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European Journal

Belgium: Arranging Marriages by Genetic Testing

Antwerp, Belgium is home to 20,000 Orthodox Jews and is sometimes called the "Jerusalem of the North". This deeply religious community sets great store by modern medicine.

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Chomi and Jossi Weiss have six children and live in Antwerp's Jewish community. But before they were permitted to marry their genes had to be compared -- even after the marriage broker touted them as a perfect match. The two Orthodox Jews wanted a blood test to make sure their children would not have genetically transmitted diseases. Belgium's Orthodox Jews may live very traditionally, but they routinely make use of modern genetic testing. Children in such closed communities are at risk of inheriting a double dose of harmful recessive genes. Orthodox Jews are often carriers of the gene for Tay-Sachs disease.