A Rabbi’s Perspective

September 11, 2016

by Rabbi Sarah Freidson


Gina died when I was a junior in high school. She was just fourteen years old and had such a positive and upbeat attitude, despite facing major health issues caused by Familial Dysautonomia, a Jewish genetic disease. She was my friend Scott’s younger sister, and she loved hanging out with us “big kids.” We liked being with her, too, with her sunny disposition and sweet personality. Gina brought joy with her wherever she went.

Gina’s passing was the first time I attended a funeral and shiva for a young person. I’ll never forget how difficult it was to try to comfort my friend and his family in the face of their unspeakable loss. What do you say when a fourteen-year-old dies?

Fast forward nearly fifteen years, to the first time I counseled a couple before being the Rabbi officiating their wedding. Amidst discussions about the ceremony and their hopes and expectations for their marriage, I brought out material about Jewish genetic diseases.  With Gina’s smiling face in mind, I encouraged them to get tested before they started trying to have children. I told them about Gina, about the way I learned about loss at a young age. I described her family’s heartbreak. I tell every couple I marry about Gina and urge them to get tested.

When I was thinking about starting a family, I received testing from JScreen.  I was so grateful to the organization for providing me with peace of mind before embarking on my journey as a parent.  It was so easy, and I knew I was in good hands.



Rabbi Sarah Freidson serves the spiritual, religious, educational, and pastoral needs of Temple Beth Shalom in Mahopac, NY. She believes in the transformative power of relationships and always seeks to connect with others. A gifted teacher and storyteller, she enjoys making Jewish learning accessible to individuals of all backgrounds, levels, and interests. Rabbi Freidson is passionate about Judaism and social justice which she views as inextricably linked. She hopes to use her enthusiasm, skills, and talents to strengthen the Jewish community and to help people live better, holier lives through Torah and Jewish teachings.


Headquartered in Atlanta at Emory University’s Department of Human Genetics, JScreen is a national non-profit offering at-home comprehensive and affordable genetic testing and counseling.

ReproGEN – determines risk for having a child with a genetic disease

CancerGEN – tests for genetic changes that increase risk for many types of cancer

If a person or couples’ risk is elevated, genetic counselors will privately address the results, options and resources to help plan for a healthy future.

JScreen believes that a combination of education, access to state-of-the-art testing technology, and personalized support by qualified medical professionals are key to preventing devastating genetic diseases.