August 7, 2017 Premarital Genetic Testing in Insular Communities
A reader asked: How do insular communities ensure that marriages in their communities are not incestuous?
When I was in 11th grade, at 17, the administration in our Hasidic girls school organized a day for the organization Dor Yeshurim (which Elka Weiss linked to, they do genetic testing) to come down to school. We all had to bring some money, a release and we all stood in line to give a blood sample. We knew it was done to avoid birth defects. We’d heard of families here and there that had several disabled children because the couple wasn’t “compatible”. We didn’t understand the mechanics (we hadn’t had any sex-ed or understanding of how a baby is genetically connected to its father) but no one wanted to have an incompatible marriage.
Then, when at eighteen and three months my parents found me a match, I had not even met my future husband or seen any pictures of him when my parents called in our two Dor Yeshurim numbers. I remember waiting in knots for the office to open so they could give us an answer. Yes would mean I’d get engaged that night, a no would mean the match was off. At 9:15am they called to say that everything was okay. Less than twelve hours later, I was engaged.
One might say more care was taken to insure there were no inbreeding related health issues than that my groom and I were a good fit. Such is that world. Family life is everything.