1. My family seems to be the only one who has a “genetic issue.”

Rare problems, whether spontaneous or inherited, can happen in any community or family. Sometimes, medical issues such as diabetes, mental illness, deafness, and cancer may run in families. However, there are a variety of reasons why you may have never heard about them. In the generations following the Holocaust, many people did not have access to their family’s medical history. Additionally, many individuals do not discuss their personal or family’s medical history, possibly out of privacy considerations or for fear of stigmatization. You might not know about a medical issue, not because it isn’t there, but because people don’t talk about it. Often, all it takes is having someone begin talking about the genetic issues in their family, for others to open up, share their family stories, and offer support and resources.

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In upcoming years, the scientific community’s understanding of genetics will continue to increase and genetics will become more and more integrated into routine medical care. This is one reason that our community needs to start addressing some of the widespread misconceptions about genetics and genetic testing. We need to take the initiative to educate ourselves about the possible implications of genetics on our health and the health of our future generations.

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Chani Wiesman Berliant, MS, CGC is a genetic counselor with the Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University/Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Division of Reproductive Genetics at Montefiore Medical Center. To learn more about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and other Jewish genetic health issues, visit the Program for Jewish Genetic Health’s new GeneSights Jewish Genetics Online Series at www.genesights.com.