Jews' 'Ethnic' Category Scrapped for Testing

Jews should no longer be categorized by their ethnic origin when being tested for hereditary conditions, says the Health Ministry. The mixing of Jewish communities - mixed heritage - has rendered such categorization pointless, the ministry’s community genetics department says.

Because of the proliferation of “mixed marriages” between Jewish communities, as well as technological advances, a single set of tests for all Jews would do the trick, the ministry advises.

Genetic analysis institutes in health-care organizations and hospitals offer Jewish couples (typically trying to become pregnant) a series of genetic screening tests, looking for genes coding hereditary diseases such as Tay-Sachs. Which tests exactly each couple undergoes is based upon the ethnic category of each partner. For instance, Ashkenazi Jews are typically tested for Tay-Sachs, while Sephardic couples might not undergo such tests.

The Health Ministry recommends halting the practice of basing specific tests based on ethnicity, and to standardize genetic tests, which would be applied uniformly to all Jews.

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