by Karen Litwack

Dor Yeshorim (DY), a confidential premarital genetic screening program has been in existence for over 30 years and has successfully prevented over 4,700 families from the potential of having children born with a genetic disease.

Constantly seeking to help prevent the birth of affected children in the Jewish community, DY invests heavily in ongoing genetic research to identify disease-causing genetic mutations. Recently, DY began to expand its reach, launching a Sephardic genetic screening initiative that tests for genetic diseases that are commonly found among the Sephardic community. “Many people have the misconception that genetic diseases are something that only affects the Ashkenazic community. Yet, that is not the truth. In recent years, many families from the Sephardic community have begun reaching out to DY for genetic assistance as they too have given birth to children with fatal and debilitating genetic diseases.”[1]

“Dr. Ohad Birk, the head of the Genetics Institute at Soroka Medical Center, located in Be’er Sheva in Israel, believes that the dearth of research done around Sephardic genetic diseases is partially due to the fact that the genetic dynamics of the Sephardim are more complex than those of the Ashkenazim. While Ashkenazim hail from various countries, they are all susceptible to the same genetic diseases. Sephardim however will have different genetic diseases and mutations depending on their country of origin. This adds an additional layer of complexity when setting up a panel for genetic testing.”[2]

It is important to note that certain genetic diseases that are on the Ashkenazi panel can also be found among the Sephardim. There are also genetic diseases found only among the Sephardim. Due to this variability, DY recommends that all Sephardim be screened for genetic diseases whether their partner is Sephardi or Ashkenazi.

Those who joined the Dor Yeshorim program after January 2016 and indicated they were of Sephardic descent were automatically screened for both DY’s Ashkenazic and Sephardic panels. Those who were tested by DY before this time period should call the Dor Yeshorim office to update their information. An additional blood specimen is not needed in most cases.

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Please visit the DY website at  or contact them at 7148-384-6060 or email  for a detailed explanation of their programs and services.