Jews, whose families came from Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Russia and other countries, have a higher frequency of carrying a common set of recessive genes causing distinct disorders. This population is referred to as Ashkenazim. Even if only one grandparent was Jewish, or one parent-to-be is not Jewish, genetic screening is still indicated in this population.
This risk relates to a so-called “Founder Effect” and is due to the many years of living within small isolated populations. All these recessive disorders also occur in the non-Jewish population, however, less frequently.
The Need for Genetic Testing for Interfaith Couples
There is a common misconception that a couple in which one member is not of Jewish heritage need not worry about Jewish genetic diseases. On the contrary, interfaith couples should plan to have carrier screening done prior to pregnancy.
The devastating genetic diseases found more commonly in the Jewish population are not confined to this population; they are found in other ethnic groups as well, although generally less frequently. It is common for the Jewish member of the couple get screened, and if found to be a carrier, the partner is then screened.