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Remembering Rochelle Shoretz, the Founder of Sharsheret, a Cancer Support Group

‘Every day is a gift’

Jonathan Zalman
June 04, 2015


In 2001, Rochelle Shoretz found a lump on her breast while she was changing into a bathing suit. “The diagnosis,” she said, “was immedate. The doctor said right away, ‘you have breast cancer.’” She underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She was determined, to say the least: During one visit to her oncologist, Shoretz founded a support group for cancer patients called, Sharsheret, or Hebrew for “chain.”

At the time, Shoretz was just 28 years old and “had just finished clerking for Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the United States Supreme Court when she noticed an indentation in one of her breasts,” reported the New York Times. It was stage 2 cancer, and she beat it. But eight years later it came back, and on Sunday, Shoretz, a mother to two young men, died at her home in New Jersey. She was only 42.

“Genetics is a big issue for Jewish women in particular,” Shoretz, an Orthodox Jew, told Fox News in New York in a video published in 2012. “In the general population, one in 345 women carry a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene that could increase the likelihood of developing breast or ovarian cancer by as much as 80 percent. In the Jewish Ashkenazi population, one in 40 women carry a mutation in the gene. A lot of the families who are calling Sharsheret are looking for resources and support for that “Jewish gene” as they call it.”

Shoretz “created a community of support for thousands,” reads a statement released by Sharsheret following her death. “We at Sharsheret have lost our Founder, our leader, our mentor. The Jewish world and the cancer world have lost a true champion of women and their families.”

Here are a few articles in which Shoretz is featured, including a piece by Tablet columnist Marjorie Ingall in 2012, “Breast Cancer Isn’t Just Pink.”

— “Giving While Sick,” in The Forward
— “‘Maybe I’ll Be Able To Dance At A Wedding’,” in The New York Jewish Week
— “Jewish group helps breast cancer victims,” in JTA
— Shoretz’s Twitter page, which highlights many causes, people, and events for which she cared.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.

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