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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 10, 2012 PAGE 17A By Estie Rose NEW YORK (JTA)--As Jews, we don't have .many light-hearted holidays, but this week we'll celebrate one of them, Tu b'Av. Casually known as the Jewish Val- entine's Day, Tu b'Av is the counterbalance to the most difficult of all our holidays, Tisha b'Av, which just passed. While we fast and remem- ber all of our hardships and trials during Tisha b'Av, this week, beginning at sunset Thursday, we will engage in mirth, and celebrate love and joy. Many will wed and many, according to Jewish lore, will meet their matches on Tu b'Av. But as with all Jewish holi-" days, this one still must come with a warning, albeit one deeply rooted in modernity. As young Jews meet their mates and consider marriage, they should be told about the importance of undergoing carrier screening for Jewish genetic diseases, and act on it. Carrier screening identi- fies "'carriers"--individuals - who are not affected with a specific disorder but whose offspring are at risk if the carriers marry carriers of the same disorder. If both members ofa couple carry the same disease ("carrier couples"), there is a one in four chance that each of Allegations From page 1A "The letters assert that Huma Abedin, Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary Clinton, the Islamic Societyof North America (ISNA), and ISNA President Imam Mohammed Magld are all connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, posing a potential security risk to the United States. "The Reform Movement, and I personally, have worked with Ms. Abedin, Imam Magid and ISNA for many years," he continued. "All have worked on behalf of U.S. interests at home and abroad, built relationships across religious lines and affirmed U.S. con- stitutional values." His statement challenged Bachmann and the others who joined her in calling for an inquiry Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). Lynn West- moreland (R-Ca.) and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) to put up or shut up. "I hope that Rep. Bachmann and the other signatories will either produce credible evidence that substantiates their claims or withdraw them and do no further damage to the level of public discourse through the dissemination of unsubstantiated and harmful claims," Saperstein wrote. Joining Saperstein were the Anti-Defamation League, which accused the lawmakers of "stereotyping and preju- dice," and interfaith umbrella bodies that included among their numbers other Jewish defense and religious groups, including the Jewish Council for PublicAffairs, the commu- nity's public policy umbrella. A number of Republican leaders also slammed Bach- mann and rose to Abedin's defense, among them Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 COP candidate for presi- their children will be affected with the disease. Based on my experience as a genetic counselor, approximately one ifl three Ashkenazi Jew- ish individuals who undergo screening will be identified as carriers for at least one Jewish genetic disease. In addition, approximately one in 100 couples will be a car- rier couple. Unfortunately, there still are rabbis and physicians for that matter who neglect to stress the importance of being screened to prevent from giving birth to a child with one of these horrible, and often fatal, genetic dis- eases. There are a number of - options for genetic testing. Some are "closed," where the individuals being tested are not told what diseases-they carry but rather only if they are genetically compatible with apotential spouse; by ge- netically compatible, mean- ing that both prospective partners are not carriers of the same disease. Other pro- grams provide "open" screen- ing those being screened a~'e told their results and provided guidance by quali- fied genetic counselors. As a genetic counselor, my worst days are when I have to tell a young couple that the baby they are waiting to welcome into the world will be born mentally disabledl with a poor quality of life, and/or even worse, with a short life span. I have seen firsthand how sick children who need around-the-clock care or, worse yet, a child who dies young can do irreparable damage to what used to be the most loving and committed relationships. Fortunately, the diseases that hit the Jewish com- munity the hardest can be avoided through a simple blood test. And Jewish genetic disease carrier screening is significantly more affordable than it was just last year. Unfortunately, many young couples choose to wait to undergo carrier screening until pregnancy occurS. Why? Lack of awareness is often the reason. But many young adults who are aware of the availability of carrier screen- ing feel a sense of invincibility and never think their child will be the one born with one o f these diseases, especially since most of these diseases are rare and unfamiliar. Plus, since screening for the current panel of Jewish genetic diseases can cost as much as $6,000 if performed in a commercial lab and many insurance policies don't cover the costs until pregnancy, many couples, decide to wait. What happens, however, if a couple discovers that both are carriers after the woman is already pregnant? Very diffi- cult decisions, many that run counter to one's own ethical and religious.beliefs,need to " be made in a short time. It is a heartache that easily could' have been avoided. Today's Jewish genetic dis- ease carrier screening orga- nizations advocate that indi- viduals and couples undergo screening before conception, since being aware of one's carrier status before concep- tion allows couples to make informed family planning decisions, And today there are more family planning options for carrier couples than ever, including in-vitro fertilization with a proce- dure called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select against specific Jewish genetic diseases. To prevent costs from be- ing a barrier for young adults befor conception, most .screening organizations have relationships with com- mercial laboratories to make screening significantly more affordable. Many also provide full subsidies to all uninsured patients who express finan- cial difficulties. Most, carrier screening programs also provide de- tailed one-on-one counselin~ sessions with a genetic coun- selor. The counselor explains how the Ashkenazi Jewish dent. and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Boehner said Abedin had a "sterling" character and called the'accusations "dangerous." Ed Rollins. who managed Bachmann's failed bid for the COP presidential nomination, even called herattack"dishon- est" in an Op-Ed for the Fox News Channel website. Clinton, Abedin's boss. m her first comments addressing the issue on Aug. 30, singled out Bachmann's Republican critics for praise in an address announcing the release of her department's annual report on religious freedom. "Leaders have to be active in stepping in and sending messages about protecting the diversity within their countries." she said. "And frankly I don't see enough of that. and I want to see more of it. I want to see more of it. and we did see some of that in our own country. We saw Republicans stepping up and standing up against the kind of assaults that really have no place in our politics." Others among Republican leaders, however, rose to Bachmann's defense. Newt Gingrich. the former House speaker who this year vied for the Republican presidential nomination, dubbed the law- makersthe "national security five" in an Op-Ed for Politico and said they were profiles in courage. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader and the only Jewish Republicafi in Congress, broke with Boeh- ner and refused to condemn Bachmann, saying in a July 27 appearance on CBS that the congresswoman's "concern v~as about the security of the country:' Bachmann, who has said she is only seeking answers, is basing her questions mostly on the writings of Frank Gaffney, the president of the American Center f6r Security Policy and a top Pentagon official during the Reagan administration. Gaffney, who has made it his mission to expose what he says is creeping Islamism in the American establighment. has tiedAbedin to the Muslim Brotherhood through second- hand citations that allege she has family members affiliated with the group. Abedin is married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who resigned last year in a sex- ting scandal. As a congress- man, Weiner. who is Jewish, had close ties to conservative pro-Israel groups, including the Zionist Organization of America. Gaffney also has ties to con- servative pro-Israel groups and websites, and Bachmanr is a favorite of pro-Israel groups for her strident sup- port for the country. She was a star at the 2011 American Israel Public Affairs Commit- tee policy conference and in her youth spent a year in Israel working on a kibbutz. Abraham Foxman. the ADL's national director, said such accusations gain trac- tion as a tight presidential election nears. "As they get closer to the election and as the results look close, you see a lot more activity and some of the activ- ity gets close to the line, if it doesn't cross the line," he said. James Zogby, the direc- tor of the Arab American Institute, said the economic downturn and President Obama's background and race have nurtured a "path of xenophobia predicated on economic distress." Saperstein said Bachmann's attacks were of a piece with de- pictions ofObamaas adanger- ous foreigner that he said were moving from the Republican margins to the mainstream. "There ate a few things we're seeing a convergence of." he said. noting "the Islamo- phobic effort to discredit and delegitimize the Muslim com- munity, the effort to discredit president Obama." Zoghy said he was especially nonplussed at an attack on Obama by John Sununu. a chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush and a sur- rogate for presumptive Repub - lican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. In a July 17 interview with Fox News Channel, Sununu said that Obama did not understand "how the American system works." To explain this. Su- nunu emphasized the several years that Obama spent as a child in Indonesia. (Sununu later said he was not question- ing Obama's Americanness.) "I was bewildered that would come from him," said Zogby, notin{ that Sununu. as an American of Palestin- ian descent, has weathered similar attacks. Foxman said citations of re- ligious and ethnic origin were on the rise. and that neither party was immune. He cited attacks by some liberals and evangelicals on the Mormon beliefs of Romney. "When Obama first ran there was a lot of up-to-the- edge racism," he said. "Now we're seeing it with Romney and Mormonism." Rabbi Marc Schneier, a co- founder of the Found /tion for Ethnic Understanding, which promotes Jewish-Muslim cooperation, said there was a utility in the escalation of the anti-Muslim rhe oric. "Because the issues are brought to the fore, they become part of the American conversation," he said. "That is a necessary evil if we are going to move forward." population is more prone to certain diseases that result from genetic mutations present in this population and makes recommendations for genetic testing based on personal and family history. As wonderful as today's medical technology is, diseases prevalent among Ashkenazim will never be eradicated as the genetic mutations will continue to be passed down from gen- eration to,generation. Since carriers do not show signs or symptoms of the disease, the only way one learns if he or she is a carrier is by undergo- ing genetic testing or having an affected child. And with new diseases routinely being added to the testing panel, it is critical that couples check with their physicians between pregnancies to ensure that their tests are all up to date. Regardless of one's level of observance, Ashkenazim share genetic similarities-- and some share genetic muta- tions. A simple blood test can save lives and help prevent diseases from destroying families. Estie Rose is a genetic counselor with Montefiore Medical Center~Albeit Ein- stein College of Medicine in New York and with the Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University. ~1~ Gonlmercjal Landscape Maintenonc o Inc. Commercial, Office, Residential Complete Lawn & Shrub Maintedance Licensed Insured Professional/Reasonable/Free Estimate ~7e are your source for: Invitcrlions - Brochures Lellerheods Envelopes o Business Cards Programs - F]uers Post Carde Forms Digital Photographu, Labels Direct Mail 407.767.7110 -1: www. elegantprinting.net 205 North Street Longwood, FL 32750 ProblemsGotYouDown? 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