Like people of every ethnic background, Jews are faced with specific genetic concerns. 1 in 3 individuals who is of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry is a carrier for at least one Jewish genetic disease. Carriers of these types of diseases exhibit no symptoms of and usually do not have a family history of the disease. “Carrier couples” are at risk to have an affected child, but they have options for building healthy families.
Genetic counseling with genetic screening for these diseases is recommended before contemplating a first or a subsequent pregnancy. These options also are available for some diseases that occur more frequently in individuals of Sephardic/Mizrachi descent.
There are 2 methods of genetic testing used by the Jewish community:
1. ‘Open’ testing–all tested individuals receive a copy of the diseases tested and the test results. This testing can be done through one’s doctor’s office or through a genetics clinic, such as JScreen. JScreen is a convenient, at-home, saliva-based genetic carrier screening. To learn more about JScreen, click here.
2. ‘Closed’ testing through Dor Yeshorim— During mass/school screening events (or private appointments) blood is drawn for testing and each participant receives a nine-digit identification number. Daters have access to the Dor Yeshorim automated hotline where they are asked to enter both parties’ ID number and day and month of birth. A trained specialist returns the call and informs both parties whether or not they are compatible. Couples found to be incompatible are offered guidance and assistance. To find a participating testing site near you, call Dor Yeshorim at 718-384-6060 or click here.
Most important is to get screened. Best to do so before you start dating so that you can have your results accessible at any time.
- Listen to CandiDate podcast episode Too Much Information? Genetic Testing for Daters to learn more
- To watch a video about pre-conception carrier screening, click here
- To watch a video about a reproductive option for carrier couples, click here
- PJGH online education series: http://www.myjewishgenetichealth.com/
- PJGH website for information about BRCA and hereditary cancer: http://www.brcacommunity.com/