38 In Family

Why We Decided To Test with JScreen

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J and I married four months ago and we are not ready for a child.  Even though J and I are not having children now, we felt that we could still be prepared by doing genetic testing. I actually did my test through  JScreen before our wedding. I won my test through the Jewish parenting website Kveller. Not all of their articles apply to me right now, there are great writers and really great content overall on that site. JScreen mailed me a full kit. I spit into a tube, sent it off, and had my results back way faster than I thought.

JScreen is exactly what it sounds like. A genetic test aimed at helping adults at any stage in their life prepare for healthy children by letting them know their carrier status. They’re particularly great at testing for diseases that have high rates in the Jewish community. However, their panel is vast and when you do the test, they test for everything.

Now you may say to yourself, that seems silly for you to do! You’re not Jewish! Why do you need a Jewish genetic test?

And you’d be right. If you read the tagline of this blog, it’s right there! I’m not Jewish at all.

However, JScreen isn’t just for Jewish people. We chose JScreen because testing is easy, comprehensive, and backed by medical professionals. The panel of diseases tested is constantly evolving. Some family members tested and raved about it after. Jewish test or not, it was the best option for us out there.

Even diseases that people associate with Ashkenazi Jews (J’s ancestry) are also prevalent in non-Jewish communities too. Tay-Sachs is usually thought of as a “Jewish disease.”  But Irish and Irish-Americans are carriers and the disease has been fairly common in that community too. I’m a mix of Irish, German and Italian ancestry (dueling potato dishes didn’t flow as well for a name, plus I like Italian food best.) I tested myself because I knew this. If I didn’t, and we both were carriers, the outcome could be devastating. Assuming diseases are just for one community is a willful ignorance.

There are the kinds of genetic tests that tell you where you came from. I did one of those too, for fun. And it came up Irish, Italian, German and Jewish. Well, that last one really threw a wrench in all this! It was something like 10% a small but not insignificant number. We also tested my German grandmother — who was not where the Jewish was from. But rather the most likely carrier was my Italian grandfather, her husband.

If you live in North America, chances are you are something like me. Some weird mix of a bunch of immigrants who met in immigrant communities. We always thought we knew the story, Italian boy comes over on a boat, meets nice German girl on her family’s potato farm, have Italian-German children.  But we really don’t know everything that happened before that. Could an ancestor have converted to Catholicism? Could we really have been part of the Roman Jews who were expelled from Sicily and Calabria?  There’s always a chance. But we don’t know. For many people in interfaith relationships, they might think there’s no chance of Jewish ancestry. It is better not to risk it, and take a comprehensive test.

In fact, there is a drop down on JScreen’s website where you can check the genetic disease risk assessment of your ethnicity.

So, not just for Jews! JScreen is for everyone.

Through JScreen, we learned that I’m not a carrier. As their panel expands and we get closer to children, I might retest just for the peace of mind. J gets his test this month.

This month, The National Gaucher Foundation is offering JScreen genetic testing with no out of pocket cost. You give them some personal information and you get a code to put in at checkout on JScreen. JScreen bills your insurance and the code covers the out of pocket cost. The grant is for residents of The United States.

Jewish or not, the outcome of not knowing if you are a carrier for a genetic disease can be devastating. With the medical advancement that we have in tools like JScreen, wouldn’t you take advantage of that? For us, there is no better peace of mind than knowing the risks we have of carrying a genetic disease.

Not a sponsored post, I just love JScreen and my experience with them that much.

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