By Jimmy Grinzaid
In the middle of the 2.3-million-square-foot Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, wedged between two incredible Israel-themed displays, was our modest booth at the AIPAC Policy Conference with two cloth-covered folding tables and a handful of cardboard and vinyl displays. A few laptops, a couple of iPads, a handful of promotional cards and fliers crowded the two tabletops among the simple giveaway items, mainly pens and candy.
Our seemingly simple setup for JScreen (www.jscreen.org), a nonprofit Emory University-based organization, offered an incredible opportunity for the Jewish people, unimaginable just a couple of years ago: to spend three to five minutes registering for a new saliva test that identifies carriers of Jewish genetic diseases and general-population genetic diseases — a total of 87 of them. Eighty-seven genetic diseases capable of devastating outcomes and havoc on families.
Our JScreen booth was abuzz for two days. Among the Israel-U.S.-theme presentations, live speeches, services and merchandise, we were registering, educating and enlightening AIPAC guests with our powerful incentive: to pre-empt every birth with our simple, saliva-based screen for Jewish genetic diseases and give people information to help them plan for healthy children.
I was just one of the volunteers helping with the booth and felt proud to be able to contribute by delivering JScreen’s powerful message and service. It was exciting to see people from various parts of the United States, along with our own Atlanta rabbis, doctors, families and others who traveled to Washington in support of AIPAC’s agenda, to stop by our table and offer words of support or go online and register for the saliva kits.
Young unmarried people, married couples, parents and grandparents were either registering for the screening kit online or buying JScreen gift certificates for their loved ones.
At the end of a two-day AIPAC marathon, exhausted and nursing a sore post-surgery knee, I collapsed on a chair, barely used for two days, and reflected on our accomplishments. I was filled with pride for all the speakers and presenters at the event, pride for all the Jewish cause supporters who traveled across the country and across the continents. And I was proud for our small group of dedicated workers and volunteers who tirelessly answered hundreds of questions related to our cause and spread the powerful message about this easy way to take action to plan for healthy families.