David Shor did nothing wrong, and is he now the most famous American Moroccan Jew?

The future and the past

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, you know the saga of David Shor. You have read about him in New York Magazine, The Atlantic, and New York Magazine again. Shor’s firing by Civis Analytics was so craven that even social justice scolds think it was ridiculous.

But there is another aspect of David Shor that people don’t know: his parents are Moroccan Jews. About a decade ago Shor sent me his DNA when I was doing deep-dives into peoples’ genomes. He got some strange results since there weren’t any Sephardic Jewish reference populations in 23andMe and such at the time.  I didn’t have Moroccan Jews to test against, but I do now. This is relevant for two reasons

  1. Shor has a family legend that his father may have substantial Ashkenazi ancestry
  2. Until Shor’s rise to prominence, Emmanuelle Chriqui was arguably the most famous Moroccan Jew in America (she being Canadian in origin). As he’s mentioned on every third podcast I listen to (and this has been true for a month or so), he’s definitely more “Razib famous” than Emmanuelle Chriqui, who I had to Google to find out about (she’s starting as a secondary character in a new Superman television series next year).

What are the results? David Shor seems to be 100% Moroccan Jewish. Whatever that means.

One of the things with Moroccan Jews is that they descend from Sephardic Jews expelled from the Iberian peninsula, but there were Jews in North Africa when they arrived. Some of the results above, and this paper, indicate that some affinity with the Berber people of North Africa. This is probably due to the conversion of some Berbers to Judaism in antiquity and their assimilation into the identity of Sephardic newcomers (who assimilated all the Jews of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, with the exception of the Romaniote Jews).

 

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16 thoughts on “David Shor did nothing wrong, and is he now the most famous American Moroccan Jew?

  1. I’d like to ask something more in the vein of the do-it-yourself admixture tutorial you mentioned recently. ( https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/07/13/tutorial-to-run-supervised-admixture-analyses/ )

    I have a genome for myself from the BGI study, and since it doesn’t come from one of the commercial providers I don’t have an obvious way to do ancestry analysis. So I’ve been comparing it to different reference pools according to that post. This produces a .csv with a single line, dividing my genome up among whatever reference populations I picked for that run. I see that my affinity with a given reference group varies, sometimes pretty sharply, according to which other groups are present as references; I’m not quite sure how to deal with that.

    I’d really like to generate color bar plots as you do above. (e.g. https://i0.wp.com/www.gnxp.com/WordPress/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Berber4.3_htm_1b3a0f2e90ef5385.png?ssl=1 ) Can you share the method you use for those?

    (Followup question – is the tutorial script forcing each “reference” population to be, in terms of the color bar plot, a single color distinct from each other reference population, or does it allow for reference populations to be considered mixtures of ancestral “K” groups, in the way that the Jewish groups are part blue and part yellow in the plots accompanying this piece?

    For example, if I use a reference pool including Spaniard and Mexican, I would expect that analysis might determine that those two groups have a significant shared component. But my result will, by construction, show me as some percentage Mexican and some other percentage Spaniard; I’m not sure how I should think about such a result.)

  2. Not sure if I heard of David Shor before but the surname is well known among the Ashkenazi Jews (and, unlike almost all of the Ashkenazi surnames which were adopted or assigned no earlier than in the 1790s, this is a relatively old rabbinical clan name, documented in Eastern Europe for two more centuries deeper in time, and rumored to be the direct line of a famous French XII century scholar). There is a genealogical tree of the French (and, later, Polish and Russian) Shors staring from this legendary founder in Orleans https://www.geni.com/people/Joseph-of-Orleans/4075257942460031957 which is undoubtedly based on family legends rather than on the documentary evidence.

    Perhaps David’s family also has a tradition deriving their origin from the sage of Orleans. Or perhaps there is a conflicting documentary evidence about the Moroccan Shors. But whatever is the case, isn’t it bit silly to look for the genetic evidence in the autosomal DNA of the contemporary Ashkenazim and Sephardim? For one thing, 8 centuries later, a descendant typically has no autosomal DNA at all from such a distant ancestor. And then, the XII c. French Jews were genetically indistinguishable from their brethren in Spain, having been both descended from the same Roman / West Mediterranean population. The genetic distinctions between the modern Ashkenazi vs Sephardic Jews mostly arose in the admixtures and bottlenecks of the later centuries.

    Now Y-chromosomal DNA might possibly tell a deeper story…

  3. Didn’t know Shor was Sephardi. Interesting. (That he did nothing wrong is obvious.)

    Been exploring Tunisian and Libyan Jewish admixtures lately (lots of new-model 23andMe results have been posted on forums), and – maybe at variance with the plots you posted above – they seem to have less Berber admixture than Moroccan Jews. Or maybe more precisely, the ranges overlap, but the upper bound for Moroccan Jews is higher.

    And while Southern European and Berber admixtures seem inversely correlated in Moroccan and Algerian Jews (for obvious reasons), they *both* seem to be lower on average among Tunisian and Libyan Jews.

    (Re: Dx on Y-chromosomal DNA, there’s a project out there with over 100 Moroccan Jewish deep-clade Y results, but they’re keeping it under lock and key. What I’ve seen elsewhere is that Moroccan Jews have a somewhat surprising amount of Western European Y-DNA. A relative by marriage, whose Y chromosome is Moroccan Jewish, falls into the same EEF branch of G as Otzi.

    My own Ashkenazi Y-subclade (the second-largest, apparently) splits from a North African Jewish/Sicilian/Puerto Rican one, around 300 CE. There’s a fair number of Ashkenazi-Sephardi branch splits that date to around this period, for what it’s worth. Another group of them dates to the last quarter of the 1st millennium CE, which in some cases probably reflects early medieval common origins in southern France/Iberia, but in some cases probably reflects later Sephardi introgression into Ashkenazim.)

  4. My own Ashkenazi Y-subclade (the second-largest, apparently) splits from a North African Jewish/Sicilian/Puerto Rican one, around 300 CE.

    It’s commonly, and mistakenly, assumed, that the Jewish / Spanish / Lat Am shared Y-DNA clades are all the result of the XV c. conversions. But while it is true that old Sephardi admixture is widespread in Latin America (and must be due to the escape of the conversos to the colonies), the Y-DNA TMRCAs are typically much older, and there are multiple unconnected Sephardi lines on the shared Y-trees. Adam Brown of the Avotaynu Project has a recent publication arguing that the R-FGC20767 clades are shared due to the conversions of the Iberians to Judaism in Roman times.

    Intermarriage between Sephardim and Ashkenazim were documented in various Western European communities, although the families remained patrilocal so it didn’t affect Y-chromosomes much. But Italian communities had some crossovers of the whole families from the Ashkenazi side. And in the Balkans in the more modern times, there was a lot of intermarriage in the culturally Sephardic families. Kopelman 2020 ( https://www.nature.com/articles/s41431-019-0542-y ) shows that the Sephardic Jews of the Balkans are strongly shifted towards the Ashkenazi Jews, consistent with the nearly 50:50 admixture in their ancestors in Bulgaria or Turkey. Of course some consumer genomics services are more than happy to add these admixed groups to their Sephardic reference sets, to increase the likelihood of “discovery” of “Cool
    Sepharad roots” in their Ashkenazi customers, but that’s a separate story.

    Back to the Morocco Shors … since the name Shor is a poetic metaphor for Joseph, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was taken more than once.

  5. “It’s commonly, and mistakenly, assumed, that the Jewish / Spanish / Lat Am shared Y-DNA clades are all the result of the XV c. conversions … Adam Brown of the Avotaynu Project has a recent publication arguing that the R-FGC20767 clades are shared due to the conversions of the Iberians to Judaism in Roman times ”

    When it’s an Iberian branch of R1b, sure (I can also think of a likely Italic one that has a basal Hispanic member, likely the result of Roman-era Italian conversion > later divergence). But most shared Ashkenazi-Sephardi Y-DNA is Middle Eastern.

    “Sephardic Jews of the Balkans are strongly shifted towards the Ashkenazi Jews”

    True. The reality is, there’s no “unadmixed Sephardi” reference (in the sense of an accurate proxy for Iberian Jews pre-expulsion) out there. In the Balkans, the Levant, North Africa, backwoods Portugal, or the Atlantic world.

  6. no “unadmixed Sephardi” reference (in the sense of an accurate proxy for Iberian Jews pre-expulsion)

    Ditto Ashkenazi pre-expansion into Poland and Lithuania. Population researchers used various “Western” samples as a proxy without even trying to pay attention to the XVIII-XX c. population processes which started from the Partitions of Poland opening Germany to the migrations of the formerly Polish Jews, and only accelerated later, leaving little of the once nearly-insular but small and stagnant Western Jewish populations.

    On Kopelman’s PCA, all the Sephardi and Ashkenazi groups form a large and nearly-uninterrupted cline, with the North African populatins taking about half of the PCA space, and Balkan Sephardim / AJ the other half. But there are no obvious candidates for the source groups on either end of the apparent cline, so it’s probably just a projection illusion

  7. When the mob says purging needs done minority ethnic status can not be allowed to get in the way. Next thing you know brown men might forget their own oppressor status.

  8. Upd: on the surname Shor. It’s missing from the “Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from Maghreb” with its ~10,000 entries.
    https://www.avotaynu.com/books/Maghreb.html
    And David Shor mentioned that his mother was from Morocco, but fled the country as a child, presumably in the early 1960s to Israel. He didn’t say anything about his paternal lines. I doubt that his father’s surname came from Morocco…

  9. @Dx and @ben-canaan — Can you recommend any reading (layman-friendly) on genetic genealogy within Jewish populations, especially Ashkenazim? Ashkenazi “deep history” is a particular area of interest for me.

    With regard to the use of Shor as a name — the first name that comes to mind is the commentator Yosef Bechor-Shor. But I also wonder if there is a link between the early origins of that name, and Ashkenazim bearing the surname Ochs (which has the same meaning)

  10. surname Ochs (which has the same meaning)
    According to Alexander Beider, it isn’t quite the same meaning (in Yiddish, it means steer rather than bull). And whole business with the translations and other changes of the Jewish surnames happened much later, during the emigration era. In the 1790s and 1800s, the rank and file Ashkenazi Jews didn’t have any attachment to their newfangled surnames, anymore than we feel attached to the idea of a National ID in America. It was an encroachment on privacy and a government overreach, and sure enough, even worse things happened in its wake (quadruple-quota military draft, compulsory vital act registration, abolition of the community self-rule – all of which hinged on the government ability to track families and their members in a direct way, rather than through the community leaders, which the surnames provided).

    Anyway my point is that the regular folk couldn’t stand their surnames, while the dynastic rabbis loved their traditional clan names. There is no way those latter sacred names would have been traded for the former, profane ones. And, indeed, there are no “translated surnames” derived from the names of the rabbinical clans (but occasionally, when the Founder Rabbis have several synonym names, like one after their nom-de-plume, another after their most famous book, and a third one from their town, then different branches may have had different official surnames which all meant the same ancestors).

    And a good read on this niche of genetics and anthropology? I don’t have any and I don’t think it’s even possible. The historians / archaeologists and the population geneticists hardly even talk (like in many other fields) but the ancient DNA is off limits, and the regional ethnic subgroups have all been uprooted and jumbled together, so there really isn’t much the geneticists can do if they don’t work as a team with the humanities people. In the meantime, ignorance sells for the consumer DNA companies, so they, too, don’t have incentives to educate.

  11. @Dx I seem to recall he said on twitter his family changed their name because of discrimination in Israel.

    Razib have their been any studies on Italian rite Jews?

  12. Shor’s firing by Civis Analytics was so craven that even social justice scolds think it was ridiculous.

    Maybe they’re starting to realise they will not be eaten last, and that it only gets worse.

  13. Mr. Khan,

    Thank you for linking to the second New York Magazine article about Shor. His interview was quite illuminating. Though obviously I am at the polar opposite of him politically, I found myself agreeing with him on all the implications and trends of the data he interpreted (it’s refreshing to see a leftist admit rather matter-of-factly that “90-95%” of elected Democrats are to the left of the majority of Americans).

    It’s too bad that he can’t talk candidly about his unemployment experience.

  14. Not sure if I heard of David Shor before but the surname is well known among the Ashkenazi Jews (and, unlike almost all of the Ashkenazi surnames which were adopted or assigned no earlier than in the 1790s, this is a relatively old rabbinical clan name, documented in Eastern Europe for two more centuries deeper in time, and rumored to be the direct line of a famous French XII century scholar).

    David’s family changed their surname, it was originally something, uh, distinguishably Sephardic.

    Anyway, Shor seems to be common among Balkan-origin Jews in particular. The head of one of the political parties in Moldova is named Shor (his political party is neocommunist / culturally conservative / Soviet nostalgist, and associates with the moderate nationalist group in the European Parliament). There is also a politicial scientist called Boris Shor in Texas.

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