Jewish Women Call Angelina Jolie Inspiration for Breast Cancer Surgery

Brings Star Power to BRCA Gene Mutation Fight

Star Power: Breast cancer advocates hailed Angelina Jolie for openly discussing her decision to undergo a double mastectomy.
getty images
Star Power: Breast cancer advocates hailed Angelina Jolie for openly discussing her decision to undergo a double mastectomy.

By Anne Cohen

Published May 15, 2013, issue of May 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Joanna Rudnick was sitting in bed recovering from undergoing a double mastectomy when she read that Angelina Jolie had undergone the exact same procedure.

The Hollywood superstar shocked the world by revealing that she had decided to have the surgery after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, which is unusually common among Ashkenazi Jews.

Lisa Schlager
Lisa Schlager

“I had tears in my eyes,” said Rudnick, whose 2008 documentary, “In the Family,” gives an account of her efforts IN dealing with difficult decisions after testing positive for the gene at age 27. “She is going to save so many lives. I’m farklempt.”

Lisa Schlager, an official with FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, an organization that seeks to promote awareness of hereditary cancers, agreed.

“We’re excited that she had the guts to come out with it and that she’s sharing about her experience. This is going to bring the issue out of the closet because people don’t want to talk about hereditary cancer,” she said. “Women feel stigmatized when they’re facing these decisions, and Jolie’s outward exposure is going to make it a little more acceptable and raise awareness about this important issue. “

Schlager and Rudnick, like thousands of Jewish women, have a huge stake in the issue. Ashkenazi Jews are much more likely than the general population to carry the BRCA mutation. The wrenching choice faced by 37-year-old Jolie is therefore much more common among Jewish families than it is in other Americans — and her decision to go public could potentially save many Jewish women’s lives.

Jolie, whose mother died of cancer at age 56, disclosed that doctors had estimated that she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer and a 50% chance of developing ovarian cancer.

“Once I knew this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy,” she wrote.


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!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • 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.