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September, 2014
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Our first newsletter!

Introduction: a few words about us...

At Hasidah we deeply respect the personal choices people make for family planning. For Jews who want to have children and face infertility and related issues, we believe the Jewish community should help them. Hasidah therefore focuses on building awareness, developing a network of support resources and providing financial assistance for IVF. We do this so that the shroud of infertility is removed, so that infertility is on the communal agenda, so that Jews are empowered to seek infertility treatment, and so that Jewish babies are born. We work in partnership with other organizations to leverage resources so that we can bring greater expertise to address the issues of infertility and affordable treatment in the Jewish community.

Here is a little about what we have been doing...

Goal: Provide
financial support
Goal: Connect
people to resources
Hasidah Grant Award Certificate
First IVF Grant Awarded

At the heart of Hasidah’s work is making sure IVF treatment is affordable for those who need it. We are pleased to announce that we awarded our first IVF grant this spring to a couple in Columbus. The price tag for IVF can range from $10,000 to $30,000 or more depending on what is involved with the procedure. This couple, who is very active in the Columbus Jewish community and has already experienced several fertility losses, requires IVF to have a child due to issues related to infertility and genetics.
Rabbi Idit Solomon on National Jewish Infertility Network Teleconference
National Jewish Infertility Network Launched

This month Hasidah organized the first National Jewish Infertility Network teleconference.  Community advocates and representatives from Jewish organizations providing infertility support began weaving the web to build Jewish families. Read more.

In the News:
Call and Response for Infertility Support (Shma)
Birthright and Birthrate  (EJewishPhilanthropy)
Double Chai Logo
Building Awareness One Life At A Time

The Double Chai campaign has started. Do you know someone who just had a baby? You can honor their new life and join us in supporting those struggling with infertility through our Double Chai campaign. Learn more.
Rosh HaShanah – Conceiving a New World

As Rosh Hashanah approaches we prepare to celebrate the birthday of the world. The Torah text we read on Rosh Hashanah, however, is not the story of the creation of the world. While in Reform congregations the Torah reading focuses on the binding of Isaac, the traditional Torah reading begins with the story of the birth of Isaac, or more accurately his conception. The first line reads:

“And God took note of Sarah as God had said, and God did unto Sarah as God had spoken.” (Gen. 21.1)

The word for God taking note of Sarah (pakad) could also be translated as remembered or visited. Essentially God’s attention was directed to Sarah. The assumed reason is because God had previously made a prediction for Sarah. In Genesis 18:10, messengers of God bring tidings that “when the season comes around, Sarah [Abraham’s] wife will have a son.” Since God said she would bear a child, God made it happen. In the next verse in Genesis 21:2, we learn that Sarah conceived and gave birth.

Time is not to scale in the storyline. Chapters go by between the prediction and the revisit and then one verse goes by and she has conceived and given birth. Nonetheless as we read this text on Rosh Hashanah a worthy question is to ask - why the visit happens when it does and when exactly is that? The rabbis in the Talmud set the date of the visit and Sarah and Abraham’s subsequent conception of Isaac to Rosh Hashanah.

“It has been taught: R. Eliezer says: In Tishri the world was created; in Tishri the Patriarchs were born; in Tishri the Patriarchs died; on Passover Isaac was born; on New Year Sarah, Rachel and Hannah were visited;” (BT Rosh Hashanah 10b)

The explanation of the connection between Rosh Hashanah and Sarah is made through a series of links based on the other women that God visits and their outcome. The rabbis in the Talmud note that God’s “visit” to Sarah is like God’s “visit” to Hannah – the word “visit” meant that God caused them to conceive a child.  From Hannah the rabbis make a connection to Rachel because God “remembered” both Hannah and Rachel in reference to having a child. Remembering is likened to the New Year, which is known as a solemn rest, a “remembering” of the blast of the trumpet. Therefore Sarah’s conception of Isaac is connected to Rosh HaShanah.

There is actually a later discrepancy among the rabbis about when the patriarchs are born and died, but the date that Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah (and others) were visited, when their wombs were opened and they conceived their children, is consistently on Rosh Hashanah.  Our human record keeping of birthdays and deaths seem to be fallible, however somehow this is not the case of the workings of conception.  This is due to the rabbis theological position in regards to conception - God is in control. A midrash highlights Sarah’s belief in this theology as well:

“And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold, God has kept me from bearing” (Gen. 16:2) She said: I know the source of my affliction: It is not as people say [of a barren woman], ‘She needs an amulet, she needs a charm,’ but “Behold, God has kept me from bearing.” (Genesis Rabbah 45:2)

Like the rabbis, Sarah does not believe there is a magic potion or secret incantation that will make her fertile. Rather her ability to conceive is determined by God.  Jewish texts are replete with stories of God’s workings in the realm of infertility and the rabbis struggles to try and figure them out.  Sarah’s statement shows her belief that as hard as we may try, ultimately God is in control.

To be sure, there are many difficulties with the perspective that God needs prayers to act, that God opens and closes wombs on a merit basis, or withholds children from the righteous for higher purposes and so forth. The rabbi’s view was not only of God micromanaging the workings of our reproductive systems in the moment, but also held a respect that however our bodies worked, every human body is a creation of God. God plays a role in fertility similarly to the way that God has a role in all aspects of our lives.  

Yet as the rabbis had differing opinions on the causes of infertility for the matriarchs, patriarchs and others, today we understand much more about infertility and its connections to physical, emotional, and spiritual realms. Regardless, the point remains that as much as we like to be in control of our lives, infertility is a stark reminder that we are not.

Rosh Hashanah is ripe with symbolism of creation. God created the world and on Rosh Hashanah we remember that. Rosh Hashanah unfortunately is also a reminder that many of us mere mortals hope and dream of joining the work of creation through a child but are struggling with infertility. And the very first line of the Torah readings for the High Holidays is a reminder of the limits of our control.

Rosh Hashanah is also the opportunity to start again. We can reset our responses and actions even if we are not in control of the circumstances for whatever reason. We can set aside our modern amulets and charms and reach to God to be our partner. We can let go of painful circumstances out of our control, embrace the blessings we do have and act in the areas that we can control. Fertility or otherwise.

The Talmud teaches that taking a single life is like destroying an entire world, and saving a single life is like saving an entire world. (Sanhedrin 37a)

A corollary: creating a single life is like creating an entire world.

On Rosh Hashanah as we celebrate the world that God created, as we beseech God to remember us for life, let us also keep in mind those who seek to join in the work of creation but struggle with infertility. Let us remember that there are more worlds yet to be created.

 
Coming Soon
The Shma Journal's focus for October will be infertility. Look for commentary from Rabbi Idit Solomon.
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Hasidah is the Hebrew word for stork.
Its root (hesed) means loving-kindness.
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