JScreen is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing Jewish genetic diseases through education, genetic testing, and genetic counseling. As an organization that serves the entire Jewish population, Jews from all different backgrounds and denominations approach JScreen representatives at community events for guidance and information regarding genetic testing. In fact, as a JScreen volunteer I have noticed that these people do not simply differ in their Jewish heritage and affiliation, but they also vastly differ in their mindset as they approach the JScreen table.
There are those who come to us knowing they want to be tested. They heard about genetic screening and JScreen either from previous events, from their rabbi, or through a family friend; all that is left for us to do is help them register for their spit kit.
Not everyone knows for certain that they want genetic screening, however, so there are those who approach the table with hesitance and many questions. These individuals know of genetic testing and perhaps have heard of JScreen, but the idea of finding out which diseases they may carry causes some apprehension. They may want to be screened, but are anxious to take the first step. In this case, JScreen’s role is to help them understand the reasoning behind genetic screening and how the information can be used when planning for a family.
Some people approach the table with the mindset of “screening is not for me.” They’d either “rather not know” or think it’s “not pertinent to me.” There is an array of misconceptions that can give people the idea that they are exempt from being a carrier, so JScreen is there to set the record straight and provide accurate information.
Lastly, there are many who approach the table without prior knowledge of JScreen or genetic testing. They see the intricate DNA-tree logo, causing them to approach the table out of curiosity about what we do. By simply putting this on their radar, we empower them and make them aware of a very important step they should take before having children.
By getting screened yourself or supporting JScreen’s work by spreading the word on social media or discussing it with friends, you can make a difference in the lives of so many. If you would like to follow in my footsteps and volunteer at a local event, your time will certainly be well spent.
By Lilly Gelman
Lilly Gelman is originally from Houston, Texas, and is currently studying biology and English at Yeshiva University. In addition to her work with JScreen, Lilly is also an editor for The Commentator, the student newspaper of Yeshiva University, and Perspective, the first online magazine of Stern College.