According to a study processing the DNA of nearly two million people from a hundred countries, Hungary has the highest percentage of Jewish descendants after Israel, reported ynet – an Israeli newspaper’s website – on Tuesday.
According to MTI’s report, the survey of MyHeritage – a genetics-based family tree research organisation – states that after Israel Hungary has the highest number of Jewish descendants compared to the population, more than in the United States. The results surprised even the researchers. MyHeritage did the research together with Daniel Sztacki, statistician and demographic expert of The Jewish People Policy Institute, director of the department studying the demography of the Ashkenazi Jews, wrote Index.
Researchers found an at least 25% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry among 7.6% of the 4981 Hungarians who sent in DNA to be tested, which means they had at least one Ashkenazi Jewish grandparent. This is a significantly higher rate than in the US (3.5%) or in Canada (3.0%).
The rate of those, whose genes reach at least 10% of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry reaches 12.5% in Hungary, while it is only 4.7% in the USA and 4% in Canada. 4.2% of the samples sent in from Hungary reach at least 50% Jewish ethnicity, while American samples only reach 2.3%.
The results of the study and earlier estimates show a considerable difference, which means that there are a lot of people in Hungary who know nothing about their Jewish roots, or whose Jewish ancestry was consciously hidden from them by their parents and grandparents because of the traumatic memories of the Holocaust and the fear of antisemitism.
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Daniel Sztacki, who led the research, pointed out, that these types of genetic tests are usually done on the well-educated people, so they may be over-represented in the study.
Considering all factors, the study concluded that the number of people with at least 50% Ashkenazi ancestry in Hungary reaches 130,000 people. This number is significantly higher than previous estimates. “The results came as a big surprise to a part of the participants of the DNA-testing, but it was a big surprise for demographers as well,” says Sztacki.
“After the Holocaust, a lot of Hungarian survivors emigrated to Israel, including people who became public figures and spiritual leaders, who had a great influence on young Israel: Efraim Kishon, Mose Stern cantor, Zeév and Dosh caricaturists, Tomi Lapid and many others. But there remained an active Jewish community in Hungary as well, which a lot of Israeli entrepreneurs joined during the years, after the fall of the Soviet Union. But because of the intense antisemitism, which has always been present in Hungary, and has increased in recent years, the common understanding was that there are barely 50,000 Jewish people in the country,” wrote ynet.
Although only 10,965 people said themselves to be Jewish in the 2013 census, according to professor András Kovács’s estimates, in reality, the number of people with Jewish parents is between 73,000-138,000, which matches the conclusions drawn from MyHeritage’s genetic tests.