Reform Movement and The Michael J. Fox Foundation Team Up for Study Investigating Genetic Mutations Common in Jews

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism press release

By Max Rosenblum, 03/25/2015

Washington, D.C., March 25, 2015 ?The Reform Jewish Movement is working with The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson?s Research to help drive progress toward a cure through educational events in the Boston, Atlanta and Philadelphia areas. (Research studies show that Jews of Ashkenazi heritage are more likely to carry certain genetic mutations linked to Parkinson?s disease.)

Parkinson?s researchers all over the world are conducting a biomarker study called the Parkinson?s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) and the Union for Reform Judaism is encouraging local congregations to get involved. A biomarker ? such as cholesterol level for heart disease ? are substances, processes or characteristics of the body that communicate disease risk, onset and/or progression. Currently there is no known biomarker for Parkinson?s, and the discovery of one could revolutionize the way we develop new treatments for the disease.

It is easy to get involved. The study is seeking volunteers of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage either who have a Parkinson?s diagnosis or who are a blood relative of someone with the disease. Volunteers will be asked to complete a brief survey to determine if they may be eligible to receive genetic counseling and testing at no cost. Those who have already been genetically tested and have a known LRRK2 or GBA mutation can also inquire to participate in the study.

?This study provides an important opportunity to help potentially stamp out an insidious disease and reflects the Jewish imperative toward pikuach nefesh, the saving of a life,? said Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Director Rabbi Jonah Pesner. ?We?re very proud to partner with MJFF on this effort and to encourage our congregations and congregants in Boston, Atlanta and Philadelphia to participate in the study. It holds out the promise of a healthier future when no one will know the struggle of life with Parkinson?s.?

?We are grateful to the Reform Jewish Movement for getting the word out about the PPMI study to thousands of potential volunteers,? said Vanessa Arnedo, senior associate director of research partnerships at The Michael J. Fox Foundation. ?Without the right clinical trial participants, our efforts to better understand this disease can be delayed. Such information is critical to the development of new therapies and ultimately a cure for the millions of people living with Parkinson?s.?

Parkinson?s research has progressed over the past decade and recent studies have revolutionized how scientists approach a therapy that can slow or stop progression of the disease. Studying people with Parkinson?s and their families is essential to help researchers identify genetic traits that may contribute to this disease. The PPMI genetics survey ( invites participants to be a critical partner in the mission to discover a cure.

For more information on how individuals can participate in this study, start by taking this survey at Congregations that would like to get involved by hosting an educational seminar with a doctor from the PPMI study should contact Isaac Nuell, the RAC?s Manager of Congregational Social Action at


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit for more.

Click here to read the full press release on the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism website.