Why Rabbis should encourage genetic screening
Rabbis regularly engage in pre-marital counseling to young Jewish couples whose ceremony they will soon officiate. This unique moment in a young family-to-be’s life presents a tremendous opportunity for rabbis to educate the young couple about the risks of Jewish Genetic Diseases and the importance of receiving genetic counseling and genetic screening prior to pregnancy. A rabbi adding this information to their pre-marital counseling, and at other meetings with couples, will go a very long way toward creating healthier Jewish families.
Rabbis should encourage all couples of childbearing age to be screened so that the couple that discovers they are at risk for having a child with a genetic disease can have the time and opportunity to make informed and educated decisions about building a family. As one rabbi recently said; “starting a family without being screened is akin to climbing a building without a safety net.”
Rabbis should not become genetic counselors or take the place of physicians. But they are in a unique position to educate engaged couples, make them aware of Jewish Genetic Diseases and relay importance of pursuing information about their genetics via genetic screening in a moment when the young couple is likely to be in the frame of mind to hear, listen and learn.
Richard N. Gladstein, Co-Chair JGDC