Just hosted the National Jewish Fertility Network video conference about adoption. Experts represented an amazing array of approaches – adoption agency, adoption support, law firm, and Jewish adoption advocacy. Indeed adoption is a very Jewish and beautiful pathway to parenthood. These experts helped educate Hasidah and others in the Jewish community supporting family building. We learned more about the benefits, issues, and challenges of adoption as well as how to support those considering adoption.
Lots of news articles and social media posts say what to do to combat infertility, how to get pregnant, 5 ways to “fix” your infertility, or other simple solutions to painful, complex and difficult barriers to building your family. These articles may have some new research to share or possibly an intention to be helpful, but often thinking an easy solution exists leads us to more disappointment
Summary of the these answers: make healthy choices and seek support and advice. No silver bullet exists. Be skeptical of anyone who gives a simple “solution” or any advice without knowing a whole lot about what is happening in your situation.
To save you reading about the magical powers of walnuts, the new research on smoking, the ancient techniques that still work in the 21st century, the secrets to infinite fertility, and how you can take control of your womb/sperm/ovaries/reproductive health, here are the basics that summarize most of those articles:
Eat a healthy diet if you are not
Quit smoking if you are smoking
Lose weight if you have a lot of excess
Be kind to yourself if you are struggling
Find support if you are feeling alone
Notice that this doesn’t even begin to diagnose the majority of fertility issues or speak about treatment or other family building options. These basics alone take some effort to maintain. No silver bullet can do them for you.
The statistic for infertility of 1 in 8 does not really care about race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political party. Fertility challenges can affect anyone and even those whose journey leads to children remember well the experience. See Melissa Langsam Braunstein’s interview with Second Lady Karen Pence about her experience with infertility.
The latest article featuring the great work that Hasidah is doing!
@JewishStork published in @jdforward – Rabbi Addressing Costs of Infertility in the Jewish Community
The Forward published this article by Hasidah’s CEO, Rabbi Idit Solomon
Do you live in South Caroline? This is progress. Make the call.
Hasidah has opened a new cycle and is currently accepting applications for in vitro fertilization (IVF) grants and loans. Funding is available for people in the Jewish community, throughout the United States, who require IVF in order to have children and need financial assistance for treatment. The deadline for applications is Thursday, March 30. Interested parties should visit http://www.hasidah.org/financial-resources/grants-and-loans/ for application information.
Hasidah is the voice of hope and compassion that raises awareness of infertility, connects people to support, and reduces financial barriers to treatment in the Jewish community. Now in its third year of operation, Hasidah has previously completed four cycles of funding for families combating infertility in the Jewish community. The organization also offers support networks for struggling families, advocacy training for clergy and online resources of news in the fertility realm.
Hasidah is the Hebrew word for stork. The root of the word (Hesed) means loving-kindness. Hasidah was founded on the belief that one of the greatest gifts of loving-kindness is helping couples struggling with infertility to become parents. Hasidah believes that Jewish families are the core of Jewish life and children are the source of our future, and therefore is dedicated to the work of addressing infertility, financially supporting treatment, and promoting awareness in our community. Building Jewish families is existentially important for our future. Hasidah understands that having Jewish children is a birthright and the community has a responsibility to help make that happen.
Contact: Rabbi Idit Solomon, (415) 323-3226, Idit@Hasidah.org
Many in the Jewish community imagine building their family and the magical moments along the way. For some, however, having a child is difficult and those magical moments fade and are replaced by strains of saving for medical treatments or adoption expenses.
In a joint effort between The RedStone and Hasidah, three grants have been awarded in the Washington DC area Jewish community to help alleviate some of the financial stress that comes with medical interventions or adoption expenses.
To be fruitful and multiply is considered the first Jewish commandment in the Torah. Much of the Jewish community is organized around families and children. Wanting to have a child and facing barriers can therefore be not only personally challenging, but quite isolating as a Jew. The RedStone, led by Amy Jablin Forseter, provides support groups and community programs to build awareness in the Jewish community and give support to those facing fertility challenges. Rabbi Idit Solomon founded Hasidah, a national organization that also builds awareness and works to establish national network of support resources and focuses on financial assistance for those needing in vitro fertilization in order to build their family.
“We were fortunate to have received funding to pilot this program in the DC area and are really pleased to be able to provide help for both adoption and fertility treatments, ” shared Forseter. “We know from our work in the community that having a Jewish response to this issue means a lot to those we help.”
“Fertility challenges are much more common than people imagine,” said Rabbi Solomon. “The Jewish community has focused a lot of resources towards keeping families involved and affiliated. The RedStone and Hasidah are focused on the important need for building the Jewish families in the first place.”
One of the grant recipients received funding to help defray medical expenses for fertility treatment. The other two received funding to help with adoption, one of which just moved to the next step with a healthy birth.
American Express just increased their family leave policies to include 20 weeks of parental leave and $35,000 for infertility treatment.
Way to go creating a nice work environment, loyal employees and and be happier families!
In today’s speak-up, tell-it-like-it-is, immediate response world, the power of what is not said and the context in which messages are delivered can sometimes be overlooked. This is especially true when someone is carrying a silent burden such as infertility. This week’s Torah portion (Toldot) provides a vivid example of how noticing those nuances reveal an incredibly moving story of a personal spiritual awakening.
The Torah portion begins with two brief lines introducing Isaac as Abraham’s son who married Rebecca at age 40 and then says, “And Isaac entreated God for his wife, because she was barren; and God let God’s self be entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.”
One little line about Isaac pleading with God to have a child and then the story moves to the topic of those children. But do not blink. That one little line about infertility is a defining moment in Isaac’s spiritual life.
The rabbinic texts explain that Isaac and Rebecca were trying to conceive for 20 years. I struggled with infertility for three interminable years before my first successful pregnancy. 20 years seems unimaginably painful. The other biblical matriarchs Sarah, Rachel and Leah speak about having children. Yet after 20 years, Rebecca is silent and the story gets one line.
The significance of Isaac being the one to speak up cannot be underestimated. The last time the Torah shared something Isaac said was when his father was taking him up a mountain to offer him as a sacrifice. Isaac asks, “Father, here is the firestone and the wood, where is the sheep for offering?” He asks his father and accepts the answer – God will provide. For the rest of the story on the mountaintop, when Abraham raises a knife above his son, when a ram is found in place of Isaac, when they walk back down the mountain, Isaac is silent.
Later Abraham sends a servant to find Rebekah and brings her to Isaac to be his wife. Rebekah is very involved in the process, being active and vocal. Yet Rebekah is chosen without Isaac’s input. The Torah says Isaac takes her as a wife and is comforted after his mother’s death. Yet Isaac remains silent.
In the midrashic text Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, we learn: After twenty childless years, Isaac took Rebekah to Mount Moriah, which is where the Akedat Yitzhak/binding of Isaac took place. There Isaac prayed for Rebekah that she become pregnant, and God answered him.
At the place of the binding of Isaac – “Isaac entreated God for his wife, because she was barren” – and God answered him.
This is Isaac’s story. This is Isaac’s awakening. Perhaps a childhood marked with a near sacrifice on a mountain understandably left Isaac silent and distant from God. Yet facing infertility, Isaac finally is shaken to the point of turning back to God. Years after the binding incident and 20 more years after marriage, Isaac is awakened and goes to the very same spot where he last encountered God. Isaac returns. He enters into relation with God once again to continue the covenant. Isaac petitions God. In turn, Rebekah, his wife, conceives. The story is relative to him. Infertility and turning to God is Isaac’s story.
This is not to say that infertility is punishment for turning away from God. That is a theology I cannot abide. However, this is to say that infertility can isolate someone from God. It can break a person to the core. Infertility can make continuing with the rest of life terribly difficult. It can leave a person isolated from loved ones and community too. Wholeness and healing in the face of infertility can come when we nurture those relationships, spiritual or otherwise.
Infertility caused Isaac to finally enter into relationship with God. Isaac reaches to God. Infertility is a yearning, beyond our own lives, beyond this world. Infertility can leave us utterly helpless. 20 years of helpless. It can also spiritually awaken us and make us act in ways we never thought possible.
That is the context of infertility. That is what is not said.
When Abraham takes Isaac to Mt. Moriah,
Abraham says: God will show us the sheep for offering.
Isaac goes along silently.
Abraham brings Rebekah to Isaac
And Isaac accepts her
And he is comforted.
20 years of infertility
And God waits
And Rebekah is silent.
And Isaac entreated God for his wife, because she was barren; and God let God’s self be entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.