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Remembering Rochelle: Founder of Jewish Breast Cancer Support Group Dies at Age 42

Remembering Rochelle: Founder of Jewish Breast Cancer Support Group Dies at Age 42

Shortly after I tested positive for a BRCA gene mutation in 2010, I received a large envelope in the mail. In addition to the note scribbled by the friend who’d sent it, the envelope contained all the printed material – brochures, postcards, checklists, and more – that she’d picked up at a recent meeting of Sharsheret, the national breast cancer support organization founded by Rochelle Shoretz after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 28.

I was glad to have it.

Filling a unique niche, Sharsheret “offers a community of support to women of all Jewish backgrounds diagnosed with breast cancer or at increased genetic risk, by fostering culturally-relevant individualized connections with networks of peers, health professionals, and related resources.” In the 14 years since Rochelle founded the organization, Sharsheret has answered more than 45,000 inquiries about breast cancer, involved more than 4,000 peer supporters in its work, and presented 250+ educational programs to groups across the country. 

Sadly, despite surviving two bouts of breast cancer, Rochelle succumbed to its complications last weekend at 42 age. Her death leaves a tremendous void in her family, as well as within the breast cancer support and advocacy world. 

We are lucky that she leaves us Sharsheret, an exceptional organization that stands as a fitting tribute to her dedication, energy, passion, and drive on behalf of Jewish women with breast cancer or at increased risk of the disease.

You can honor Rochelle’s memory and incredible legacy by:

  1. Scheduling your annual mammogram if you’re at least 40 years old and haven’t had one in the last year. Even if you don’t need one, encourage others to schedule theirs. 
  2. Learning to do a breast self-exam and then doing one every month.
  3. Learning the possible signs of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome, which include a family member with:
  • Ovarian or fallopian tube cancer at any age
  • Breast cancer before age 50
  • Breast cancer in both breasts at any age
  • Both breast and ovarian cancer
  • Triple negative breast cancer
  • Male breast cancer

Other signs of HBOC syndrome include more than one relative on the same side of the family with any of these cancers:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian or fallopian tube cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer

Rest in peace, Rochelle.  Your work and your life are truly a blessing. 

Jane E. Herman, a.k.a. JanetheWriter, a longtime writer and editor at the Union for Reform Judaism is now a senior writer at JCC Association of North America and blogs at JanetheWriter Writes. She grew up at Temple Emanu-El in Edison, NJ, and currently belongs to Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City. 

Jane E. Herman
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