Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Pink Is Jewish

How an unusually tribal concern was made everyone’s

Print Email
Adrian Peterson, rocking the pink.(Adam Bettcher /Getty Images)

The word “Jewish” does not appear in Sunday’s mammoth New York Times profile of Nancy Brinker, the founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which is one of the country’s top groups for any disease. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in observance of which NFL players and coaches wear pink. (Two years ago, the Times story on this concerned Tanya Snyder, the wife of Washington Redskins owner Daniel and a breast cancer survivor.) The article depicts Brinker’s relentless, unapologetic advocacy. “It’s a democratization of a disease,” Brinker says.

“Democratization,” because breast cancer itself is not democratic. Though of course not even close to an exclusively Jewish issue, it is a disproportionately Jewish one. One in 40 women of Ashkenazic descent has a genetic mutation that greatly increases her chance of getting breast cancer, as a result of which Ashkenazic women are subject to stricter screening standards and are disproportionately afflicted with the illness. Susan G. Komen, Brinker’s sister, certainly did not die of breast cancer because she was Jewish, and nor did Brinker get it, too (her sister inspired the foundation but, according to Wikipedia, she herself is a survivor, a fact you don’t find in her official biographies). However, it isn’t pure chance that by far the nation’s leading breast cancer foundation was inspired and founded by two sisters in Illinois born to the name Goodman. (Interestingly, one of the foundation’s most controversial stances is its emphasis on screenings, which many say are unnecessary for much of the population but are more frequently recommended, again, for women of Ashkenazic descent.)

I remember, before my bar mitzvah, our rabbi telling my Hebrew School class that we should not only consider donating a portion of the gifts we would receive to charities, but that we should especially emphasize Jewish charities—because, he said, nobody other than Jews is going to give to them. Brinker, it seems, has happened upon the corollary to this: where a cause affects Jews more than other groups, you can “democratize” the cause and leverage a much larger constituency to help your comparatively small group. It’s a useful lesson, I imagine, for other ethnic groups, and an interesting paradigm through which to view the ways Jews have made other issues of special importance to them—like the Jewish state—relevant to other communities.

Welcome, Fans, to the Pinking of America [NYT]

Print Email
Marc R says:

Yes, she is. Check the last quote in this article:,7340,L-3293448,00.html

One might do some homework on this specific charity (the Susan Komen Foundation) and see how much of their money goes to administrative spending vs actually supporting cancer research and education.
There is also the issue of their catering to large donators (such as Coco Cola) by removing demonstrated carcinogens from their web site.

At Sharsheret, the only national organization dedicated to addressing breast cancer in the Jewish community, we have been highlighting “What’s Jewish About Breast Cancer” since our founding 10 years ago. 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews (comparies to 1 in 345 in the general population) carries a BRCA gene mutation that increases the likelihood of developing breast or ovarian cancer. Our clinical and education programs address these diseases from a Jewish lens: the effect of cancer on fertility, spirituality, and community. Visit to learn more. Whether you a fan or critic of the “pink” movement, breast cancer awareness month – which coincides with the High Holidays this year – is a meaningful time for all of us to reflect of health and wellness.

Cancer is cancer, we should be hoping to find a cause no matter what. Be the organization Jewish or not, this disease turns a blind eye to race and religion.

June Foster says:

I recommend the 2012 book “The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess” “Race, Religion, and DNA” by Jeff Wheelwright, journalist and former LIFE magazine science editor.Breast cancer mutation BRCA1.185delAG found in isolated Spanish Catholic Hispanos in Colorado San Luis Valley,led to cultural history investigation & modern genetics by experts on DNA of Jewish population. Any of us from European and Mediterranean ancestry could possibly carry this mutation. THUS the value of testing.
J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded fellowship and support for this book, ten years in the making.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Pink Is Jewish

How an unusually tribal concern was made everyone’s

More on Tablet:

Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to Resign

By Stephanie Butnick — Will step down at the end of the university’s school year