When Caroline (Katz) Gold ’92S came to Stern College for Women in 1988, she found a community as warm and friendly as the sunny climate of her native Atlanta, Georgia. Today, that same community continues to support efforts by Gold, and her husband, Randy, to educate others about genetic health.
In 2008, their second child, Eden, was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease called Mucolipidosis Type IV (ML4). The prognosis for children with ML4 is to su.er from a long list of physical and mental disabilities and only live until early adulthood. “In an instant, every dream we had for our daughter was shattered,” she said.
The couple had been tested before their marriage to determine if they were carriers for genetic diseases common in those of Jewish descent, but neither of them was screened for ML4. To help others be appropriately screened for these diseases, in 2010 they created a genetic screening program called JScreen.
In 2016, a partnership with YU helped 1,200 people undergo the testing, an effort that continues to this day through YU Connects, a project of the Center for the Jewish Future, which offers a range of services to foster healthy relationships toward marriage.
JScreen has become a national success by offering “a comprehensive, accessible and affordable genetic screening through a simple saliva test sent through the mail so that every couple knows their results for over 200 genetic diseases affecting the Ashkenazic, Sephardic, Persian and Caucasian populations.”
The Golds have also become catalysts for the ML4 Foundation, whose mission is to develop treatments and a cure for ML4. “We have funded groundbreaking and potentially lifechanging science at institutions like Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Weizmann Institute of Science as well as at other institutions in the United States and Europe.”
In the midst of all this, life in the Gold household goes on. Now 11 years old, Eden attends a school for children with severe special needs. She doesn’t yet stand or talk, and her vision is significantly impaired, “but she is making progress; she is definitely the hardest worker I have ever seen and is absolutely inspiring.”
Most important to Gold, she is raising Eden and her siblings— Natanel, 13, and Shai, 7—to be models of the values she holds dear. For his bar mitzvah celebrated this past May, Natanel asked that in lieu of gifts, guests donate to the ML4 Foundation. Natanel raised over $92,000 for research to benefit his sister and received a standing ovation for his heartfelt bar mitzvah speech. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, nor was there ever a mother so proud of her bar mitzvah boy.