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The 1442 laws dictated that conversos—Jews who had converted to Christianity—could not hold ecclesiastical roles and certain other jobs within the government and church because they still carried Jewish blood.This marked the “first time in any European laws that there was a kind of definition of religious difference as biological,” says Rachel Burk, professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane University, suggesting that the Catholic Church was instrumental in the creation of the concept of race.The concept largely came into being in the 17th century as colonizing Europeans began to classify humans based on physical differences such as skin color, head shape, hair texture and eye color.

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A founder effect occurs when a new population emerges as a result of migration or some other cause; a genetic bottleneck, on the other hand, occurs when an already-existing population shrinks due to a cataclysmic event, such as a famine or massacre.

In populations in which people marry within a small group, both genetic events lead to fluctuations in frequencies of genetic mutations.

These mutations largely occur in parts of the DNA with no specific function, but they can lead to diseases such as Tay-Sachs or dysautonomia.

Mutations are the result of two genetic phenomena known as founder effect and bottleneck effect.

MYTH ASHKENAZI JEWS HAVE HIGHER IQS MAYBE A 2005 study by a team of three anthropologists at the University of Utah argued for an attention-grabbing premise: that the genes that caused four typically Ashkenazi diseases (Tay-Sachs, Gaucher, Niemann-Pick and mucolipidosis type IV) were so prevalent because they were also linked to increased intelligence, an evolutionary benefit for Jews who typically held occupations that demanded mental acuity.

Forced primarily into money-lending starting in Europe as early as the 9th century, Jews needed sharper mathematical skills, and the more successful among them, the Utah anthropologists argued in the study published in the , tended to have more children, leading to selection of genes that promoted intelligence.

Moment takes a closer look at some of the persistent rumors to find out the truth.

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