A Young Couple Tests Compatibility

Engaged Pair Wants To Know Their Risk Factors

The Proposal: Jeremy Lichtman and Simi Lampert commit to each other in Central Park, before learning their genetic test results.
Emily Levine
The Proposal: Jeremy Lichtman and Simi Lampert commit to each other in Central Park, before learning their genetic test results.

By Simi Lampert

Published August 13, 2012, issue of August 17, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The night Jeremy made me a raft and a river out of cardboard was when I first told him I loved him. By the time he proposed to me — after a scavenger hunt through New York City, on a boat in Central Park — we already knew we were going to get married. Like so many Modern Orthodox couples, we had started discussing the future fairly early in our relationship. In fact, having been unofficially engaged for two months, we had already looked at halls and chosen a band.

Most important, by the time we told the world of our engagement, Jeremy and I had also debated genetic testing and were going through an anxious eight weeks awaiting our results.

As Ashkenazi Jews at elevated risk for passing on a gamut of dreaded disease to our children, including Tay-Sachs carriers in Jeremy’s family, there was no question about getting screened. But from the perspective of the most traditional Orthodox communities, our relationship of four months had gone on much longer than it should have before learning about our genetic compatibility.

Because many Orthodox couples meet through matchmakers, the individuals can prevent genetic incompatibility — and a possibly heart-wrenching end to a relationship — simply by never dating anyone who carries the same recessive disorder.

That’s why an unusually secretive genetic screening organization, Dor Yeshorim, which works within the shidduch system of the Orthodox world, was established in the 1980s.

The idea of Dor Yeshorim — literally, “upright generations” — is to prevent genetic disorders within the Jewish community in a way that carriers don’t feel stigmatized.

Each client is tested and issued a personal identification number (PIN). When a couple wants to check their compatibility, they call with their respective PINs. Within two days, the organization, based in Brooklyn and with offices in Israel and England, will check if both individuals are carriers of the same recessive gene and report only whether the pair is genetically compatible — or not. It will not, however, reveal the genetic details of the results.

Thus, those who use Dor Yeshorim will not be told whether they are carriers of any of the 10 common Ashkenazic diseases that Dor Yeshorim tests for.

On the other hand, their marriage chances will not be thwarted by anyone learning that information. The individual will simply know who they should or should not marry.

Five years ago, when I was in 12th grade at Yeshiva of Greater Washington, an Orthodox school in Silver Spring, Md., my high school brought in Dor Yeshorim to test our senior class and, ostensibly, help us in the quest for the marriage we would all presumably be pursuing in the very near future. I sat in my school’s one-room library and got my blood drawn along with my classmates, then was assigned a PIN associated with my results.

My fiancé made it clear that he wanted no part of that system. Jeremy doesn’t think Dor Yeshorim works for our circle of Modern Orthodoxy, and I agree: Knowledge is too highly valued and genetic health too strongly stressed for our genetic makeup to be kept secret from us.

Others also have been critical of Dor Yeshorim, even from within other circles of Orthodoxy. Some believe it does not test for enough diseases — it currently tests for 10 diseases for which Jews are more likely to be carriers of recessive genes. Other genetic services test for 18 such diseases.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a leading Modern Orthodox rabbi at Yeshiva University, said in a recent interview with me: “I believe Dor Yeshorim has no function right now.” While he commended them on their “one contribution,” namely, making the ultra-Orthodox community aware of the need for genetic testing, Rabbi Tendler said their job is done. He pointed to their practice of anonymity, which he believes is “medically unethical.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.