The Jewish Fer­til­ity Co­nun­drum

If The Par­ents Are Jewish But The Sur­ro­gate Isn’t, Is The Baby Jewish?

Forward Magazine - - Contents - By Ari Feld­man

The To­rah is clear on the im­por­tance of hav­ing chil­dren.

The Jewish par­ents of in­fant twin boys drove last sum­mer from their home in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., area to a sum­mer camp in Penn­syl­va­nia to per­form a con­ver­sion for their ba­bies. It was a slightly em­bel­lished ver­sion of the tra­di­tional con­ver­sion cer­e­mony: Since both boys were al­ready cir­cum­cised, they sim­ply re­cited a prayer, the Sh’ma, and com­mit­ted to rais­ing the chil­dren as ob­ser­vant Jews be­fore briefly sub­merg­ing them in the camp’s mikveh, or rit­ual bath.

The cer­e­mony was un­usual for one big rea­son: Both of the le­gal par­ents have Jewish par­ents and were raised in the faith.

But their chil­dren were con­ceived us­ing an egg from another woman and with a ges­ta­tional sub­sti­tute, or sur­ro­gate, to carry the ba­bies. Nei­ther of the other women is Jewish.

“Given that the most tra­di­tional Jews think that the mother needs to be Jewish, I didn’t feel com­fort­able with just my hus­band be­ing the Jewish par­ent,” said the mother, Lynn, who asked to be re­ferred to by her mid­dle name to pro­tect her chil­dren’s iden­ti­ties.

The To­rah is clear on the im­por­tance of hav­ing chil­dren — “be fruit­ful and mul­ti­ply” is the first com­mand­ment men­tioned. But even as Jews, who tend to marry later, have in­creas­ingly turned to tech­nol­ogy to help them have ba­bies, Jewish law on the ques­tion of what de­ter­mines the Jewish­ness of those ba­bies is com­pli­cated. It can lead to uncer­tainty, es­pe­cially in the Ortho­dox world, which has left many par­ents of chil­dren born


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