As the Jewish year 5777 comes to a close, we look back on special moments that make us smile. We treasure the year’s festive milestones: weddings, babies, anniversaries, birthdays and other simchas.
Looking ahead, it is important to think about how we can positively affect the lives of our friends, family members and the entire Jewish community in the coming year. One way is to help our community prevent devastating diseases in future children and grandchildren.
That may seem like a huge undertaking, but, thanks to the work of JScreen, planning for healthy families is easy, convenient and affordable.
While we are preparing for the holidays, we should keep in mind that September is Tay-Sachs Awareness Month. Tay-Sachs is perhaps the best-known Jewish genetic disease, thanks to large-scale public health awareness and screening campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s. During that time, screening for Tay-Sachs became so widespread and mainstream that the prevalence of this devastating disease in the Jewish community was reduced by 90 percent.
Now the next generation needs to be reminded of the importance of screening for Tay-Sachs, as well as over 200 other diseases that are part of JScreen’s genetic screening panel.
People who have not been screened for this full panel of diseases and are planning to start or expand a family need to update their screening.
JScreen is a national nonprofit Jewish genetic disease screening program based out of Emory University School of Medicine’s department of human genetics.
JScreen brings the innovative technology of genetic screening and the peace of mind it provides to your front door and can be completed from the comfort of your own home. JScreen’s panel of more than 200 genetic diseases includes over 100 diseases common in people of Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi Jewish ancestry, as well as other diseases that are common in non-Jewish groups.
Screening is important for Jewish individuals and couples, as well as interfaith couples, who are also at risk for having children with these diseases. JScreen provides results via phone or secure videoconferencing with a certified genetic counselor, so you can ask questions, understand your results and talk through all your options to help ensure that you or your loved one has a healthy baby.
JScreen is accessible from anywhere in the United States. In fact, since launching in 2013, JScreen has tested thousands of people in all 50 states.
We have a suggestion for your first good deed to start the new year right. JScreen challenges you to mention genetic screening to five people over the course of the High Holidays. Tell them to check out JScreen.org to learn more and to request that a DNA spit kit be mailed to them.
This year you have the capacity to change someone’s life.
JScreen wishes you and your family a happy, healthy new year.
By Karen Grinzaid is the executive director of JScreen.