Honeymoon Israel and JScreen have launched a national partnership to give young couples access to genetic screening that helps them plan ahead for healthy families. Honeymoon Israel provides group trips to Israel for couples with at least one Jewish partner and currently runs trips from 16 cities across North America. JScreen is a national nonprofit community-based public health initiative dedicated to education and carrier screening for Jewish and other genetic diseases. The partnership includes a voucher to help subsidize the cost of screening, along with other resources and information for couples.
In announcing this initiative, Karen Arnovitz Grinzaid, Executive Director of JScreen, told eJP: “This partnership will help us offer screening to more interfaith couples and couples who have been less affiliated with Jewish life. Many couples may not realize they are at risk for carrying certain disease genes, regardless of their religious or faith backgrounds. We have a responsibility to make sure that as many people as possible are well-informed about their risks and the importance of testing. ”
Participants on Honeymoon Israel trips will receive a coupon code to help subsidize the cost of screening, to use before or after they return home from their Israel experience. Honeymoon Israel and JScreen will also work together to provide information to young couples who do not qualify for a trip.
“We engage hundreds of young couples every year and offer them an onramp to connect to Jewish life and create Jewish community at home,” says Mike Wise, CEO of Honeymoon Israel. “While approximately 14% of couples participate on Honeymoon Israel after having their first child, the majority of couples are choosing to participate around the beginning stages of family planning. A partnership with JScreen allows us to support couples in another very concrete way by giving them the knowledge they need before choosing to become parents.”
JScreen offers testing for genetic diseases on DNA from saliva samples that can be collected at home and then sent to the testing lab. The program has an expanded screening panel that tests for more than 200 diseases, a significant development from a generation ago. Currently, 80 percent of babies with genetic diseases are born to parents with no known family history of that disease, making screening important for everyone.
JScreen notes that this genetic test is relevant for all couples including those with two Jewish partners, interfaith couples, and same-sex couples. If tests come back with positive results, and a person or couple’s risk is elevated, JScreen provides results via phone or secure video-conference by certified genetic counselors. These experts privately address the results, resources, and options moving forward.