web analytics
April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Tree Will Only Be As Strong As Its Roots

Rose-012513

Share Button

“Thus was he [the cedar tree] beautiful in his greatness, in the length of his branches; for his roots were upon abundant waters.”– Ezekiel 31:7

Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, is quickly approaching. Now is when the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel wake up from their winter slumber and begin a new cycle of bearing fruit. The roots are prepared to do their job, to anchor the tree in place and to extract nutrients from the soil so that the tree can be strong and healthy.

As a genetic counselor who advocates for pre-conception genetic testing, I take the roots-to-tree metaphor very seriously. I believe that in order to sustain a healthy community, the roots of the community have the responsibility of relaying just how important genetic testing is.

Carrier screening for autosomal recessive diseases that are common in the Ashkenazi Jewish population is widely available and has been recommended by professional organizations to be completed prior to conception or in early pregnancy. While the tests for these diseases are generally accessible, the uptake has been found to be disproportionately low in comparison to the number of Ashkenazi Jews who are of childbearing age.

One suggestion for increasing awareness of the availability and importance of pre-conception genetic screening has been to train rabbis. Rabbis often officiate marriages and have relationships with couples prior to their weddings. They also have the unique opportunity to convey what they feel is important to their entire congregation via weekly Shabbat sermons.

Starting in November 2010, the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium launched Couples Aware, an educational program for rabbis presented in partnership with the New York Board of Rabbis and the UJA. From the launch of this program until March 2011, we at the Program for Jewish Genetic Health asked a subset of the rabbis in attendance at Couples Awarelectures to test out our hypothesis.

We got a total of eighty-eight rabbis to participate in a survey/quiz before and after a discussion of genetic concepts and reproductive options by a genetics professional. We sought to gauge how much the rabbis already knew about carrier screening and how well the educational session prepared them to speak about the importance of carrier screening to engaged couples and congregants.

The results of our study were just as we expected; the rabbis’ scores improved significantly after the educational session. Scores increased from 57 percent correct (before training) to 94 percent correct (after training).

We also found that those rabbis who had had carrier screening themselves or have had children within the past five years had pre-training scores similar to those who had no personal experience with reproductive genetics. These data suggest that rabbis have only basic knowledge about carrier screening for Ashkenazi Jewish diseases before the session, and the training session is effective in increasing their knowledge. Many rabbis who have attended Couples Aware have told me they took this new knowledge seriously and now incorporate genetics into their pre-marital counseling sessions. In fact, more and more of my patients have been referred to genetic counseling by their rabbis.

We learned a valuable lesson here. In order to be able to transmit the information to future couples and decrease the burden of Jewish genetic diseases, rabbis need to be vigilant in becoming and staying informed themselves. The onus is on the educators, those who are specially trained to reach out to community members and who are gifted preachers. However, the rabbis, the roots of the community, will only be able sustain their community (the cedar tree) if they themselves are primed to do so by keeping up.

I urge rabbis, rebbetzins, yoatzot halacha, and other educators and advisers (people like JLIC couples, NCSY advisors, Chabad shluchim, and other members of the community who do outreach) to educate yourselves. Read. Take the time to attend genetics lectures in your community. Listen to our online educational series about common Jewish genetic diseases afflicting your congregants (www.genesights.com). Make connections with genetic health professionals and know when to refer your congregants to the experts.

The tree whose roots go down deep will be better prepared for the storms that come along, for its deep roots hold it steady in the most violent of winds.

Share Button

About the Author: Estie Rose is a genetic counselor with the Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University and with Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

One Response to “A Tree Will Only Be As Strong As Its Roots”

  1. Adrienne Kapel says:

    Estie, thank you for sharing. This is so important, and having those who counsel couples, spiritually and professionally key to the success of this program.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
Mock Eviction Notice shoved under the doors of students' rooms in predominantly Jewish NYU dorm by NYU SJP.
NYU Latest Site of Anti-Israel Mock Eviction Notices
Latest Indepth Stories
Students in Israel get computers to assist in their schoolwork.

Day schools can have boys and girls participate in the same online class but they don’t meet or interact in “real time.”

Richard Falk, FORMER  United Nations Human Rights Council’s Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories.

Jews so hostile to their own people they’ve spun out into the orbit of rabid anti-Israeli and pro-Islamic radicalism.

Breaking the Fw:Fw:Fw Chain

Rav Pam said we must realize that God has no pleasure from such negative speech.

NIF support for BDS groups, writes Black, also included acting as a “go between for other donors….

Brandeis, which had to have known about her record of criticism of Islam, pulled the honor after pressure from a Muslim advocacy group and a number of faculty members and students.

Wherever I was invited around the world, I always met with people and let them know that I wanted to hear great stories.

R. Hadaya strongly argues in favor of establishing a festive day in commemoration of the establishment of the state of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has jailed more than 350 Arabs for “security” reasons in just 2014.

Since Torah is the great equalizer, the great reconciler of divergent but valid opinions, this is also the place where common ground is reached.

Some American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by groups waging war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people.

Jerusalem only seems important in the Islamic world when non-Muslims control or capture the city.

Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

More Articles from Estie Rose
Rose-012513

As a genetic counselor who advocates for pre-conception genetic testing, I take the roots-to-tree metaphor very seriously. I believe that in order to sustain a healthy community, the roots of the community have the responsibility of relaying just how important genetic testing is.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-tree-will-only-be-as-strong-as-its-roots/2013/01/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: