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!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • 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.