multitudes get a bad rap. We see the term again in Numbers 11:4 when the people had nothing but manna to eat. “And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting; and the children of Israel also wept on their part, and said: ‘Would that we were given flesh to eat!’”
But are these the same people? “Mixed multitudes” in Exodus, sometimes translated as “rabble” or “many other people” or “hoard,” is עֵרֶב רַב (Erev’rav). But in Numbers it’s הָאסַפְסֻף (asafsuf), sometimes translated as “some foreigners,” “foreign rabble,” “contemptible people,” “the vulgar,” and “riff-raff.” The root, אָסַף (asaf) means gather. So asafsuf means a gathering or assembly.
The asafsuf aren’t the mixed multitudes as most Rabbinic commentators assume, but rather, as one modern commentator puts it “charismatic Israelite trouble-makers.” So when God gets fed up with the kvetching and punishes the asafsuf with a plague, God isn’t killing off the outsiders, but the Jews keeping the people from God’s plan.
We have a similar story in this week’s portion. Twelve men representing the 12 tribes of Israel go out to spy upon the land of Canaan and 10 of them come back thinking the entire venture is a bad idea. Their crime isn’t their fear of failure, but the dissent they spread among the people through “evil reports.” God kills them off with a plague and everyone else gets an extra 40 years of wandering in the desert.
“Erev” is in the Torah 10 times. With the exception of “mixed multitude” from Exodus, every use refers to the warp and woof of weaving. Specifically to the woof, the thread drawn through the warp yarns to make cloth. When applied to people, most commentators take this to refer those of mixed heritage. Not quite Jews perhaps, but family they could not leave behind.
The only other time we see “Erev” in the Bible is Nehemiah (13:3), where it is translated again as “mixed multitude” and clearly refers to people engaging in intermarriage and their children. It’s a bit of an understatement to say Nehemiah hates intermarriage—he curses Jewish men who married non-Jewish women. He pulls out their hair, even kills some of them. Many commentators cite this passage as proof that God is against intermarriage too. Nehemiah doesn’t compromise; he wants Jews to marry other Jews, period. But what he’s going on about is the effects intermarriage often has: people stop obeying God’s laws. They work on Shabbat, they fail to give their tithes to the Levites, and they don’t teach their children Hebrew.
We see this throughout the Torah as well. Plenty of non-Jews marry Jews (Moses’ wife Zipporah is but one example) and God is fine with it. But others cause problems. The difference is in their behavior, not their birth. My Torah portion today (Numbers 15:14-16) says “the same Torah and justice shall apply to you and to the stranger who resides among you.” In other words, if you live with the Jewish people, you have to follow the same laws. And if you do that, you’re the same as us. And if you break God’s laws on purpose, “whether [you] be home-born or a stranger…that soul shall be cut off from among [your] people.”
Ezekiel (47:21-23) tells that when the Jews came to their land they should divide it by tribe. “This is the territory you are to divide among the tribes of Israel. You are to divide it by lot as an inheritance both to you and to the foreigners living among you who give birth to children living among you; for you they are to be no different from the native-born among the people of Israel — they are to have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. You are to give the foreigner an inheritance in the territory of the tribe with whom he is living,’ says Adonai Elohim.”
And what is that word “stranger?” It is not the erev, the mixed multitudes, or the asafsuf, the gatherings, but something completely different. Here it is גֵּר(ger) and it is mentioned dozens of times throughout the Bible. We were strangers in Egypt but, by the time of the Exodus, we were no longer strangers yet strangers lived among us. The verb form is often translated as “sojourn” but it is different from mere traveling. The contrast is between a stranger and one who is “home-born.” So a stranger is an immigrant, an alien. Their children are no longer strangers. And children are the point…a ger is someone who isn’t just visiting; they plan to stay. They are converts.
Leviticus (19:34) says “the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Jews, like nearly every other population on this planet, often married their neighbors. European Jews look different from Indian Jews who look different from Ethiopian Jews. Each group looks more like their neighbors, but still has more in common with other Jews than those neighbors. I may look Eastern European to a large degree but, when I look at my many thousands of DNA matches over several different companies, matches that generally don’t show up if more than 6-10 generations back, I don’t match a single non-Jew without significant Jewish ancestry, not one. But I match nearly every European Jew I come across, regardless of ancestral location, usually through both my mother’s and my father’s lines; even my husband and I are 7th cousins.
Throughout Torah and Haftorah we have countless examples of Jewish men marrying non-Jewish women and bringing them into the community. This bears out historically too. It’s not just Jews; we see “erev,” mixture, in nearly every population on this planet. We have periods of just marrying ourselves too. No geographic isolation to explain it here, just political. The initial influxes of (mostly male) Jews to Europe with the Romans 2000 years ago, as well as immigrations a bit later, involved much intermarriage. And this shows up in deep analysis of DNA as well as our looks. After that, until the 20th century, intermarriage was rare. Jews throughout most of Europe were limited in where we could live or in our professions. We often had to wear distinctive clothing and were frequently kicked out of towns or entire countries, invited back, then kicked out again as regimes changed.
Through it all, we chose Judaism. If our spouses were not Jewish, they chose to be a part of our community. We taught Judaism to our children, and their children. Certainly, many Jews left. They converted or lived with the community of a non-Jewish spouse. Some Jews converted by force and Judaism was lost over the generations. Some just drifted away.
Somehow, over thousands of years, we still exist as a people. We’ve survived oppression, genocide, and periods of calm with intermarriage and children who barely know they are Jewish. One phrase we sometimes hear is that Jews are the “chosen people.” Certainly many Jews see this as a badge of superiority. Many others simply excise the language. But I want to embrace it. There are multiple paths to God. Some evil, some unjust. But many valid, righteous, paths. We as Jews are chosen to take our particular path. The path I was born to. The path I chose voluntarily years ago. The path I traversed with a year of study to bring me to my bat mitzvah today. I am chosen. And I choose Judaism.
Alternate text I read during the service June 14, 2014:
The stories my family told me are that I am Jewish all the way back. DNA tests confirm that, nearly 100%. After the initial influx into Europe about 1-2000 years ago, Jews have been mostly marrying each other to the point that “Jewish” shows up as separate as Italian or Finnish. You can’t tell one Jew from another though. Even Ashkenazi vs Sephardic is hard. A Jew from Romania looks like a Jew from Latvia. We just moved around too much. When you look to see which populations this “Jewish” group matches best, it’s not other Europeans. It’s non-European Jews, Palestinians, Druse, and other folks from the Middle East.
One way to get more precise is to look at the paternal line (through Y-DNA) or the maternal line (through mt, or mitochondrial, DNA). Each of us gets our mtDNA from our mothers, and only women can pass it on. After leaving Africa, my maternal line went to Western Asia, briefly to Europe, then settled in Northern Africa, mostly within the Maghreb, Northern Africa west of Egypt. My branch became Jewish and eventually moved to Spain. With the Inquisition 500 years ago, this branch, now Sephardic, spread over Europe, back to Africa and the Middle East, and to the Americas. The furthest back I can take my maternal line, the line I have the least information about, is to my great grandmother Hermina Goldberger of Kosice, Slovakia.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQ8gj0Kwdh8 A slight twist with a High Holy Day melody, but very similar to the regular Shabbat one. Shows Hebrew & transliteration on screen. Short version with just the Hebrew line.
Avot Ve’Imot Reconstructionist Version http://www.behrmanhouse.com/avot-veimot-reconstructionist-version First line is Adonai s’fatai. Patriarchs then Matriarchs. Hebrew only, with English on popup. Click each line to hear a very clear voice stating the words with no chanting or singing, with word highlighted. Click musical note to hear entire thing sung.
Gevurot Reconstructionist Version http://www.behrmanhouse.com/gevurot-reconstructionist-version Has summer & winter versions. Hebrew only, with English on popup. Click each line to hear a very clear voice stating the words with no chanting or singing, with word highlighted. Click musical note to hear entire thing sung.
Oseh shalom bimromav
Hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu
V’al kol Yisrael
V’imru, v’imru amen
Ya’aseh shalom, ya’aseh shalom
Shalom aleinu v’al kol Yisrael
Ya’aseh shalom, ya’aseh shalom
Shalom aleinu v’al kol Yisrael
Brian Shamash https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lf0ZDAvYInU It’s the Aleinu sung with a video showing the Hebrew and stage directions. Very clear and easy and the same tune we use, though the version is different and a large center section is spoken.
Aleynu Reconstructionist Version
http://www.behrmanhouse.com/aleynu-reconstructionist-version Exactly the same version Ner Shalom uses (except “muttered” line near end is missing). Hebrew only, with English on popup. Click each line to hear a very clear voice stating the words with no chanting or singing, with word highlighted. Click musical note to hear entire thing sung. Requires Flash.
Kiddush Reconstructionist Version http://www.behrmanhouse.com/kiddush-reconstructionist-version Song Ner Shalom sings with wine for Kiddish at oneg. Hebrew only, with English on popup. Click each line to hear a very clear voice stating the words with no chanting or singing, with word highlighted. Click musical note to hear entire thing sung.
A modern classic you could find useful is Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, edited by Barry Holtz.
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein’s The Women’s Torah Commentary
“In terms of feminist perspectives, I have been using Rabbi Shefa Gold’s Torah Journeys and just got copies of Ellen Frankel’s The Five Books of Miriam and Rabbi Elyse Goldstein’s The Women’s Torah Commentary. All three have commentary on each of the weekly parashat.”
It had been about 5 years since my last serious summer garden. But for 2013, I planted summer squash, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, beans, chard, and a few miscellaneous items with mixed results. My best success was about 100 pounds of Romanesco (summer squash that is like zucchini, with stripes and more flavor) plus others from a bed with 12 seedlings.
Then there were the volunteers. A boatload of tomatoes and several squash plants, mostly winter. I got two lovely sugar pie pumpkins, a box load of Delicata, and a mystery vine.
It looked like a bulbous yellow summer squash at first but, picked young, it had no flavor. I left it on the vine to see what would happen, gave some to the neighbors, and, just before the first frost, ended up with one giant.
Could it be a banana squash? We had indeed bought a banana squash to try from the same local farm a few years ago that the rest of the volunteers seemed to have come from. But theirs are the pink kind.
Cut open, it was a pretty yellow, with a dry core and huge pumpkin-like seeds.
Cooked, it was slightly stringy, but not as much as an (overcooked) spaghetti squash. It tasted like a mild butternut. The skin was edible too. Very thin with a surprisingly nice flavor. Not my first choice in squashes but quite good. We wrapped up most of it for the freezer.
So what do you think? Yellow banana squash? Random cross between a spaghetti and butternut? Or something else entirely?
The “gosh it’s healthy” angle is a bit annoying (and not the fault of the chefs) but then all my food is healthy by default. And the recipe itself is a bit weird…cooked rice, really? Since they’re served by a restaurant, I figured they’d be well tested, but the clincher for me was the mouthwatering photos.
Bottom line? These latkes are fan-freaking-tastic. I made a double recipe (61 latkes) and they were inhaled by the 17 people at 2013’s Environmental Health Network’s Thanksgiving dinner. Only a few people there cared about what they were missing (gluten, dairy, egg) but everyone raved about them. They held together amazingly well and were good even when not piping hot.
I mostly followed the recipe. My changes, in addition to doubling it, were I used all sweet potatoes (no white) (3 lbs garnet and 1 lb purple), used 1 cup dry arborio rice (one of the options), cooked. I used brown rice flour for the flour and tapioca starch instead of cornstarch, left out the pepper, and oven fried in sunflower oil at 450*F.
Here’s my version of how the recipe went down. Giving the doubled one (feel free to halve it for smaller groups, or just freeze any leftovers…there won’t be leftovers).
Ingredients: 4 pounds sweet potatoes
2 pounds yellow onion
1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped
1 cup dry sticky or arborio rice, cooked in 1 1/2 cups water
6 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
2 tablespoons starch (I used tapioca)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
Oil for frying (I used sunflower; traditional would be olive)
Notes: I wanted to make a low-amine/low-histamine version. The only ingredient I’d need to change to make that 100% so is the flax. Chia seed works and I didn’t do it only because the flax was already ground and the chia wasn’t. If this isn’t your food issue, go ahead and add back the black pepper (1 tsp for this recipe) and use the oil of your choice.
The original recipe calls for “flour” and doesn’t specify. I think most any flour would have worked. It also calls for cornstarch, which is pretty much interchangeable with tapioca here. If you need to avoid corn entirely, just swap out the baking powder for a corn-free, or homemade, one.
Scrub the sweet potatoes, cut off ends and any bad spots, and run through the grater attachment on a food processor (or grate by hand if you prefer). No need to peel them. I used 3/4 garnet sweet potatoes and 1/4 purple ones that the Whole Foods clerk told me is popular in Guam. Salt liberally (several tablespoons), mix, and let sit for several hours or overnight.
Before you wash the processor, run your peeled and chunked onions through it as well. If you’re doing this the day before, put the grated onions in the fridge. After they’ve sat a while, give the sweet potatoes a good rinse to remove excess salt then grab a handful, squeeze very well, and set in a really large bowl. Repeat. Discard the water.
Rinse your dry rice under the tap then drain and put in a pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, stir, then simmer on low until the rice is soft. The amount of time this takes will vary with the size of the rice grains. 20-40 minutes.
Now add the rice, scallions, and onions to the sweet potato bowl. Measure your flour into a container twice the needed size, add in the other dry ingredients, mix well. Spread the flour mix over the vegetables and blend. It looks very dry at this point and we wondered if it was going to work. Then I saw the original recipe says to mix with your hands. This was the magic step that brought it all together. It “activates” the flax and sticky rice to make dough.
Because I knew I was going to have to reheat the latkes later, I decided to oven fry them instead of pan frying. And I’m so glad I did. Yes, it uses less oil but mostly it is a heck of a lot easier and less messy. The recipe made 5 sheets worth, though I only own 4 (2 cookie sheets and 2 enameled broiling pans).
Knead the dough as you work and roll endless balls, each about the size of a ping pong ball. I placed them on well-oiled pans (enough oil to move around when you tilt the pan) with plenty of space in-between. Then smush them down to an inch or less thick.
Bake at 450*F (yep, that’s hot) until golden brown on the bottom, flip, and keep cooking until both sides are golden. The insides should still be soft.
Remove to a paper towel on a pan or plate. Serve immediately if you can. Since I was taking them elsewhere, I put them all in a large baking pan, with paper towels between each layer. I wiped clean the two broiling pans and brought them along. To reheat, place in a single layer (touching is fine) in a 300*F oven until they are hot.
Delicious with cranberry sauce (mine was tart with plenty of lime zest) or applesauce or both.
How do you turn a grain into a vegetable? With spaghetti squash! It’s lowcarb, it’s healthy, and it has a texture unlike any other squash. Tastes good too. It’s also pretty easy to cook, with a few tips.
Every squash is different. The size, density, and water content will all change the cooking time. So test it, don’t just go based on the timing.
Start with one or more firm and heavy squashes. Wash them and poke holes all over with a knife. About a dozen holes for each squash in the picture. Don’t skip this step! Whole squashes can explode.
Put into the oven. A variety of temperatures will work, but I generally use 350*F. For a good-sized squash, expect total cooking time to be 1-2 hours. It’s done when you can stick a regular fork into the squash from the outside. If the fork goes in with light pressure, the squash is done. If the fork slides right in with no resistance, you’ve overcooked it. Don’t worry, it will still taste good. Test it every few minutes so you don’t miss your window and roll the squash over every half hour or so.
Cut the squash in half the short way and let it cool until you can handle it without pain. You can also cut it lengthwise but the short way gives you longer strands as they’re wrapped around the center.
Remove the seeds and the “goo” around the seeds with a spoon or fork and compost. Next, take a fork and gently tease away the strands from the skin. Sometimes you’ll end up with a squash you didn’t time just right. These came from the farmer’s market and we had them on our kitchen counter for a while. The large one overcooked a tad (hence the shorter strands) and the small one was still undercooked when we pulled it out (fork didn’t work on it) and we had to put it back in the oven. Both squashes had much thicker and harder skin than I’ve ever seen on a spaghetti squash before so it was hard to judge doneness. Sometimes that’s just the luck of the draw. Occasionally you might even get one that went bad before it was cooked. You can’t do anything about that, but everything else you can salvage if you know what you’re looking for.
You’ll end up with a big bowl of goodness. Mix in some browned garlic in olive oil (or butter if you prefer) for a side dish. Or make it the star of the plate with a topping of sauteed onions and pesto. Leftovers are surprisingly good in omelets. Overcooked spaghetti squash makes lovely latkes.
Back in 2008 I created a post about vegan pesto. It’s still a great recipe, but here’s an update, made with cashews instead of pine nuts. Why use cashews? Well, they’re a lot cheaper than pine nuts. I switched back a year or so ago when pine nut prices went through the roof, if you could find them at all. And these days I’m doing a low-amine (low-histamine) diet. Cashews are in, pine nuts are out.
2 cups raw cashew pieces
1 tsp. salt
2-3 Tbsp. oil
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch flatleaf parsley
Note that these proportions worked perfectly for the recipe I photographed here, but really they are just a guess. Because a “bunch” of herbs varies a lot in size. Limes vary not just in size but in tartness/sweetness. So start here but adjust as needed. Especially the salt and oil. Taste taste taste. It’s the only way to get it right.
You can make this recipe with a good blender but it’s much easier in a food processor. Start off with just the dry cashews. Get them as close to flour as you can.
Juice the limes (or use lemons if you prefer, just make sure no seeds get in) and add to the cashews. Add salt and the oil if you need it. Process until creamy.
Twist off and discard the ends of the parsley and cilantro bunches and wash the remaining herbs well. Yes, I use the stems. Add all but a handful of leaves to the food processor and blend well. Add the oil if you haven’t already. I use sunflower oil because it’s low-amine but extra virgin olive oil tastes best. Then add the leaves and pulse until it is mixed but still has some texture.
Pesto on top of spaghetti squash and caramelized onions. With a side of herbed chickpea fritata.
I’ve been heavily into genealogy for the last year, fleshing out both my and my husband’s family trees. Recently, I decided to delve into DNA. I chose 23andme and have been thrilled with the results (this link gives me a small referral fee, thanks if you use it).
One of the things they tested me for was my mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). This is special DNA (not within the chromosomes) that everyone has but you only get it from your mother (it’s in egg cells but not sperm cells). In theory, I have the same mtDNA as my mother, her mother, her mother, and so on back to the beginning of human history. In practice, DNA copying isn’t perfect. Mutations (think of them as typos) sneak in. We can use the mutations to track maternal history across the generations, by when (and where) the splits happened. Each set of mutations is labeled with what is called a Haplogroup.
My mtDNA Haplogroup, as calculated by 23andme, is U6a7. About 45,000 years ago, a group of humans left Africa for Europe. According to the mutation history, those who stayed in Europe had the Haplogroup U5 and those who turned back into northern Africa were U6. About 35,000 years ago, U6a spread around northern Africa. FamilyTreeDNA puts U6 at 36,200 years ago and U6a at 26,900 years ago. But close enough.
23andme tells me my subclave is a7 but only gives information about U6 when saying this means my maternal line is from “North Africa, the Near East, Iberian Peninsula, Canary Islands” and that the population I best match are the Berbers. Is my maternal line Muslim? Or Sephardic Jewish? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m Ashkenazi Jewish on all sides and my maternal grandmother and her mother are from Kosice, Slovakia. I haven’t been able to go any further back.
The FamilyTreeDNA page on U6 gives far more subgroups: U6a7a, U6a7a1, U6a7a1a, U6a7a1b, U6a7a1c, U6a7a2, and U6a7b. Which one am I? I wrote 23andme for help and they did take a lot of time to explain things, but none of it got me that far. If you have a 23andme account, log in and go to Ancestry Labs, then choose Haplogroup Tree Mutation Mapper and submit your Haplogroup. You’ll see a long list that looks like this:
The variant is the SNP, the piece of the gene where the mutation in question is. The rCRS (also called position) is a number more commonly used but specific to a gene or, in this case, the mtDNA. Anc means the ancestral, regular, non-mutation form and the call is the result, or the genotype, of the person tested. This mutation defines U6a7 (and has three variants). Since my call (A) is different from the ancestry (G), I have the mutation and therefore am U6a7.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing that goes beyond U6a7. 23andme doesn’t have a system to pay extra for a more detailed test. But maybe the answer was already there. I didn’t want to pay FamilyTreeDNA or another company for a test if I didn’t have to. 23andme also told me it was possible I simply didn’t have markers to identify subgroups, so another test might not give me a better answer.
So on to the raw data. What could it tell me?
The Mutation Mapper page at 23andme shows you a circle with a lot of the raw data, but it is incomplete. The better option is to to click on “Account” on the top of the page then choose “Browse Raw Data” and click on “MT.” It’s faster if you download it all into a text file, but you can also look online. (Of course, you can use raw data from any company.)
The downloaded version (the text file) looks a bit different:
The name of the gene (mtDNA has 37) and the SNP (or rsid) isn’t useful here, just look at the position (the rCRS). This is how you’ll match up results with known mutations. The versions are what’s possible and then it gives the test results, my genotype. Note that it doesn’t say which result is a mutation and which is ancestral. Nor do I know which positions have relevant mutations. Time for more research.
The FamilyTreeDNA page on U6 does list all the mutations for each subgroup but not what the genotype is supposed to be. I needed to keep looking.
I paged down to U6a7 and saw that there were mutation lists for three variants: U6a7a, U6a7b, and U6a7c
Each mutation is in the form: letter-number-letter (plus some optional markers). For example: T1193C. This means rCRS 1193 has two genotypes, T and C. The first letter is the “normal” or ancestral expression of that SNP. The second letter is the mutation.
Another example: U6a7 is defined by: G15043A. If this position is an A for you, then you have the mutation and are U6a7 (perhaps with some other precursors established). If you have a G instead, then you do not have the mutation and are not U6a7.
Using Phylotree, this is what I did next:
U6a7a has 8 defining mutations. I was tested for 4 of them. 3 were positive for the mutation and one was not.
U6a7b has 7 defining mutations. I was tested for 4 of them, all negative.
U6a7c has 2 defining mutations. I was tested for both and one was positive, the other negative.
I concluded that I was U6a7a. (Why I didn’t get perfect matches, I don’t know. This data was pretty clear, but I don’t know how to interpret it when it’s not.)
Next, there is U6a7a1 and U6a7a2. Within U6a7a1 there is U6a7a1a, U6a7a1b, and U6a7a1c. I suspected I was U6a7a1b because it’s the Sephardic cluster and also in the general area my maternal line is from. That one is defined by the mutation 150. But this site doesn’t tell you which letter is the mutation. I had to look elsewhere for that. I did some more research and discovered that the mutation will be T. I found that here (I’m not Dominican but that didn’t make the page less useful to me): http://www.familytreedna.com/public/dominicansephardim/default.aspx?section=results
What am I? I’m a 150T. So I concluded that my mtDNA is U6a7a1b.
I also joined the FamilyTreeDNA U6 project. The leader asked for my raw data and I gave it to him. He agrees. I’m U6a7a1b. He says “You have an extra mutation 16295T” (not one of the positions I had looked at). So far there are only 12 people in the U6a7a1b section of the project, and I’m the only one with the extra mutation.
What does this mean? It means I can now trace my maternal line to a mutation split that happened about 1,500 years ago, a “Sephardic cluster from Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland and Ukraine.” With the extra mutation, I might even be able to narrow it down further.
Who are my ancestors? Let’s go back to the Dominican page:
Haplogroup U6 can be considered to be the mt-DNA equivalent of Y-DNA haplogroup E1B1B in that it is of North African origins and its distribution matches the Afro Asiatic linguistic expansion. The U6 research project has discovered what it believes to be a Sephardic Cluster in haplogroup U6A7A1B characterized by mutation 150T. U6 can be found in small percentages among Sephardic Jews and even Ashkenazic Jews. Similar to haplogroup E1B1B, U6’s presence among Jews may date back to ancient times when the founding members of the Israelite tribes performed conversions on local Canaanite women, to allow them marry tribal members prior to their descent to Egypt. Another possibility is that this lineage joined the ancient Israelites along with the “mixed multitude” that came out of Egypt with the Israelites, as described in the Bible. It is also possible that Berber conversions to Judaism during the Muslim occupation of Spain introduced this lineage to the Sephardic gene pool. This haplogroup has been found in the Sephardic Jewish communities of the former Ottoman Empire. A member of this project with a tradition of Jewish ancestry on his/her maternal line, and is a member of this haplogroup, can be considered to be likely of Jewish descent.
So wow. 23andme gives me “northern Africa” but a bit of sleuthing gives me evidence that my maternal line (the one that counts here) is Jewish possibly all the way back to the Exodus (perhaps further). With Sephardic ancestry to boot. Amazing.
This is two days in Taos. [Mom says: it’s actually three days. Miriam says: But there are no pictures from the first day.] We are at the Taos Pueblo. So we are at the Taos’s little town. This is a sign that says “sorry, we’re open” instead of “yes, we’re open.” Why would you be sorry you’re open? There were lots of shops at the Pueblo. I thought that sign was hilarious.
I bought the two necklaces and my mom bought the bracelet. We bought more stuff too, but they were gifts. I got the heart necklace from a different shop.
This is our dinner at a restaurant. I had the small plate and my mom had the big plate. And I had the orange smoothie. The restaurant is gluten-free and wheat-free but my mom got something with eggs in it.
Now we are at the house in Taos. The person we are staying with has a cat and I am holding her cat. Her name is Bella.
I wish I could stay in Taos longer but we are leaving. Next we are going to Snowflake. See you again there!
This is Landscape Arch. It was a very long and hard hike to it.
This is me and my mom in front of landscape Arch.
This is the sign for the tour of the Fiery Furnace. *chol!* It’s a three hour long tour, including stops. There was lots of rock climbing, lots of challenges. It was hard for my mom, but so easy for me. I didn’t get a bit tired but my mom was so tired she could barely walk.
This is Ranger Jon and me. We’re going to climb under that tiny arch.
This is Skull Arch. We took this from our camera on super vivid colors. That’s why it’s red.
This is Surprise Arch. It’s called Surprise Arch because it’s such a big surprise. And it’s an arch. We had to go into a cave to see it and sit on some rocks and Ranger Jon told us a story about his life.
Stay tuned for our next blog post about going to New Mexico and stopping in Moab and staying at a hotel.
We arrived at Arches National Park and our tent is set up and this is our campsite. Those gray clouds are rainclouds. There was a huge thunderstorm with lightening and really strong wind and really hard rain. Our tent almost blew away.
This is a beautiful sunset. We could see it from our campsite.
This is me roasting a hot dog over our campfire. In my rain jacket and flip flops. The thunderstorm was 45 minutes. It was over by this time, that’s why we have a campfire.
Stay tuned for our next post about our second day at Arches National Park.
This is our last day in Salt Lake City last Saturday.
This is the Salt Lake City library and I am in the children’s section looking at Rainbow Magic fairy books. The second and the third shelves is all fairy books and I’m looking at one. There are so many, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
We climbed up some stairs and ramps and went on an elevator. And we went to the top of the library. And I was climbing on a fence and I am at the highest point of the fence over the doors to go back in the library. My mother was freaked that I was going to fall.
We are at the Leonardo Museum. This is some decorations. This is the only picture from the Leonardo.
Now we went to Sage’s Cafe and this is our dinner. It’s all vegan. I can eat every single thing there. Even the desserts.
These are our desserts.
Stay tuned for our next blog post about driving to Arches National Park.
It was a really really REALLY long walk to the water. When we were about 3/4 of the way to to the water, it started sprinkling, and we thought it was nothing. Then it started raining raining. And then it started pouring and then when we were further down we started hearing thunder but didn’t see any lightening. I was FREAKED OUT. But we walked all the way down.
And there were tons of little flies by the water. Like millions and millions of them. And my mom walked past them and put her fingers in the water and I had to touch her fingers so we could say we had touched the Great Salt Lake.
My mom really wanted to go swimming in it but I was like “no mom we’re going back now.”
This is when it stopped raining and there was a rainbow. This is a picture of the rainbow and the rainbow is nice and fresh.
I figured out that the sand was only wet on top and not underneath. It was perfectly dry underneath. This is me putting my foot into the sand.
We won’t be putting on our next blog for a little bit. For maybe three to four days because we’re going on a camping trip to Arches National Park and we won’t be able to use the laptop there.