Israeli NGOs join the world’s largest breast cancer organization to fight breast cancer with a series of events in October.
A week of events in mid October will launch the Israel Breast Cancer Collaborative, a major partnership between Susan G. Komen for the Cure and non-governmental organizations in Israel. The goal is to enhance advocacy, awareness, screening, and treatment of breast cancer.
This inaugural initiative by the world’s largest breast cancer organization has been in the planning for more than a year with the City of Jerusalem, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and Israeli health advocates and scientists.
“In terms of research and development, Israel is in the top five countries in the world – medically way more advanced than any other country,” event coordinator Rena Riger informs ISRAEL21c. “If it is caught and treated early, the breast cancer survival rate in Israel is 92 percent.”
At the same time, breast cancer in Israel remains the most common form of women’s cancers, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all new cancer cases in the country. About 4,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in Israel each year, and the age of detection is dropping.
Israelis at higher risk for breast cancer
Riger says that Israel’s population, though relatively small, includes both women and men at genetically high risk for the disease due to damaged BRCA genes that ordinarily suppress tumors. These mutations are carried by one out of 400 people in the world, but for Jews of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) descent, it’s one out of 40.
Komen awarded its first international research grant to Israel 16 years ago. It has provided nearly $2 million to Israeli institutions including the Weizmann Institute of Science and Hebrew University-Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, as well as service organizations such as Beit Natan, a support organization for the ultra-Orthodox community, and Life’s Door, which helps with the spiritual, emotional, and interpersonal needs of those facing serious disease.
“We have enjoyed longstanding friendships and productive collaborations in Israel,” says Komen founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker, a Jewish American who named the organization in memory of her sister Susan.
The Israel Breast Cancer Collaborative aims to continue Komen’s long-standing partnerships in Israel and around the world with organizations such as the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. It also aims to forge new collaborations with organizations including the Israel Cancer Association. The effort is co-chaired by US Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, with former Ambassador to the Bahamas Ned L. Siegel and his wife, Komen Advocacy Alliance board member Stephanie Siegel.
Race round the Old City
The centerpiece of the October events will be the first Susan G. Komen Israel Race for the Cure, to take place October 28 around the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
“Nothing like this has ever been done in Israel,” says Riger. “We’re hoping to get 10,000 people to Jerusalem of all shapes, sizes, colors, and religious denominations.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, a long-distance runner, helped map out the route of the race, which is actually a non-competitive fund-raising and awareness-raising walk. The event will be covered live by Jennifer Griffin of Fox News, a breast cancer survivor who was based in Israel for several years, as well as the Christian Broadcasting Network.
An opener at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book – to be bathed in pink light for the occasion – will afford about 50 high-level donor Komen Ambassadors from around the world a chance to meet Israeli “movers and shakers” such as fashion designer Dorin Frankfurt, the honorary race chairwoman. On October. 27, US Ambassador James B. Cunningham and his wife will welcome delegates and sponsors at their home.
“Still far more work to do”
“Komen is providing opportunities to participate in this historic trip as a delegate at several levels,” Riger relates. Partner organizations in North America and Great Britain are recruiting participants along with Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization. “With our Virtual Israel Participant [VIP] program, you can contribute to sponsor a runner or contribute generally if you are unable to attend.”
“From our decades of work in Israel and in our outreach in other countries, we know that there is far more work to do to address this critical threat to women’s health,” says Hadassah president Nancy Falchuk. “We are looking forward to adding the energy of 300,000 Hadassah members worldwide behind this important and life-saving effort.”
As part of the October 25-29 initiative, an invitation-only think tank on early detection is to convene at the Weizmann Institute. About a dozen Israeli and global experts are charged with exploring new screening methods for women’s cancers and issuing a white paper concerning a major research project.
A variety of national women’s and health organizations are also participating. For example, Beit Natan will sponsor a Day of Women’s Health at Jerusalem’s National Convention Center for its target population. In addition, the international Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life will run programs for students on women’s health.
To register as an actual or virtual participant or to donate to the Israel effort, go to komen.org/Israel.