Jewish guilt could be in your genes, says professor


Can one man's meshugas continue through his progeny and untold generations to come?

Quite possibly, thinks Dr Moshe Szyf, a pioneering genetics scientist and pharmacology professor based at McGill University in Canada.

London-born and observant, Dr Szyf's research is proving that negative life experiences can alter the genome of future generations.

The implication for Jews is that the way they cope with life today may indeed echo the trauma suffered by their ancestors though millennia of pogroms and persecution.

"I think it's a valid question," said Dr Szyf, 59.

Dr Szyf studies "epigenetics", described by him as the "markings on genes that programme their function".

His theory postulates that although genes in a human are inherited and identical, their epigenetic markings can be altered by external factors during a lifetime and these modifications can affect future genes.

The factors that can affect these markings can be physical - such as the life habits that cause cancer - or social, such as psychological trauma.

Some of the qualities often associated with Jewishness - from feeling guilt to the importance of education - may also be genetically imprinted from generation to generation.

Dr Szyf initially studied humanities at Bar-Ilan University before switching to DNA research and earning a PhD at Hebrew University.

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