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September 18, 1992 - Image 74

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-09-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Roy Ivo - Your Health 'free Can Be Lifesaver
B 14


Knowing your family health
history could save your life.
Researchers are now studying
family trees to get to the root of
genetic diseases.
The value of family medical
histories is evident for anyone who
has visited a physician or been
confined in a hospital. The
questions asked immediately after
"what's bothering you?" are if your
parents are alive or deceased; if the
latter, what was the cause of death,
followed by questions about the
health of brothers and sisters. The
cause of death or illness of
grandparents is often asked as well.
If the roots of your family tree
are diseased with such common
problems as heart disease, strokes,
high blood pressure, cancer,
glaucoma, or diabetes, it may be
possible for you to take steps to
postpone getting the disease or
maybe preventing it.
By researching your family
health tree, you can provide your
family with a medical genealogy
containing important information
about the health history of your
Many genetic disorders are
found to a greater extent among
members of certain ethnic groups
than in the general population.
Fortunately, most genetic diseases
are extremely rare. However, there
are a few that occur in high
frequency to be of concern, and
there are inexpensive and effective
tests to determine whether you are
a carrier.
As part of its continuing effort
to educate the public, the National
Foundation for Jewish Genetic
Diseases, Inc. distributes an
informative pamphlet describing
seven diseases affecting Ashkenazi
Jews. The foundation raises funds
to disseminate information and
sponsor medical research, symposia
and publications.
For a free copy of the pamphlet
and for information on the activities
of the NFJGD, write to 250 Park
Avenue #1000, New York, NY 10017.
Tay-Sachs disease is the most
well-known Jewish genetic disease,
afflicting about one in every 2,500
Ashkenazi Jewish babies. This
disease is characterized by the
onset of severe mental and
developmental retardation during the
early stages of development of a
baby or child. It will kill its victim
before his or her fifth birthday.
Families affected by Tay-Sachs
disease may wish to contact: Tay-



Sachs Prevention Program, Thomas
Jefferson University, Philadelphia,
PA 19107, (215) 928-8320, or the
National Tay-Sachs and Allied
Disease's Association, 385 Elliot St.,
Newton, MA 02164, (617) 964-5508.
Genealogists accumulate data
about family members from U.S.
censuses. Census records from
1850 to 1910 have columns of
information pertaining to the
physical or mental condition of
individuals such as deaf, dumb,
blind, insane or idiotic. The 1880
census also has a column indicating
any sickness or disability and
whether the person was maimed,
crippled, bedridden or disabled.
In compiling a medical family
tree chart, the 1860-1885 mortality
schedules can be valuable. These
schedules list those who died
during the 12 months prior to the
census (June 1 through May 31 of
1849, 1859, 1869, 1879, and 1885).

Locating these records can be worth
the effort. They provide name, age,
place of birth, profession,
occupation or trade, cause of death
and length of illness.
Both census and mortality
schedules can be found at the
National Archives in Washington,
D.C., or in its regional branches
throughout the country.
The March of Dimes provides a
family health tree chart. It has
places to indicate date of birth,
occupation, significant medical
conditions or disorders, health-
related habits such as smoking and
drinking, cause and age of death of
family members. To obtain a free
Family Health Tree chart, Genetic
Counseling booklet, and Family
Medical Record/Health History,
contact your local chapter of the
March of Dimes.
Compiling a medical genealogy
is a good project for grandparents

whose personal knowledge of the
family's health history usually spans
five generatitons — reaching back
to their own grandparents and
extending to their grandchildren.
The benefits of tracing your
family health tree can extend far
beyond the medical knowledge
gained. It is a good family project.
The hours spent looking through old
records and jogging family
memories can help build a strong
feeling of family satisfaction and
Most importantly, it will give
your descendants something
precious that may make a difference
in their lives. It is a legacy money
cannot buy.

Miriam Weiner is a certified
genealogist. She can be contacted
at 136 Sandpiper Key, Secaucus,
N.Y. 07094.

It Happens At Midnight .


Writing about what American
Jewish families do for Selichot is
similar to writing about what they do
for Lag B'Omer or Maimunah.
Certainly there are those who have
family customs that are very rich
with meaning. But these are not
holidays that have captured the
imagination of most American Jews.
They are not perceived to have the
impact of a Pesach or a Purim. By
arriving only four to 11 days prior to
the cycle of the High Holy Days —
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur,
Sukkot, and Simchat Torah (there
are also Shemini Atzeret and
Hoshanah Rabbah which also suffer
identity crises due to their
association with Sukkot ) — it's not
hard to see how Selichot sometimes
gets lost in the shuffle.
Selichot is a part of the Yamim
Nora'im, the Days of Awe, which
begin on the first day of the Hebrew
month of Elul — one full month
before Rosh Hashanah. It is a
custom of long standing to blow the
shofar each day in Elul after the
Shacharit (morning) service, except
on Shabbat and the day before
Rosh Hashanah.
The letters of the month of Elul:
Aleph Lamed Vav Lamed have been
interpreted by some as an anagram
for Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li — "I am my
beloved's and my beloved is mine."
Some take this to mean that the
month of Elul is a courtship
between God and the Families-of-

Israel. If the destruction of Tisha
B'Av represents an estrangement
between God and Israel, Elul is the
courtship which is consummated at
Rosh Hashanah, with its themes of
rebirth and renewal.
Selichot are the crescendo of
that courtship, the transitional
moments. Selichot are literally
penitential prayers: we are telling
God (and ourselves) that we are
sorry and are asking forgiveness for
all of our misdeeds and for each
time we fell short of the mark during
the year.
It has become minhag (custom)
to begin reciting Selichot at
midnight the Saturday night before
Rosh Hashanah. If Rosh Hashanah
falls on a Sunday through Tuesday,
Selichot begin the week previous.
This is so that we will have at least
four days of this final preparation for
the New Year.
The central prayer, which is
repeated many times during the
Selichot service is taken from
Sh'mot (Exodus) 24.6-7, and
mentions merciful attributes of God.
When I was growing up in
Chicago, I was barely cognizant of
Selichot. Until I was in high school,
I wasn't even interested in attending
another service — especially with
the Rosh Hashanah and Yom
Kippur marathons looming in the
near future. Then, in my junior year,
I joined the temple choir. I was
familiar with the High Holy Day
tunes, but the cantor started us out

on the Selichot, and they were new
to me.
I think my perception of the
Yamim Nora'im as a larger cycle —
rather than as two lo-o-ong holidays
— began at this point. The words of
the prayers we were singing made
me think about myself and my
deeds of the last year in a way that •
was different from my experiences
of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The Selichot caught me off
guard that year.
That year, my family and I had
dinner together on Saturday night.
This was an unusual occurrence
itself. Saturday was the night
everyone went out with friends. We
went to temple and the rabbi and
educator led a variety of study
sessions until it was time to begin
the service. At midnight we began.
My most vivid memory of that
experience was not of the Selichot
service, but of the Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur services. I paid
more attention to the words of the
prayers and what they meant to me.
It was in that year that I began to
really understand what it means to
do T'shuvah
to return. During
Selichot we say we're sorry and we
say please forgive us. That year,
after the chagim were over, I said
thank you.

Ira Wise is temple educator at
Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park and
author of several books for Jewish

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