Friday, February 11, 2011

The Cohanim

From Union Field Cemetery, Glendale NY
detail of hands indicating the Cohan sign
There is a subset of Jews believed to been descended from Aaron, brother of Moses, 3300 years ago. He in turn was believed to be a descendant of Levi, brother of Joseph. This line was responsible for producing priests and is called the Cohanim, sometimes spelled with a "K". Men from this line have to be extra careful who they marry and can never have contact with a dead body exempting them from mortuary work, being physicians or any other field that might involve dead bodies. They also do not attend funerals. Who is a Cohan in the past  was largely self-reported but there is a genetic marker for it. There is a Cohan gene on the Y chromosome so a Cohan father will pass this gene to all his sons. Many Cohans have been tested and the self-reporting seems to be fairly accurate...more than 90% indeed have the gene. Furthermore, this gene has been found in groups who were not generally considered Jewish but at one point probably were such as the Samaritans. Genetic analysis indicate that this gene is about 3300 years old which does coincide with the exodus from Egypt. If one goes to a Jewish cemetery, the Cohan graves are marked with the strange hand sign as seen above from Steve's grandfather's grave. Yes Steve is a Cohan but he married the wrong person to continue the tradition. Still Josh would have the marker on his Y chromosome.

Record low here today (minus 13) but it warmed up quite a bit and next week it will be in the 40s. Could this awful winter be coming to an end? I hope so. This has been a very hard winter for us, the weather being only a part of it but I am hopeful that life will improve. I will see my precious grandsons in a few weeks along with their mother. I am very much looking forward to that.

3 comments:

Chez said...

Sue thank you for continuing my education; I know nothing of this subject.
Do hope you soon see some warmer weather.

Teri Bernstein said...

Live and learn! Who knew?

Teri Bernstein said...

who knew?

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