It doesn't happen very often, but Jews across all denominations are in solid agreement about one thing: genetic testing should be done as early as possible.
The Orthodox movement encourages Jewish teens to be screened “preferably before dating," as written in a 2007 letter to Yeshiva University students which was signed by more than a dozen prominent rabbis.
In 1999, the Conservative movement resolved to promote education and awareness on the issue of Jewish genetic diseases and early screenings.
The Union for Reform Judaism has published a bioethical study guide on the issue which confronts the consequences of turning a blind eye to genetic screening.
The Reconstructionist movement shares those sentiments. In fact, students and teachers at the Reconstructionst Rabbinical College have written extensively on the topic.
But the issue is more complex than simply whether one should undergo genetic testing before marriage. It raises the issue of life and death, science and spirituality, and the debate over who is ultimately in control of it all. That is where the collective Jewish voice breaks off into hundreds of profound side conversations.
The central dilemma is an ethical one which stems from the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Jews interpret this commandment in different ways, some quite literally and irregardless of the health risks while others allow space for modern miracles like egg donation and artificial insemination. A young couple who discovers later on that they share a defective gene may also consider adoption, which some denominations do not consider a fulfillment of the mitzvah, but still laud as an act of loving kindness.
In 2005, Yeshiva University established a Medical Ethics Society (MES) to help students cope with and understand contemporary Jewish issues. On its homepage, MES encourages students to sign-up for genetic testing anonymously through Dor Yeshorim.
A decade earlier, the Reconstructionst Rabbinical College began offering courses on biomedical ethics through its Center for Jewish Ethics to address the same issues from a more liberal perspective.
Some things to consider:
• Would your test results affect your decisions to date or marry?
• How do you interpret the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply?"
• How has intermarriage and globalization affected "ethnic" Judaism? Is it a good or bad thing?
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