After actress Angelina Jolie announced her decision to have a double mastectomy back in May, it didn’t take long for synagogues and Shabbat tables in the Jewish community to buzz with a new conversation.
Her choice to have her breasts surgically removed touched a raw nerve within the community: while one in every 800 individuals is susceptible to the BRCA breast cancer gene, one in 40 Ashkenazi Jews test positive for it.
Jolie had tested positive for the BRCA1 gene, a genetic mutation with an 87% risk of leading to breast cancer, and a 50% risk of developing ovarian cancer. Since her family had a history of breast cancer, with her mother losing the battle at the age of 56, she made the difficult decision to minimize the risk.
The sudden awareness of the Jewish genetic makeup now has the community wondering if they, too, should get tested, and, if tested positive, what are some of the decisions they might have to face.
The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, a Chabad-affiliated Brooklyn-based adult program for continuing education, aims to bring answers to some of those questions. Starting Sunday, October 27, JLI is launching a new education program in 362 neighborhoods around the world discussing Jewish medical ethics.
The first of the six-week course will tackle the issues surrounding the BRCA gene: addressing the heightened risks of inherited breast and ovarian cancer within the Jewish community and discussing the religious obligations behind screening for mutations and seeking preventative measures.
Read more at The Forward.