Expand genetic testing
As the parent of two daughters with Usher Syndrome Type 1F, an Ashkenazi Jewish genetic disease that is carried by approximately two per cent of all Ashkenazi Jews, I am concerned that you omitted mention of this disease (“Why genetic testing matters”).
Usher Syndrome is the leading cause of deaf-blindness, and Usher 1F is the leading cause of deaf-blindness among those who are Jewish. Babies with Usher 1F are born profoundly deaf with impaired balance. During childhood, they begin to lose their vision due to retinitis pigmentosa, first with night blindness followed by loss of peripheral vision with a visual field that continues to narrow until total blindness results during adulthood.
While your article cites progress in Canada since seven Jewish genetic diseases are now part of the standard testing panel, Canada still lags far behind the United States, where 19 diseases are routinely tested for, with testing for an additional 38 diseases also available.
Because it is now possible for young Jewish couples to take steps to avoid having children with these devastating diseases, this is information that should be available to all. Canada needs to step up and improve its testing.
Melissa K. Chaikof, president, Usher 1F Collaborative, Inc.
We have a Judaica gallery
With respect to Evelyn Tauben’s article “What we must rebuild before building a Jewish museum,” I would like to draw your readers’ attention to the presence of a Judaica gallery in Toronto that was not mentioned in the article.
The Dr. Fred Weinberg and Joy Cherry Weinberg Judaica Gallery opened in September 2000 within the prestigious Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto.
My parents, Joy Cherry Weinberg and the late Dr. Fred Weinberg, lifetime collectors, made the deliberate decision to donate their personal European Judaica collection to the ROM, so that visitors of all faiths and backgrounds would have the opportunity to better understand the history of the Jewish People and that this history could be understood in the historical, cultural and artistic context of world culture and history.
In creating the Judaica gallery within the ROM, my parents were the “risk takers, galvanizing leaders, philanthropists and experienced cultural professionals” that Tauben cited as missing from our community.
I recognize Tauben’s call for a national, self-standing Canadian Jewish museum. However, we would be remiss to disregard the foundations that are already in place. I welcome the opportunity to have your readers visit the Judaica gallery at the ROM, where they will find a beautiful collection, exquisitely explained and displayed, right here in our own Canadian backyard.
Hateful speech on campus
I’m a first-year Jewish student at the University of Toronto and a member of Israel on Campus. As part of monitoring this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week, I attended two events.
One speaker at the first event accused “Zios” of controlling Brooklyn’s housing market and denying housing to non-Jews. Most disgustingly of all, she referred to a group of Orthodox Jews she was travelling with as “Ashke-nazis.” There is no doubt that this was intentional and particularly abhorrent. She was applauded by the entire room, including the organizers of the event, at the end of her speech.
At the end of the second event, a questioner asked how “to defeat the Zionist-Jewish conspiracy that controls all the banks and mainstream media.” The speaker was thanked for his question and not censured in any way, again making it difficult to understand how university policies on racial harassment were being upheld at this event.
As galling as these statements may be, what is equally frustrating to me is the administration’s indifference. Since sending a letter to the university several days ago, I have not received a response. It is disheartening that a university with a duty to protect all its students equally would so blatantly ignore any situation in which Jews are the victims.