When it comes to Jewish genetic diseases, some people would rather not know their carrier status because knowing can be overwhelming. But the truth is, the sooner you know your status, the more options you will have in terms of family planning. That’s why more than 180 local rabbis have supported the mission of Gene Test Now — to raise awareness about Jewish genetic diseases and to educate the Jewish community about the importance of genetic carrier screening.
Carrier screening looks at specific genes that are known to be associated with specific disease. They test to see if you are a carrier for a genetic condition that can be passed down to future generations. Generally, the diseases tested for are recessive conditions, meaning a carrier of the disease does not show any symptoms. But just because you are a carrier for a disease does not mean you will pass it on. In fact, most individuals are carriers for one or more genetic conditions, but if you and your partner are not carriers of the same conditions then there is no risk for your children. If both you and your partner are carriers for the same genetic disorder, there is a 1 in 4 (25%) with each pregnancy that the child could be affected with the disease. And thanks to medical advances, there are many options available to help these couples have a healthy child.
So many rabbis are vocal in their support for carrier screening because of its importance for the health of future generations. Rabbi Elliott Dorff of American Jewish University, in a Zoom webinar earlier this year on genetic screening conducted by the Jewish Journal and Gene Test Now, noted: “In the Jewish tradition, my body belongs to God… We have a fiduciary duty to God to take care of our bodies and that means preventive care as well as curative care. And in the case of genetic testing, this is one way to try and make sure that the children that we have are healthy and not burdened with a genetic disease.”
Gene Test Now provides helpful informational articles and videos on its website. While the non-profit organization does not perform testing, it has partnered with JScreen, headquartered at Emory University’s Department of Human Genetics, which offers at-home screening via saliva. Jewish Journal readers can receive $36 off a screening kit from JScreen by visiting genetestnow.com/getting-tested and using promo code JJLA36.
Rabbi Dorff sums up the need for genetic screening this way: “You have a duty to the future generations to do what you can to prevent illness. And genetic testing is a critical way of doing that.”
GeneTestNow.com is a nonprofit initiative of the Doris Factor Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.