This page consists of general information about Jewish genetic diseases, as well as, various resources for Jewish genetic testing and counseling, regarding genetic issues that may place a shidduch at risk.
For information on shidduch organizations that specialize in singles with disabilties or medical issues, see the Special Needs section of our Shidduchim Sites and Organizations page.
If you have additional information or resources about medical issues affecting shidduchim, please contact the webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a relatively small, inter-marrying population, Jews of both Ashkenazi (European) and Sephardic (Middle Eastern) descent are more vulnerable than the general population to certain genetic diseases.
The "Jewish" genetic disorders are a group of conditions which are unusually common among Jews of eastern European (Ashkenazi) descent. Although these diseases can affect Sephardi Jews and non-Jews, they afflict Ashkenazi Jews more often - as much as 20 to 100 times more frequently.
Fortunately, there are also several resources that provide genetic testing and counseling regarding these Jewish genetic issues. They include periodic free genetic disease screening events at most local JCC's, genetic screening programs offered by local hospitals, as well as, genetic testing programs specifically designed to address the sensitive issue of modesty and privacy in shidduchim (such as the Dor Yeshorim service).
It is highly recommended, before couples become too involved, to ensure that they are aware of any genetic issues that might impact their future married life and offspring. In particular, every eligible single, before they begin shidduch dating, should probably be tested and registered with Dor Yeshorim first. This will avoid much anxiety, as it can take several weeks (often 4-6 weeks) for Dor Yeshorim to finish processing genetic tests, if you are not already on record with them. If both dating partners are registered, the answer to any genetic incompatibility issues with the couple as a pair can be easily confirmed with a few days via a simple call to Dor Yeshorim's New York office.
A relevant real life story about this situation can be found on Aish HaTorah's web site in the "Genetics of Dating" article.
In addition, the Science and Theology News has published an article about the Dor Yeshorim program, titled "Jewish Sect Embraces Technology to Save its Own".
Likewise, an article was published in the September 2006 issue of the Where What When magazine about genetics and the shidduch process, entitled "Genetics-in-Shidduchim 101".
Genetic diseases disproportionately affecting the Ashkenazi population include:
Genetic diseases disproportionately affecting the Sephardi population include:
Dor Yeshorim is an organization founded to prevent recessive genetic diseases. It is based out of New York and was founded by in the early 1980's by Rabbi Josef Ekstein, who had four of his own children die of Tay-Sachs disease. It is endorsed by many physicians and several major Torah authorities, and is the most commonly used genetic screening program for Jewish diseases in the yeshivish world. (Indeed, it is not uncommon for Orthodox Jewish day schools to sponsor screenings for all their high school students). As of September 2006, over 800 incompatible matches had been prevented.
The Dor Yeshorim screening program is most effective with those of entirely Ashkenazic descent. Anyone with even a small heritage other than Ashkenanic descent (even one grandparent), may experience reduced reliability. (This may be of special concern to those with Sephardim or Geirim (Converts) in their background). This general background information is noted at the time of testing, to assist interpreting the results.
The program itself is designed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved, and and avoid the risk of stigmatizing a young single or their family members.
An article about Dor Yeshorim was published in the June 2006 issue of the Where What When magazine, entitled "An Avoidable Tragedy".
Here's how it works, in a nutshell:
Singles have blood taken and their samples labelled with an anonymous identification number, and a control number. These are sent to special labs in New York where they are tested and catalogued. In addition, a contact telephone number is sent along with the sample, and results will only be given via return call to the phone number submitted with the samples, at the time of testing. The singles are normally given a booklet when they are tested, with their identification and control number stickers affixed, as well as, other information about Dor Yeshorim included. The booklet also contains a place to record information, in case the booklet is lost. All results are identified anonymously by number, not by name. The results are kept confidential and will not be released to any individual, not even to the persons themselves. The only information typically released is the response regarding a particular shidduch's genetic compatibility: compatible or incompatible.
However, if a couple is found to be incompatible, and if they request this information, the couple will be informed of the disease for which they are incompatible, the symptoms, and the specific risks they face.
If an individual has a family history of a genetic disease, even a "non-Jewish" one, Dor Yeshorim recommends that they be informed of this, as well (for example, they might run additional tests, if aware of this risk). They can provide confidential counseling, referral, and support services to families afflicted with genetic disease.
Before a shidduch begins (or as early as possible), one or the other parties in the shidduch contacts Dor Yeshorim, and using both each person's anonymous identification number and the birthdate of each person, to check if the individuals together are genetically compatible (as noted above). The only information normally revealed is whether the specific couple are incompatible genetically with each other. However, if the couple requests, they will be informed of the disease for which they are incompatible, the symptoms, and the specific risks they face.
There are several rules specific to to Dor Yeshorim:
Currently, the Dor Yeshorim program generally tests for:
In addition, Dor Yeshorim may also test for other genetic diseases and mutations of existing diseases in a research capacity, unofficially, and proports to be the most thorough program of testing with regards to Jewish genetic diseases.
Those who have already been tested through another screening program, or who are already married or engaged are not eligible for Dor Yeshorim's screening program.
The costs and processing times vary by screening venue.
For those tested at mass screenings (e.g. Jewish high school-hosted screenings), the cost per person is typically $150 per person, and results may take 3-4 months to process.
For those tested individually, the cost is $200, and results may take 2-3 weeks, from the time the sample is received in New York (so, realistically expect 4-6 weeks, if tested in the Mid-Atlantic area).
If tested in New York, should it be absolutely necessary, there is an emergency, expedited processing available.
The following can provide Dor Yeshorim testing services in the Baltimore area:
|Dr. Menachem Cooper||410-522-8783|
|Dr. Aaron Goldberg||410-358-4234|
|Dr. Yoel Jakobovits||410-580-0900|
|Quest Diagnostics, Inc.||410-247-9100|
For further information, in Baltimore, please call:
|Drs. Menachem and Moshay Cooper||410-486-2036|
|Dr. Michael Ring||410-358-8213|
The New York phone number for Dor Yeshorim is: 718-384-6060.
The following Baltimore area hospitals and medical centers provide genetic screening and counseling services.
|University of Maryland Medical Center||410-706-3480|
|Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC)||443-849-3131|
Additional resources can be found here: Baltimore Jewish Times: Genetic Testing/Counseling Resources
Note: Those who participate in private hospital screenings are disqualified from participation in the Dor Yeshorim genetic screening program, since they will already know their genetic carrier status.
Jewish Family Services no longer has a genetic screening program.