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