BRCA. It’s the gene mutation that gives Ashkenazi Jews a higher risk of breast cancer than the general population. But the women’s Zionist organization Hadassah is using three of BRCA’s letters—b, r, a—as a platform to help American women lead healthier lives and become more educated about breast cancer.
Through Hadassah’s The Uplift Project, participants—among them breast cancer survivors and celebrities—decorate bras to draw attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is marked annually in the month of October.
According to Mindy Bloom, Hadassah’s national vice president and The Uplift Project chair, the premise is a familiar one—you learn by doing, touching, and feeling. Involved since the inception of the project in 2014, Bloom says you can hear something all you want, and you can be told something. But to touch it and do it will make a lasting memory.
“By talking about breast cancer, breast cancer research, all the wonderful work that is done by our fantastic researchers at Hadassah hospital [in Jerusalem] and all the major differences it has made to women in the world, this means a lot. But when you put it in their hands and you say, ‘Here, let’s take a bra and decorate it, and let’s tell your story through your decorations,’ this is even better,” Bloom tells JNS.org.
At events of The Uplift Project, she says, participants “start decorating and begin to share their stories, which are amazing. Stories of survival.”
Each bra that is decorated represents thousands of women saved through Hadassah’s breast cancer research and awareness programs. One recent research item posted on the organization’s website describes how Hadassah has done extensive research with the BRCA gene mutation, which significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. It was Hadassah that discovered at least a 10-times-greater frequency of the BRCA mutation among Ashkenazi Jewish women. In addition, Hadassah found a different mutation in the BRCA gene in Persian women.