Philanthropy Project for 2018

Parkinson’s Disease

The Denver Jewish Chamber of Commerce has always taken an active role in recognizing and helping organizations. This year, the Chamber has chosen Parkinson’s Disease as its philanthropy project for the year. Below is a brief description of the disease and how individuals are affected.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.

Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. People with PD may experience:

  • Tremor, mainly at rest and described as pill rolling tremor in hands. Other forms of tremor are possible
  • Slowness of movements (bradykinesia)
  • Limb rigidity
  • Gait and balance problems

The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications and surgery. While Parkinson’s itself is not fatal, disease complications can be serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from PD as the 14th cause of death in the United States.

April 2017 marks the 200-year anniversary of James Parkinson’s “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy,” in which he formally etched observations of his now-eponymous disease. We now know that two genetic mutations, LRRK2 and GBA (also linked to Gaucher disease), are more commonly found within Ashkenazi Jewry, said Roy Alcalay, a Columbia University neurologist, who has led several efforts to clinically characterize Parkinson’s disease within Ashkenazi Jews. An Ashkenazi Jew with Parkinson’s has a one in three chance or greater of carrying a mutation in LRRK2, GBA, or both. These mutations are in no way specifically or even heavily Jewish—North African Arab-Berbers with Parkinson’s, for example, are also affected by the LRRK2 mutation—but 1 percent of Ashkenazim carry LRRK2 and up to 9 percent carry GBA. This means that, if nothing else, we Jews ought to be paying attention.

On March 8, 2018, we will sponsor an educational event with representatives from the Denver Parkinson’s Association. Program information will be on our website by mid-January and followed-up with email registration information. If you would like to be on our email list, please contact us at