A genetic test for Tay-Sachs revealed surprising results—and helped my husband and me discover what Judaism means to us
By Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Tay-Sachs. His being tested was a formality for us as Jewish prospective parents. We didn’t take it seriously because we didn’t have anything to worry about: Matt had been born and raised Catholic in a rural town in northeastern Pennsylvania. He converted to Judaism before we got married two and a half years before. He had told me that loving me meant loving everything about me, including my Judaism. He had told my parents that he felt a resonance in Judaism that he had never found in Catholicism. He had told our rabbi that he felt personally committed to helping ensure that there would be future generations of Jews in the world, to parent and raise Jewish children of his own. And yet Matt’s commitment to his new faith didn’t alter the statistical improbability of his being a Tay-Sachs carrier.
Which is why we were shocked, stunned, speechless when we learned that he was a carrier. Not just because of what that test result meant for our efforts to have children, but because of what it meant beyond that: My husband, the Jew-by-choice, had been Jewish all along. Genes don’t lie; a genetic counselor told us that Matt had, without a doubt, a specifically Ashkenazic version of the mutation that causes Tay-Sachs.
The news was explosive, but also revelatory. While my husband found himself obsessed with discovering the origins of this long-buried family secret and strangely comforted by a new feeling of understanding with his connection to Judaism, I felt like I was, in many ways, meeting my husband, and my own sense of my faith, all over again.