Dor Yeshorim, a legendary organization that serves as a community-based center for the prevention of genetic diseases for the past almost three decades, has announced that they have succeeded in offering an option to screen for an additional panel of seven diseases. Advancements in technology, in addition to extensive research by Dor Yeshorim in conjunction with leading genetic experts, have now made it possible to offer screening for additional diseases.
Founded in 1983 by Rabbi Yosef Ekstein, Dor Yeshorim serves the international Orthodox community to test individuals—usually during their teenage years, in a confidential manner. While they initially only screened for Tay-Sachs disease, the current standard panel includes nine devastating diseases that have plagued our community in the not-so-distant past. With Hashem’s help, Dor Yeshorim has spared more than 3,600 families the agony of having children with genetically carried diseases such as Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis, and familial dysautonomia, among others. Above all, they provided a priceless peace of mind for its hundreds of thousands of participants.
In a conversation with Hamodia on Monday, Rabbi Ekstein stressed that while the new tests are recommended – they are optional, to meet various people’s opinions.
When asked why Dor Yeshorim chose this approach, Rabbi Ekstein referred to a Rashi in Parashas Pinchas. It relates that Moshe Rabbeinu asked of Hashem, “Ribbono shel Olam! The personality of each individual is revealed before You, and they do not resemble each other. Appoint a leader who can relate with each individual according to his unique personality and circumstances.”
“Being able to simultaneously cater to everyone is something beyond our capabilities,” Rabbi Ekstein says.
Rabbi Ekstein explained that in the past, each time a new test was added, it aroused conflicting views within the community. “Some argued against adding tests and felt they were unnecessary. However, other more conscientious individuals, and not to mention those who had suffered, urged that more tests be added and more diseases be prevented. The new tests, therefore, will be optional.”
In addition, since Dor Yeshorim screens more than 20,000 individuals worldwide- each year, the processing of the additional screening for these seven diseases will take time.
The seven diseases on the new panel are: Bardet–Biedl Syndrome (BBS2); Lipoamide Dehydrogenase Deficiency (E3); Joubert Syndrome (JS); Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MU); Nemaline Myopathy (NM); Usher Syndrome Type 1 (US1); and Walker-Warburg Syndrome (WW). While they are all extremely serious and can even be devastating, they occur with less frequency than the standard nine on the current panel, Rabbi Ekstein said. After testing for all 16 diseases, nevertheless — more than 98% of the shidduchim will still be compatible.
Ordering the complementary panel is a simple process. In most cases, those who have already joined the program will not have to draw a new blood sample, but should contact Dor Yeshorim and for an additional fee the new tests will be performed.
Under Dor Yeshorim’s unique system, created under the guidance of Gedolei Yisroel, every individual who joins the program is ensured confidentiality. Each participant provides their date of birth, gender, and home telephone number and receives a card with a coded ID number. Before a shidduch is seriously contemplated, the parties contact Dor Yeshorim with their coded numbers, the days and months of birth, and they receive a callback to the phone number which they provided at the time of screening. They are then informed whether they are compatible or not. Even if one of them is a carrier for any of the diseases, the pair can still be compatible — if they are not carriers of the same disease.
According to Rabbi Ekstein, the appropriate time for testing is early — before “even considering marriage.”
In addition, he urges that in order to avoid heartache and inconvenience, compatibility should be determined before the boy and girl meet.
“Calling is simple, and exchanging numbers should never be viewed as a commitment. We do not limit the number of compatibility inquires and encourage people to call as soon as possible,” Rabbi Ekstein told Hamodia.