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About the Foundation

The Goals of the Canavan Foundation

The Canavan Foundation is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating at-risk populations about Canavan disease and other Jewish genetic diseases and the reproductive options available to carrier couples. We encourage carrier screening for these diseases whenever appropriate. In addition, the foundation supports research that searches for treatments and a cure for Canavan disease.


Major Programs of the Canavan Foundation

NY Metro OB/GYN Provider and Patient Education Program

Launched by the Canavan Foundation in 2012, the OB/GYN Provider and Patient Education Program provides background information and JGDC patient-education brochures on Jewish genetic diseases to over 1,000 OB/GYNs in approximately 400 practices in the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island, Westchester and Rockland Counties, Northern New Jersey and Southern Connecticut.  The brochure we distribute is the only one in wide use that covers all the Jewish genetic diseases, and our program is the only one in the country that has direct, ongoing contact with the doctors.  When there are updates in the field, or changes to screening recommendations, our up-to-date database enables us to share this information with doctors immediately.  Over the past two years we have distributed over 40,000 brochures, and we regularly hear from the OB/GYN offices how useful this program is to them in promoting timely and complete screening.

Synagogue/Clergy Education and Outreach

In 2010, in collaboration with the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium, we launched a program to identify and educate rabbis in the New York metropolitan area on the need to recommend Jewish genetic disease screening during premarital counseling. The program included identification of approximately 750 rabbis, who were invited to seminars throughout the region and given a Rabbi’s Guide and a supply of brochures for couples. Since 2014 we have distributed nearly 20,000 brochures in the New York metropolitan area. We recently expanded our contact list to include cantors and lay leaders, and will be mailing updated brochures to over 1,300 clergy and lay leaders. We are also in the early stages of compiling a list of clergy and lay leaders on a national basis. We believe we can identify over 5,000 Jewish leaders outside of New York who should be provided with these educational materials and urged to recommend early and complete Jewish genetic disease screening.

The Beginnings of the Canavan Foundation

Morgan GelblumThe Canavan Foundation was launched in 1992, when Morgan Gelblum, daughter of Orren Alperstein and Seth Gelblum, was two years old and recently diagnosed with Canavan Disease.

Morgan was a beautiful baby, with a radiant smile, but she couldn’t hold up her head, sit unassisted, talk, or walk, and had not achieved any of the expected milestones. When she was 15 months old New York neurologist Dr. Isabelle Rapin delivered the devastating news that Morgan had Canavan disease, a degenerative disease of the white matter of the brain that would prevent her from ever having a normal life, both physically and cognitively, and lead to an early death. 

Founding board members included Orren and Seth, Orren’s parents, Eileen and Arnold Alperstein (now deceased), and family members Deedy Goldstick and Pat Hirschorn, who are still on the board, which now has seven members.

Morgan Gelblum died in 1997, at the age of 7-1/2, but the Canavan Foundation works on in her memory, 22 years after its beginnings.



The Canavan Foundation publishes an annual end-of-year newsletter.  To see a list and download a newsletter in PDF form, please click here

Support the Foundation

Your tax-deductible contributions help fund education, outreach and research projects important to our mission. Learn more about supporting our work.


Canavan Foundation Timeline

1992 Canavan Foundation incorporated with a dual mission: to support research leading to carrier and prenatal tests, and education and screen at-risk population.

1993 CF awards 4 grants for gene research, produces first educational brochure.
1994 CF sponsors first-ever international Canavan Disease symposium.
1996 CF-supported screening day held at Mt.Sinai Medical Center.
1997 CF and National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association persuade American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to establish carrier screening as a standard of care of Ashkenazi Jewish couples.
2000 CF joins lawsuit against Miami Children’s Hospital to assure wide availability and affordability of Canavan screening.
2002 CF forms Rabbinic Advisory Committee.
2005 CF joins with four other Jewish genetic disease organizations to form the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium (JGDC); CF initiates Grand Rounds seminars in hospitals.
2009 CF underwrites first-ever national online survey to understand genetic screening knowledge and practice among the American Jewish population.
2010 CF joins with JGDC to launch COUPLES AWARE, a program to provide training and resources for rabbis to use in premarital counseling.
2011 CF works with JGDC to redesign educational brochure on Jewish genetic diseases, including both Ashkenazi and Sephardic concerns.
2012 CF underwrites program to visit every OG/GYN practice in the NY metropolitan area to provide information to the doctors about genetic carrier screening and supply free patient-education brochures.

Recently Provider outreach program expanded to cover all major metropolitan areas with a signifcant Jewish population, adding primary care providers in addition to Ob-Gyns. Brochures and posters offered to every synagogues across the country.