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The New York Genome Center Hosts a Jewish Genomics Evening, Heritage to Health

November 30, 2015

The New York Genome Center hosted the Jewish Genomics Evening, which explored Heritage to Health within the Jewish community.

Over 160 people attended the event, which was moderated by New York Times writer, Carl Zimmer, and explored how the revolution in genetic research over the past few decades has enabled us to better explore Jewish identity, provided new insights into Jewish health, and revealed how the unique history of the Jewish people has left traces in their DNA.

Featured panelists included New York Genome Center and Columbia University’s Dr. Yaniv Erlich, CeCe Moore, DNA Consultant for the PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr, Dr. Karl Skorecki from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Dr. Nathan Pearson of the New York Genome Center.

The discussion explored issues such as the interpretation of genetic variants of rare diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, and the effects of learning things about one’s family history that are unexpected through genomic sequencing.

“Our genome is not only the instructions on how to make our future generations, it is our private family book that tells us about our ancestors and heritage,” said Dr. Erlich. “The event showed that when we analyze genomes of Jewish people, we are able to observe their unique history that includes a mixture of Levant heritage and of their hosting population in the diaspora”.

The evening was structured to engage the community and invite vivid discussions surrounding these issues. The final segment featured analysis of the genome of several special guests, including journalist and author, AJ Jacobs, Alisa Robbins Doctoroff, the President of the UJA-Federation of New York, and singer-writer Jill Sobule. These guests learned details about their Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, and results revealed details into their ancestry dating back hundreds of thousands of years.

In an effort to encourage people to have their genome sequenced, Dr. Erlich discussed his newest website project: DNA.Land. Dr. Erlich and his colleague Dr. Joseph Pickrell (New York Genome Center & Columbia University) have created this website based on the work they are pursuing, which connects ancestry and genealogy information with medical research. Millions of people to date have researched their family trees and uploaded information – including genetic information – to websites including,, 23andMe and more.

With this opportunity in mind, they are committed to generating a massive family tree from online sources to enable large-scale medical research. For more information on DNA.Land, please visit

To conclude the evening, Ms. Sobule performed two original songs, one to the tune of Matchmaker from The Fiddler on the Roof, and the second entitled Cousins. The songs were co-written by Ms. Sobule and Dr. Pearson.

For more information on NYGC, and the events hosted there, please visit

About the New York Genome Center
The New York Genome Center (NYGC) is an independent, nonprofit at the forefront of transforming biomedical research and clinical care with the mission of saving lives. As a consortium of renowned academic, medical and industry leaders across the globe, NYGC focuses on translating genomic research into clinical solutions for serious disease. Our member organizations and partners are united in this unprecedented collaboration of technology, science, and medicine. We harness the power of innovation and discoveries to improve people’s lives — ethically, equitably, and urgently. Member institutions include: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, American Museum of Natural History, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Columbia University, Cornell University/Weill Cornell Medicine, Hospital for Special Surgery, The Jackson Laboratory, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, The New York Stem Cell Foundation, New York University, North Shore-LIJ, The Rockefeller University, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Stony Brook University and IBM.

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