Press Release

National Jewish Breast Cancer Organization Responds To Misinformation Regarding Jolie's "Jewish Gene"


Contact:       Elana Silber, Director of Operations
                   Telephone:   (866) 474-2774

Teaneck, New Jersey (May 17, 2013) - Sharsheret, the national organization supporting young Jewish women facing breast cancer, responded today to misinformation about the BRCA1 gene at the heart of celebrity Angelina Jolie's recent decision to opt for a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.  The story garnered worldwide attention after Jolie published an op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday describing her surgery and the genetic predisposition to breast cancer that prompted her decision.  Rochelle Shoretz, Founder and Executive Director of Sharsheret, responded to media descriptions of Jolie's "Jewish gene" in the following statement:

"The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are found in every man and woman, regardless of religious, ethnic, or cultural background. To refer to them as "Jewish genes" misinforms the public, leaving thousands of young women and men who may not be of Jewish descent, or who are uncertain of their family origin as a result of adoption, unaware that they, too, may be at risk of hereditary breast or ovarian cancer.

1 in 40 Jews of Ashkenazi descent carries a mutation in the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene, compared to 1 in 345 men and women in the general population.  Those mutations - not the genes themselves - are at the heart of Ms. Jolie's decision.  Each mutation increases significantly the likelihood that a carrier will develop breast cancer (80-85%), ovarian cancer (40-60%), or related cancers in their lifetimes.  BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations are not solely the concern of women.  Men, too, carry these genes, and may pass mutations down to their children.  All women - and men - should understand their family history of cancer to determine if they may be at increased risk of these mutations, particularly those in the Ashkenazi Jewish community with a strong family history of related cancers.

Ms. Jolie's decision to write about her experience presents a unique opportunity to educate the public about genetic mutations that to date have received little attention.  It is critical to continue that education with accurate and reliable information that will enable thousands of men and women to take appropriate control of their health and make informed decisions.

Sharsheret's genetic counselor and clinical staff are available to answer questions about BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations, genetic counseling, genetic testing, and health options for families at risk of hereditary cancers.  For free services and information available to all women and men regardless of background, contact Sharsheret at 866.474.2774 or visit"

About Sharsheret

Sharsheret, Hebrew for "chain", is a national not-for-profit organization supporting young women and their families, of all Jewish backgrounds, facing breast cancer. Our mission is to offer a community of support to women diagnosed with breast cancer or at increased genetic risk, by fostering culturally-relevant individualized connections with networks of peers, health professionals, and related resources.

Since Sharsheret's founding in 2001, we have responded to more than 25,000 breast cancer inquiries, involved more than 2,000 peer supporters, and presented over 250 educational programs nationwide. Sharsheret supports young Jewish women and families facing breast cancer at every stage - before, during, and after diagnosis. We help women and families connect to our community in the way that feels most comfortable, taking into consideration their stage of life, diagnosis, or treatment, as well as their connection to Judaism. We also provide educational resources, offer specialized support to those facing ovarian cancer or at high risk of developing cancer, and create programs for women and families to improve their quality of life. All Sharsheret's programs are open to all women and men.

Sharsheret offers the following national programs:

The Link Program

  • Peer Support Network, connecting women newly diagnosed or at high risk of developing breast cancer one-on-one with others who share similar diagnoses and experiences
  • EmbraceTM, supporting women living with advanced breast cancer
  • Genetics for Life®, addressing hereditary breast and ovarian cancer
  • Thriving AgainTM, providing individualized support, education, and survivorship plans for young breast cancer survivors
  • Busy Box®, for young parents facing breast cancer
  • Best Face Forward®, addressing the cosmetic side effects of treatment
  • Family Focus®, providing resources and support for caregivers and family members
  • Ovarian Cancer Program, tailored resources and support for young Jewish women and families facing ovarian cancer
  • Sharsheret SupportsTM, developing local support groups and programs

Education and Outreach Programs

  • Health Care Symposia, on issues unique to younger women facing breast cancer
  • Sharsheret on Campus, outreach and education to students on campus
  • Sharsheret Educational Resource Booklet Series, culturally-relevant publications for Jewish women and their families and healthcare professionals