CJG Blog

Center for Jewish Genetics blog

Meet Jess, the Sarnoff Center's Project Coordinator

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I am thrilled to be joining the Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics as their Project Coordinator. I started my career with JUF in 2018 with the Professionals Network in the Campaign Division. I’m originally from Evanston but am moving to the Andersonville/Uptown neighborhood! I graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a major in Sociology and minor in Human Sexuality and Reproductive Health. I’m incredibly passionate about equitable and accessible health education and cannot wait to participate in the wonderful work the Community Outreach and Engagement team does. In my free time I love spending time outside with my pups, eating my way through various Chicago neighborhoods, and finding the best coffee shops! 

Honoring My Family Legacy & Health History with Thanksgiving Travel

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ArianaBy Ariana Roman

Growing up, my family often took an unconventional approach to celebrating Thanksgiving. Whether we were traveling to Puerto Rico to visit extended family or cooking everything except turkey, Thanksgiving was always a favorite holiday of mine. 

Following the passing of my grandfather, my mom and I switched up our typical Turkey Day festivities. We realized that vacationing over the holiday weekend was a great way to fill our travel itch and tap into our roots. One of our most memorable trips was in 2016 when we visited Madrid, Spain. 

As a child, I visited Madrid, Barcelona, and Malaga; I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to travel back to Madrid as an adult. My mom and I went food-market hopping to places like the Mercado de San Miguel; strolled through the Parque del Buen Retiro; attended a fútbol game at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium; and made friends with the owner of Casa Lucio’s, a rustic Spanish restaurant.  

Although I missed being with my family for our typical gathering, it felt refreshing to go off the beaten path. I learned you don’t need to be close to home to give thanks to your family members but can honor their legacy by exploring sites abroad in their absence. Once it is safe to travel abroad again, I look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving in the Basque countryside of Spain, as my mom and I recently learned that most of our Puerto Rican ancestors moved to the island in the early 1700s from the Basque region. 

There’s also an important aspect of family history that tourism won’t help uncover family health.. My family is aware of our history with multiple sclerosis., A discussion about family cultural history lends itself nicely to a new conversation focusing on our shared health history.  

Thanksgiving is all about celebrating family, no matter where you are. This week, take time to reflect on your family health history as well. Discuss your health history, ask questions of other family members, compare anecdotes, and, ultimately, share this information with your healthcare provider and promote your relatives to do the same. Hopefully, these talks will help to keep us grateful for our health in years to come. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Affordable, Accessible Genetic Screening in Illinois

Our affordable, accessible carrier screening program uses advanced technology to provide comprehensive screening for Jewish and interfaith couples. Visit our Get Screened page to learn more and register.


Planning for a Family?

1 in 4 Jews carries a potentially devastating genetic disorder that could pass down to a child. Make carrier screening part of your family planning process. 


Do You Know What's In Your Genes?

What is the most valuable gift you can give to your family? The gift of good health! There are many health conditions that run in families. Knowing your family health history can alert you to the potential risk for a variety of genetic disorders . Talk to your relatives for warning signs and assess your risk for hereditary cancers.

Did you know: Ashkenazi Jews are 10 TIMES more likely to have BRCA mutations, which significantly increases lifetime risks for hereditary cancers, so what does this heightened risk mean for you? Click here to learn more .