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This column originally appeared in The Jewish News of Northern California , November 12, 2019

 

Several months ago, I was asked to speak at an event for Hasidah, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that “raises awareness of infertility, connects people to support resources and reduces financial barriers to [fertility] treatment in the Jewish community,” according to its website.

I so wish my family had known about this agency’s work when we were struggling with these issues.

I care about helping build Jewish families. So many of us take for granted that when we are ready to build a family and have a child, it will happen. I know from my own family’s experience that it doesn’t always work so easily, or economically.

Topics such as infertility were rarely spoken about until recently.

Growing up, I knew our past generations had hard times, but my life and the future seemed simple. College, career, get married, have kids, be a mom, then a grandmother.

Fast forward. It was not so easy.

Seeing one’s children struggle with their health or struggle to create a family — it was not easy at all.

One of my daughter’s struggles began in high school with severe abdominal pain. Today we see commercials on TV about endometriosis, but 20 years ago I had never even heard the word. Many years went by — years of tests and surgeries and different doctors — with no diagnosis. Finally, one doctor was able to give her an experimental drug that took away her fertility for five years (ages 20 to 25) with the hope that it would just “pop back.”

Through all those appointments, shots and bone-density scans, the fear of “what if fertility doesn’t come back” was always looming, And there was no place to talk about it. Yes, her fertility returned, as UCSF had hoped, and she and her husband went on to have a family.

Then my other daughter married and learned she had issues getting pregnant. With her wonderful husband’s firm support, they tried many options, talked over all the possibilities, the what-ifs.

One day a friend of hers who knew the situation asked me, “How are you?” Seeing the dark cloud hanging over me and being a mental-health professional, she shared that the dark feeling isn’t just over the couple but over the whole family.

My husband and I were in a dark place, but we came to understand this was our daughter’s journey, and we were there to support her.

We tried not to show our pain to her when treatments failed and as she felt more and more isolated. Through many very expensive processes, a woman’s enormous generosity and modern technological miracles, we were granted two more beautiful grandchildren.

Every day we thank HaShem for those beautiful children.

I began to see how so many others could use this kind of support.

My daughters were fortunate that our family could help them financially. Not everyone is in a position to afford fertility treatment or to help their own children. There hasn’t been anything in the community to help.

I have since become involved with Hasidah, which provides “financial, spiritual and emotional support for people experiencing infertility or fertility challenges, and build[s] awareness about fertility,” according to its listing in the 2018 Slingshot Guide of outstanding Jewish organizations. Hasidah, which means “stork” in Hebrew, was founded in 2012 by Rabbi Idit Solomon.

Hasidah.org is packed with information, such as the average out-of-pocket cost for one in vitro fertilization treatment being $24,000, with a $61,000 total for “a successful outcome from IVF.”

People need so much support when they are facing infertility, which is why it was so important for me to step up and help. Not only for my own family, but I could help others overcome their fertility struggles, too.

It was imperative for me to help each of my daughters become a mother.  It is imperative upon all of us as a community to help others who are facing infertility and other family building challenges.

We need to replenish those lost during my parent’s generation. We need to support the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying. And it is the Jewish way to help others in need.

Jewish children are the future of the Jewish community. I have endless joy from each of my grandchildren. I hope our community can prioritize this issue for our sake, and for our future.

 

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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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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.

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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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Hasidah is thrilled to be among the first grant recipients from the Tmicha (Hebrew for support) giving circle. Giving circles are a new trend in philanthropic giving where groups of people work together to make a larger impact through a shared giving process.  Kol hakavod (more power to you!) to our partners Priya and The Red Stone who share this honor with us and who share our combined vision for more Jewish babies.

From one of the Tmicha participants: “We have chosen to make Jewish infertility the focus of our first cycle, and are honored to be able to support the work of Priya, Hasidah and The Red Stone, three infertility support organizations working in different communities and different parts of the Jewish community. I hope that you will consider learning more about each of these organizations and the holy work they do, and consider a gift of your own.”

Thank you Tmicha!

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Hasidah organized the first National Jewish Infertility Network teleconference on September 3, 2014 .  The goal of the first conversation included identifying the challenges and opportunities for infertility support in the Jewish community and outlining underlying issues to address in the Jewish community with regards to infertility. The conversations included lay leaders, Jewish professionals, and representatives from organizations including including The Red Stone, Uprooted, Priya, and New York Jewish Free Loan Society.

Hasidah’s threefold focus (awareness, network navigation and financial assistance) was developed with change in mind: awareness leads to more interest and resources, which helps develop a network of support and provide financial assistance for medical treatment. Another outcome we seek in the area of awareness and networking is the empowerment of those interested in making change in the Jewish community in regards to infertility and raising the level of conversation and action surrounding infertility. It was with that in mind that the first National Jewish Infertility Network teleconference was established. The group will be meeting again to continue the dialog in early October.

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