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COVID -19 RESPONSE

Dealing with uncertainly, unknowns and lack of control is familiar to people facing infertility and family building challenges. Many other medical conditions and life circumstances also can put us in this state of unknown uncertainty. However, having it experienced on a global level, being sheltered at home, and having limited access to healthcare is something very new.

While the lack of information is confusing and stressful, one way we can help ourselves move forward is recognizing that sometimes the best we can do is to make decisions based on what we know now. We cannot always wait for certainty.

Hasidah set forth some questions to help those facing infertility and family building challenges to take steps forward.

  • What do we know about the situation right now?
  • What are the issues involved with medical care for infertility clinics?
  • What are the important things to consider when making decisions (medically and emotionally)
  • What can people facing infertility do to take care of themselves through all of this?

Hasidah is very proud to have a robust healthcare advisory board to provide guidance at times like these and beyond. We were blessed to have reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Peter Klatsky and psychotherapist and spiritual director Karen Erlichman, D. Min, LCSW, to help us answer these questions. The video is available for you to see. Please feel free to share with others. It is very informative and comforting.

 

SPIRITUAL CARE DURING COVID-19

Hasidah also has spiritual care practices that are even more essential now. We will post them throughout the following weeks to help with coping through these challenging times. Our first one is the most basic and most common issue now: Relationship

Relationships are key to our spiritual health. Infertility can be isolating as it is. For many people social distancing was a very real coping mechanism before it became a common phrase.  Having and nurturing relationships are essential to our human and spiritual existence. Infertility can strain relationships with family, spouses, parts of our self, our friend, our community and even God. Experiencing such a painful, personal and private trial can keep us feeling separated from others. Judaism teaches, however, that people are not meant to be alone (Gen 2.18). We are meant to live in relationships with others.

During this COVID-19 situation we are actually physically distancing and not necessarily “socially distancing.” We can nurture relationships in many ways even when we are not physically together. We can emotionally, mentally and, with the use of technology at least, visually make connections with others. The distinction is not just semantic. Feeling connected, thinking of others, taking stock of people in our lives, praying or focusing on a divine presence in our lives, and reaching out in any way opens us up to powerful healing.

In whatever way you are able, nurture relationships that nurture you. At least once a day, take a moment to recognize the relationships in your life. If you are able to reach out to just one or two people to share what you are experiencing, you are blessed. If you can just stay connected in any way, that is a blessing too. You are not alone.

Wishing you all health and safety during these times of uncertainty.

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Does your income potentially affect the chances that you will access treatment for infertility. In an already much cited article, the answer was a resounding yes. Education plays a role too. People with a college degree are more than twice as likely (11.6 vs 5) to access fertility treatment with those who do not have a high school diploma.

The infertilty sword cuts both ways because those with less education are likely to earn less and be able to afford less and therefore be less likely to seek treatment. And while this recent study does not tie education to infertility, research has shown that people with higher levels of education are more likely to have children later and therefore have higher rates of infertility. Basically, we can’t get around it.

One thing this study of treatment access cannot account for is who is seeking the treatment and the effects of not getting treatment. In other words – the reality that some people really want to have a child and want to pursue treatment vs others who may not feel as strongly about having  child. For Jews, being part of a pro-natal and family oriented community can increase pressure and isolation that infertility causes and make the desire to seek treatment higher.

At Hasidah, we know well the variety of ways in which one can experience infertility – from genetic diseases, to cancer, to age, to low ovarian reserves or sperm, to unexplained infertility. The people seeking help from Hasidah have earned from $25,000 to over $350,000. They are married, single, LGBT, older, younger, teachers, singers, lawyers and doctors. They all want to have a Jewish family.

The study shows for sure that the infertility rate is 12.5%. That’s about 1 in 8. That number only increases with age and body mass index. And Jews are no exception.

Infertility is not likely to change, but our response to it can.
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Is egg freezing a good thing? A recent article in the Forward by Amy Klein explores the personal stories of a growing number of Jewish women considering egg freezing. Egg freezing  is empowering for some, a relief for others and scary for others. For cancer patients it ought to be a given option.  For the general population, however, more questions are in order.

Egg freezing may add to the societal pressure on women’s bodies. We cannot treat women’s bodies as machines that can simply have parts temporarily preserved. As with all technologies that have the potential for good, society needs to change too. How we think about family building needs to change. The attitude of work versus family needs to change. The role of men in all of this needs to be discussed. How can we stop the I-never-thought-about-it, now-it-is-getting-late and we-can-control-it-all rat race and begin to have meaningful conversations with young people about the role of fertility and family?

To be sure this is not about blaming women for taking the opportunity to utilize this amazing technology to help them preserve their chances of motherhood. For sure, egg freezing has benefits and women absolutely deserve and have the right to control their bodies and their fertility. However, most technologies have unintended consequences as well as negative effects and it is important to consider them. Some of those are the issues about careers, fertility, family building, parenting, gender roles, and the politics of women’s bodies that are not being addressed. Let us not utilize this technology to prevent these conversations from happening.  These conversations are needed – early, openly and often – to empower women from the start. Not just to justify looking at the the freezer for a back up.

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Hasidah’s name which means “stork” comes from the Hebrew word hesed, which means loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is showing support when people need it in the way they need it. Loving-kindness is maintaining their dignity while they are in need and in the process of helping them. Loving-kindness is helping them without making them beg for it. 

Every one of these baby crowd funding campaigns is a lost opportunity for the Jewish community to show loving-kindness, something we do so well for many other circumstances. Wanting to have a child is a basic desire that most of us understand without much explanation. Yet, we let people beg: Help me fund a chance to have a baby!

Thanks to the Forward for highlighting this issue. Let us know what you think – if the Jewish community will spend billions on trips to Israel in the name of the birthright, how can we direct support for the birthrate?

 

 

 

 

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Traditionally called the Season of Joy, Sukkot is inherently wrapped in fertility. Historically and religiously associated with agriculture, Sukkot is a harvest festival celebrating the fertility of the earth. Living in booths (Sukkot) commemorates the Israelite’s wanderings in the desert. Their temporary and unstable nature also reminds of of how fragile our lives and the world is.

The special reading done for this holiday is from Kohelet, which begins, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, a time to die…”

Fertility and the fragility are related. Those of us who have experienced fertility challenges know this all too well. But time plays a role as well. Most of it during a fertility journey seems to be spent waiting. A time to wait… and another time to wait. But Kohelet’s perspective can be helpful during fertility challenges. The verses continue that there is “A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Indeed all things under heaven have a time and a purpose. While fertility can feel all consuming, we do have other purposes in life. And time will continue. The message of fragility at this season is also a reminder of what endures. Our choice to laugh or cry endures. Our ability to reach out to another for support when we mourn and to dance when there is joy endures.

So if this Season of Joy seems hard to reach for you, if you are intimately feeling the fragility of the fertility world, remember there is a purpose for you in this world. Feel the enduring presence of your self and your ability to laugh and cry. And if you are mourning, know too that there will be a time to dance.

Always, there will be time.

Chag Sukkot Sameach – Warm wishes for a joyous Sukkot Holiday

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The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called the Days of Awe. They are traditionally filled with reflection as we prepare to stand before God On Yom Kippur in judgement of our actions. The “awe” in Hebrew is meant to capture both the amazement and the fear of standing before God.
 
These days are reminiscent of the waiting period endured between fertility treatments and the following pregnancy test. The time is filled with a mix of awe about what might be happening, a heavy dose of fear that the intervention did not work, and sometimes a gnawing sense of impending judgement about ourselves and our situation.
 
So at this time of year particularly, with the Days of Awe passing slowly and the themes of fertility filling the liturgy, we are especially sending our thoughts and prayers to those among us who are struggling with infertility and fertility challenges.
 
The High Holiday prayers are recited in the plural (we) to make sure everyone knows they are not alone in their mistakes and in their ability to change. So too does Hasidah stand with you. You are not alone. Let our collective prayers ascend higher in hopes of wholeness and peace wherever the fertility journey takes you.
 
May your comings and going during this season and all of the Days of Awe be in peace and may you be inscribed for a good and sweet New Year.
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Hasidah’s founder and CEO, Rabbi Idit Solomon,  has an article published in Kveller. Many people assume that once someone is pregnant the pain of infertility is gone. This well received post explores how the effects of infertility continue even after pregnancy is achieved

For more information on the topic and additional support resources, see this wonderful article at OurBodiesOurselves.

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Rabbinic Students in Pastoral Care Class at American Jewish University

Rabbinic Students in Pastoral Care Class at American Jewish University

Rabbi Idit Solomon presented at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, American Jewish University and the Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles this week.

Part of Hasidah’s mission is to build a robust network within the Jewish community to provide support for people throughout their fertility journey. Clergy and communal professional leaders play a critical role in building awareness and inclusion and being a source of support and resources when people face difficult times. The seminars helped  future rabbis, cantors, chaplains and faculty gain awareness about infertility and develop skills for providing people experiencing infertility and fertility challenges with emotional and spiritual support.
HUC LogoAJU Logo

 

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Hasidah’s Rabbi Idit Solomon served as one of the advisers for G-dcast’s  latest life cycle video: Questions about Jewish Adoption and Surrogacy

G-dCast’s mission in producing the video: Making a path towards parenting easier on everyone, this animated short answers a few of the common Jewish questions about Adoption and Surrogacy.

Thanks G-dCast for bringing awareness to this important issue!

 

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man-facelessA couple very important articles have come up during the High Holidays featuring a topic in need of attention: Men and Infertility. So much attention is brought to women who experience infertility. In Jewish tradition, we hear about Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah etc. We do not hear so much about the fertility challenges of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Elkanah, etc. Temporary as it may be, it is usually the women’s burden to bare.

But men face fertility challenges and infertility too.

One voice is not more important than another. All perspectives need to be at the table. So during the #10Days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, as we focus on how we can improve ourselves and redirect our energies toward better aims, we will share the articles below to rectify the missing perspectives of men.

Childlessness On the High Holidays
TheStigmaOfBeingAChildlessJewishMan

 

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