The Shmooze

New York Mag Spotlights Ashkenazi ‘SuperAgers’

By Nathan Burstein

  • Print
  • Share Share
iStockphoto

This will be news to residents of southern Florida, but it turns out that Ashkenazi Jews, as a group, don’t actually live longer than the rest of the population. Nevertheless, shared genetic traits have made Ashkenazim a compelling subject for scientific study, including in a fascinating project outlined in the newest edition of New York magazine.

In one of the more charming, thought-provoking articles you’re likely to read this week, the magazine’s latest issue examines the Longevity Genes Project at New York City’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where researchers Nir Barzilai and Gil Atzmon have been examining so-called “SuperAgers” — men and women who have made it past age 95 without serious medical problems. The article focuses in particular on members of the Kahn family, two brothers and two sisters who all became centenarians, surely making them one of the oldest sets of siblings in human history.

As the article explains, Ashkenazim aren’t likelier to live longer than the general population; what makes them interesting to researchers is their relatively homogeneous DNA and way of life, which allow scientists to identify differences in their genes that account for the extended life spans of those who do live longer. The Kahns — not all of whom are still living — were among a group of 540 Jewish SuperAgers who’ve participated in the Einstein study, and the article offers an intriguing look at the history they lived through and the experience of reaching an extremely advanced age. (SuperAgers “do not age differently from other people, just later,” the article reports.)

The usual medical advice can get you only so far in terms of life expectancy, Barzilai tells New York. “Healthy living can get you past 80,” he says, “but not to 100.” The Jewish SuperAgers, for their part, attribute their long lives to “genes, luck, and family history.”

“God,” the article says, “finished last.”

While Jews as a group may not live longer than others, “540 Jews in a New York-based study of extreme old age [are] too delicious,” author Jesse Green writes, interspersing old Jewish jokes between sections of the article.

The Shmooze’s favorite came, unwittingly, from the SuperAgers themselves. After a nurse visited many of the elderly Jews at home to collect information, Barzilai would receive calls from his subjects. “The young man was very nice,” they would tell him, “but why didn’t he touch the cake?”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Longevity, New York Magazine, Nir Barzilai, Gil Atzmon, Ashkenazi Jews, Kahn Siblings, Genetics

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.