When Rachel Wojnilower was an undergraduate at American University in Washington, D.C., she did all kinds of activities with her Jewish sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi. Now 36, Wojnilower has let most of them fade from memory.
But in retrospect, one in particular stands out.
That’s because about five years after graduating, Wojnilower got married and underwent genetic testing along with her husband as they both prepared for future children. They were surprised when they each tested positive as carriers of a potentially dangerous mutation, and even more so when Wojnilower learned, after additional testing, that she also carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene.
Such mutations, which are 10 times more common among Ashkenazi Jewish men and women than among the general U.S. population, significantly elevate the risks for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and also increase the risks for melanoma, pancreatic and prostate cancers.
Without any intervention, there was a 50-50 chance that the couple would pass down this dangerous mutation to their children. Wojnilower didn’t know what to do.
“As you can imagine, my stress and anxiety levels were through the roof,” Wojnilower recalled. “I didn’t know a single person who had ever gone through this before.”
Then she remembered one of the volunteer opportunities she had done with Alpha Epsilon Phi: a fundraising drive for Sharsheret, the national Jewish breast cancer and ovarian cancer organization.
Wojnilower reached out to Sharsheret and spoke to one of organization’s social workers, who explained more about the mutation and what measures she could take to protect her health and that of her future children. The social worker connected Wojnilower with a trained peer supporter — another young woman who had had a very similar experience.
Ultimately, Wojnilower and her husband decided to pursue pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) — a cutting-edge procedure used with in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to screen embryos. This enabled them to identify which embryos were lower-risk and thereby reduce the chances of passing on the BRCA mutation.
Wojnilower has since given birth to two healthy children, both free of the genetic mutations that she and her husband carry.
“That’s really the essence of what we do at Sharsheret, which is Hebrew for the word chain. We are connecting women, families, and communities to each other and to life-changing and, quite frankly, lifesaving resources,” said Jordana Altman, Sharsheret’s director of marketing and communications. “Whatever the issue may be, you’re not alone, and we have skilled trained professionals and a community of thousands who together form a chain of support and information.”
In the years since Wojnilower was a student, Sharsheret has expanded its activities on college campuses and in Jewish day schools much more widely. One centerpiece of Sharsheret’s activities on campus is Sharsheret Pink Day — an annual day in February dedicated to the cause during which students and faculty dress in pink and undertake other activities to raise awareness of the risks for breast cancer and ovarian cancer as well as Sharsheret’s critical support programs.
The goal of Pink Day is to engage young people to participate in activities that they will remember later in life so that when one of them confronts a cancer-related challenge or helps someone who is, they’ll remember the resources Sharsheret offers. This year, Sharsheret hosted Pink Day activities around the United States at college campuses, Jewish high schools and day schools.
“We are planting seeds about Sharsheret,” said Ellen Kleinhaus, Sharsheret’s regional director of education and outreach. “While today you may only need Sharsheret to better understand your risk, you or someone you love will need Sharsheret for support in the future. There isn’t a family or a community out there that is not touched by breast cancer or ovarian cancer.”
Pink Day’s origins can be traced to 2006, when a New Jersey Jewish high school organized a dedicated day for students to support Sharsheret by wearing pink and sharing resources with their parents.
“It was such a memorable part of my high school experience,” said Tzvi Solomon, one of the students who initiated Sharsheret Pink Day. “People really rallied around it.”
Solomon was so inspired by the event that when he went to Israel for his gap year, he asked peers in the United States and Israel to bring Pink Day to their schools. Now an international initiative, the program engages thousands of participants at more than 150 schools and companies globally.
“I think it’s a reflection of our community being sensitive and recognizing the importance of having an organization like Sharsheret,” said Solomon, whose young son wore a pink shirt to school on this year’s Sharsheret Pink Day.
Amanda Goldsmith, 28, has been involved with Sharsheret since her Jewish day school hosted a Pink Day. Years later, while attending New York University, Goldsmith remembered Sharsheret when her parents called her one morning to inform her that her mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Goldsmith immediately turned to Sharsheret for help and information, and she referred her mother to the organization’s peer support network.
During her mother’s treatment, Goldsmith vowed that once her mother was cancer free she’d start an initiative to get college students in New York City more involved with Sharsheret. She ended up establishing a local student board for the organization in New York City.
On Sharsheret Pink Day last year, Goldsmith, a human resource professional, implemented Wear Pink at Work, where her colleagues gave a $5 donation to Sharsheret and wore pink to the office. Her family also established a new Sharsheret program for young adults called YAD: The Young Adult Corner, which helps young adults understand their loved ones’ diagnoses, provides peer support and manages a website about cancer for young adults.
“It’s really just about spreading Sharsheret’s mission because they do so much good for so many people,” said Goldsmith, whose mother is now cancer free. “Pink Day might seem like something relatively small, but it’s hugely important.”
To learn more about Sharsheret, YAD: Young ADult Caring Corner or Sharsheret Pink Day 2024, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post How one special Pink Day helps save and support cancer patients appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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