I was a reporter and editor for the Jewish weekly newspaper the Jewish Exponent in the early 1970s when the first screenings for the Jewish genetic disease Tay Sachs were offered. My husband and I joined others in being tested, and the Exponent carried numerous stories of the fatal prognosis of a Tay Sachs child.
In the years since then many, many more genetic diseases can be screened for, and it is important that prospective parents undergo these tests. (I wrote about genetic screening including for the condition of Fragile X Syndrome — not a specifically Jewish genetic disease — in my blog post “Genetic Screening During Pregnancy.”)
Now during Rosh Hashanah synagogue services for the Jewish new year a friend handed me the September 30th issue of the Los Angeles weekly newspaper the Jewish Journal. The issue included a full-page ad about GeneTestNow.com with the headline “A Message From Your Local Rabbis About the Importance of Gene Testing in Our Community”
The GeneTestNow.com ad begins:
As rabbis, we are concerned about the complete health of our communities — spiritual as well as physical. So we are heartened that more and more people are learning about the importance of gene testing.
Since GeneTestNow.com — a free, locally based nonprofit founded by concerned members of our community — was launched four years ago, there have been significant strides in this grassroots effort to spread awareness and education about gene testing.
Later in the GeneTestNow.com ad is this important sentence:
For couples with any degree of Jewish ancestry, screening for the portion of the 40 potential conditions specific to your Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Persian, or North African Jewish heritage is imperative.
I would hope that this initiative is being implemented in Jewish communities throughout the world as well as encouraging screening for non-Jews for other genetic diseases.
And while Jewish men and women stationed with the U.S. military all around the world may not have as easy access to these screening tests as other Jews, it is important for Jewish military personnel to know about these tests.
In this Jewish new year of 5777 I wish everyone a year of good health and success. GeneTestNow.com is an important platform for achieving that good health.
© 2016 Miller Mosaic LLC
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