Wisdom at the Shabbat Table with JScreen
I look forward to the end of each week when I know I will be with friends and family gathered around a table with challah, candles, and wine. We will welcome Shabbat with gratitude and blessings, as we lean into reflection and relaxation, a time to connect with each other charged with ancient tradition. I am awed that my ancestors sat in similar circles, doing similar rituals, passing them down generation to generation.
I often think about those connections between generations, and not just when I’m sitting down to the Friday night dinner table. I work for an organization called JScreen, a national non-profit initiative whose mission is to provide community education and accessibility to Jewish genetic screening to help prevent genetic diseases in future generations.
JScreen embodies the Jewish value of chochma, wisdom, through both educational resources and by empowering individuals to have as much knowledge of their health, especially for those thinking about having biological children. There’s a verse in the Torah that instructs us to take care and safeguard our health. In essence, we should be wise and proactively care for ourselves, and for those who might come after. There’s a lot we all do for “self-care.” For myself, it’s going to the gym, taking vitamins, and Shabbat dinner. At JScreen, we invite you to think about genetic testing as a piece of your self-care checklist.
It’s a simple process. With an at-home saliva test, JScreen makes it easy to get screened for over 200 diseases, including those more common in people with Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jewish ancestry. It also tests for others common in people from all genetic backgrounds. Testing for Jewish genetic diseases is relevant to anyone who has (or might have) at least one Jewish biological grandparent. If two people are thinking about children, even if one person has a genetic connection to Judaism, it’s essential to get tested. Regardless of your relationship status, it’s important to get screened before starting or expanding your family. Knowledge is power.
The Shabbat table is the perfect space to reflect and connect, it can also be a platform for sharing and imparting chochma, wisdom. And just like the practice of Shabbat, sharing about JScreen has the capacity to change someone’s life.
If you’re interested in hosting your own Genetics themed Shabbat, connect with JScreen at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Hillary Kener is the Director of National Outreach for JScreen and has been with the program since its inception in 2013. Born and raised in South Florida, Hillary is energetically creating awareness for this important initiative around the country.