Dor Yeshorim and the Shidduch Crisis

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You're in high-school, and a team shows up to draw your blood one day. They tell you they're from Dor Yeshorim. Next thing you know, you have a file number on record with their office. Months go by, and you forget about it. Then, the day arrives when your parents force you meet this girl who was arranged for your marriage. You oblige, meet for 20 minutes, and you all leave to go back home.

You are excited, terrified, and anxious. Your parents then call up the Dor Yeshorim office. They provide your file number along with the girl's file number to the secretary. After ten horrendous days, they get a return call from the office. "Mrs. Katz, It's a match!"

This actually means that the two of you together will not have any chance of producing a child with Tay-Sachs disease. It doesn't mean you aren't a carrier. In fact, even if 1 in 25 Ashkenazi Jews are a carrier, Dor Yeshorim will not tell you if you are a carrier. They will simply tell you if the two of you will or will not breed a child with the disease that will kill your child before they are 10 years old. Read more about criticism on Dor Yeshorim’s practices

Tay-Sachs disease is caused by mutations in a gene that codes for a protein that speeds up chemical reactions in the body called hex A. Tay-Sachs is passed on through parents who have mutations in their hex A gene. Prenatal tests such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis can diagnose these diseases before birth, but religious Jews do not abort fetuses with fatal diseases.

The carrier though does not have the illness. However, people who are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are at high risk for being a carrier (1 in 25). Given that the Orthodox and Chassidic groups prefer arranged marriages, the practice narrows the gene pool to an extreme. Genetic testing becomes key to knowing if a couple is a ‘match’ or not.

Ironically, not only Chassidim are at risk. This mutation was also found in the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish group as well as members of the non-Jewish Cajun population in Louisiana (where incest rates are high). You might be tempted to conclude that all these mentioned lifestyles are criminal cults.