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Talking Pink with Sharsheret's Founder

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Update: It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Rochelle, who passed away Saturday, May 30, 2015. May her memory—and the invaluable legacy she leaves behind—be a blessing.

Rochelle Shoretz is a ROI Community member and a two-time breast cancer survivor. In November 2001, while undergoing chemotherapy treatment, Rochelle founded Sharsheret, a national not-for-profit organization providing support and resources for young Jewish women facing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Sharsheret is partnering with NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation in a Pink Shabbat initiative taking place Oct.25-26. 

What do you hope to impact through your work?

Although Jewish men and women are 10 times more likely to carry a gene mutation that triggers hereditary cancers, I remember a time when having breast cancer was still an unspoken malady within the community—a topic enshrouded in secrecy. Since 2001, Sharsheret has given a voice and a face to breast cancer, to support young Jewish women and their families and to put hereditary cancer on the Jewish communal agenda. Through our work in the years ahead, Sharsheret will support thousands of Jewish women and families at risk of, or facing, a breast or ovarian cancer diagnosis and will educate the next generation about the need for culturally relevant and Jewishly infused healthcare services.  

Can you share a great moment from your work that exemplifies the change you're looking to make?

Since Sharsheret’s founding in 2001, we have responded time and again to the question, “What is Jewish about breast cancer?” A passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 identified that Ashkenazi Jewish women were at higher risk of certain breast cancers—a true milestone for our work. Just a few years later, I was appointed to the Federal Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women, and currently chair the Advisory Committee’s High Risk Workgroup to help shape messaging to high risk young women, including those in the Ashkenazi Jewish community with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. We now have a “seat at the table” and the notion of what is Jewish about breast cancer has become a national conversation.

Who inspires your work?

I am inspired every day by the women and families Sharsheret is blessed to serve. Whether they are at risk of cancer, in the midst of treatment or transitioning to survivorship, the fortitude and determination I experience through those who connect to Sharsheret is the greatest inspiration I could ask for. In my personal life, the friends and family who surround me with love and encouragement—particularly my two sons, Shlomo and Dovid—inspire me to continue Sharsheret’s critical work.

How has the ROI Community supported your personal and professional growth?

I came back to the United States from my ROI program in Israel with a notebook brimming with ideas. The sessions I attended were stellar, and many of the men and women with whom I had the chance to spend the week became integral colleagues. It is invaluable to have a network of likeminded change-makers with whom I can share thoughts, entertain collaborations and build programming. I look forward to each networking opportunity that ROI offers and feel grateful to be a part of the larger international effort to build and enhance our Jewish community.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.