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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Co-sponsored by The Red Stone and Hasidah, four $500 grants for individuals and couples in the Washington DC area for fertility and adoption related expenses are available. Applications can be downloaded at www.theredstone.org and are due November 2 (paperwork from doctors/adoption agencies can come later). Email amy@theredstone.org with questions.

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On the last night of Passover, the participants at the retreat I attended shared reflections on Passover themes. What were our journeys? What made us feel liberated? One woman, while describing the diversity of participants in our newly formed community, referred to me as a nursing mother. Me? Ironically, moments earlier I had leaned over to my husband and recalled how the first of many IVF treatments in our fertility journey occurred the day before Passover Seder. Our Seder that year was minimal but hopeful as I lay on the couch on bed rest. The hope ended when I had a miscarriage several weeks later on Mother’s Day.  The experience was a hard one and my identity will always be connected to years of infertility. Nursing mother, even just mother, is not an identity I wear easily or take for granted.
On this Mother’s Day, if you are a mother, please take this day to appreciate the gift you have been given. Not everyone gets to share in the experience. Consider making a contribution to Hasidah (www.hasidah.org/donate) to help those who yearn for that identity and are struggling along the way.
If you are not a mother and are hoping to become one, please know you are not alone, that others have been on the journey, and that we care and want to support you along the way.
Wherever you are on the motherhood journey, may Mother’s Day come with blessings for you.
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A recent article published had strong criticism of an IVF clinic’s video contest. “[W]ho would use the pain of infertility as an advertising tool?” the author asks.  Infertility is a painful process and “fundraising” through a video can certainly feel demeaning and demoralizing. If done right, videos can grow awareness, however that is not the goal of the contestants. The goal is a free IVF cycle i.e. money.

This very type of fundraising was a major reason why Hasidah was founded. We want to eliminate the proverbial bake sales and the painful pitches – the salt on the wound. For sure there is a need for awareness, but we hope to bring some sensitivity to the needs of those whose fertility challenges are worsened by financial barriers.

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Pack your bags! Is it the beach, the mountains, the slopes, the amusement park, or the ranch? Maybe the spa? How about the clinic…

More and more people are traveling to seek medical treatment and infertility is no exception at all. Someone recently asked us about infertility in the US and around the world and how much travel people do for treatment. Considering there is no international data collection, it is difficult to answer. However, a recent article came out exploring that very question. Here are some facts about ReproTourism around the world.

  • Belgium – first for their invention of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) which helped address male factors
  • Spain – best country for egg donation
  • Latin America – two major hubs for tourism
  • India – over 500 clinics (but debatable hub for surrogacy now)

Another trend is that medical tourism used to be from poorer regions to wealthier countries. ReproTravel is often the opposite. Treatment has become much easier and costs in less developed countries make it attractive.

Biggest reason for travel besides costs? Friendlier legislation. You can only have a treatment if the procedure is legal.

See the full article.

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#10Days of #FertileThoughts

The #10Days between Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are a period of reflection on our lives, our mistakes and our challenges. Yom Kippur challenges us to consider ways in which we missed our potential.

These #10Days call to mind the 10 days (sometimes 2 weeks) spent post infertility treatment procedure waiting for the pregnancy test. They can go quickly or they can be excruciating. As they continue on, some may begin to question everything and worry.  The not knowing. The wishing there was one more thing that could have been done. Mor waiting. Second guessing. Hope. Doubt.

#FertileThoughts: As you look back and consider how you could have done differently, whether Yom Kippur or on your fertility journey, think ahead:

1) How can you re-frame actions to create success. (Hint: What does success really mean?)

2) What are real expectations based on real possibilities? (Hint: be positive and open minded, but as my teacher put it, “not so much that your brain falls out of your head…)

3) How can you help others on their journey? (Hint: You are not alone. Everyone benefits when we help others)

Suggestions for seven more are welcome…

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Many options fill the list of concerns for people facing infertility: emotional stability, how to choose treatment, which doctor to choose, social pressure, spiritual crisis, stigma, fear treatment will not work, physical effects of treatment, marital issues, balancing work with treatment, and of course how to pay for the treatment. All of these are very significant, but one of them in particular exacerbates the others in a unique way. A recent study found that the biggest concern is cost.

Cost Concern

Fertility Treatments in the United States: Sentiment, Costs and Financial Impact. May 2015, MarketCube sponsored by Prosper.

Not only did costs top the lists of concerns (84%), for those “very concerned” it topped the list by over 15% to the next option of handling the treatments emotionally (62% vs 45%).  Cost tops the list for the reason people delay treatment (82%) and remains on top of the list of concerns even once treatment has started (70%). Costs top the list of concerns all around.

The irony of this is that for many people, addressing infertility is one of the hardest challenges facing us in our adult lives. To be sure, life can dish out some bad challenges. For most, however, infertility is completely unprecedented. For other issues, perhaps we have thought about them, we can prepare to address them, we can see a logic even if we don’t agree, we can give a good fight and feel better about it. In the case of infertility we often  feel out of control, unprepared, and simply at a loss. It lasts with no known ending. The stress of infertility has even been compared to the levels of stress when facing cancer. Yet the cost of treatment is cited as a bigger concern than the emotional toll.

To truly address the communal issue of infertility, we do need to address most if not all of these concerns – the emotions, the spiritual crisis, the marital issues, the stigma, the everything. When Hasidah was founded however, the basic premise was that the Jewish community spends millions and millions of dollars helping kids be Jewish. Of all the things standing in the way to having a Jewish child,  financial barriers ought to be something we can remove. We can do it.

The emotions will not go away if treatment is financially out of reach. The decisions are made for us if the options are not affordable. For sure we need to address the difficult emotions and decisions. However, if we are going to start at the top of what is concerning people experiencing infertility, then address the costs.


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