Date of Award

8-11-2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Kathryn McClymond

Second Advisor

Monique Moultrie

Third Advisor

Molly Bassett

Abstract

Jewish identity has been defined and redefined, negotiated and renegotiated, among Jews and non-Jews in various parts of the world. The tensions around the ongoing question of “Who is a Jew?” arise from the fact that Jewish identity encompasses numerous combinations of religion, commitment, nation, kinship, peoplehood, culture, ethnicity, and memory. This thesis will examine the way Jewishness has been and continues to be racialized in the United States by Jews and non-Jews. Specifically, I look at how direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry testing companies, such as 23andMe and AncestryDNA, present a racialized view of Jewish identity to consumers and perpetuate the social construction of a Jewish race by claiming detectable “Jewish genes” in their ancestry reports. Additionally, since these companies often provide reports on European, or Ashkenazi, Jewish ancestry, excluding non-Ashkenazi Jewish ancestries, they contribute to an Ashkenormative narrative of Jewish history, heritage, and identity.

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