Jewish Genes and Anti-Semitism

Some worry that the discovery of "Jewish" genetic diseases will negatively affect the image and treatment of Jews.

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The important fact is that studying particular genetic defects elucidates particular, often deadly diseases, not that this or that gene “belongs” to a particular population. The more scientists can study the genetic factor in illnesses, the sooner research might lead them to pay less attention to diseases that affect Jews.

The anti-Semites will just find other rationalizations for their hatred. The potential for genetically based discrimination will soon exist for all human individuals and groups, since everyone carries some deleterious genes.

Our task, therefore, is not to argue against research but in favor of legal protection against bigotry and unfairness; not to discourage further studies but to assure broad public understanding and equitable use of their results.

We will continue suffering from “Jewish” genetic diseases, and other people will continue suffering from their own characteristic ailments until science succeeds in finding preventions or cures. Stopping research can hurt us a lot more than any theoretical threat of anti‑Semitism can.

Reprinted with permission from Moment Magazine, December 1997.

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Beryl L. Benderly

Beryl Lieff Benderly writes frequently on scientific and medical subjects. She is the co-author of Her Works Praise Her.