(October 25, 2020, JNS Wire) NEW YORK, NY: October 21, 2020 — With a new initiative called YOUR FAMILY-BUILDING STORY, Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA), the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) and Uprooted: A Jewish Communal Response to Fertility Journeys (Uprooted) are joining forces to strip away the taboos that often accompany family building in the American Jewish community. Offering all individuals, however they define themselves and their families, the opportunity to share their stories, the collaboration aims to raise awareness of the emotional, physical and other challenges people face when dealing with infertility.
Using Story Aperture, a mobile app developed by JWA, women, men and nonbinary participants can record their stories, interview, or be interviewed by, friends and loved ones. A series of suggested questions will help guide the conversations. (To download the app and see the complete list of questions, click here.)
According to a 2018 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 13 percent of women of reproductive age, or about 9.5 million women aged 15-49, have trouble conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy. The numbers are higher among American Jews, according to the Jewish Fertility Foundation, with as many as one in six Jewish couples facing infertility (compared to one in eight for the general population). Jews start families at an older average age and have a higher rate of certain genetic conditions that increase the need for fertility treatments. (For more information about the causes of infertility in the Jewish community, and for facts and figures about infertility, click here.)
The often difficult road to parenthood takes a huge toll on those involved. Within the Jewish community, that toll is often exacerbated by a powerful sense of shame. Since “family” is an increasingly elastic term, infertility need not bring with it feelings of embarrassment, failure and isolation.
The collaboration among HWZOA, JWA and Uprooted reflects the organizations’ shared commitment to give voice to family-building challenges Jews and others face, and to provide the support they need to take charge of their health and their lives.
As part of the reConceiving Infertility campaign, HWZOA is organizing community programs, hosting training sessions to help women advocate for insurance changes and empowering women to speak openly about their infertility journeys and their pathways to parenthood, or their decision to live child-free. The initiative considers the feelings of the entire family, including parents who may never be grandparents and siblings who may never be aunts or uncles. (To learn more about this broad-ranging initiative, click here.)
Said Rhoda Smolow, President, HWZOA: “Our goal is to shed light on infertility, long a taboo subject in the Jewish community. And while this particular initiative focuses on that community, the issues we’re raising are relevant to everyone trying to figure out what kind of family they want and what ‘family’ means to them. We are thrilled to partner with the Jewish Women’s Archive and Uprooted on this important project.”
Said Judith Rosenbaum, Chief Executive Officer of JWA: “Oral history teaches us again and again that there is such power in telling one’s story and being heard. We are proud to participate in this important initiative to give voice to experiences that have too often been silenced and to create space to explore fundamental questions of family, identity, embodiment and community.”
Said Dalia Davis, Founder and President of Uprooted: “Even those whose fertility challenges are in the past may carry with them emotional trauma and painful memories decades later. One meaningful method of healing from the trauma of these experiences is to speak about them. Doing so in a public setting can be daunting, which makes the opportunity to do so through Story Aperture invaluable.”
About Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA), is the largest Jewish women’s organization in the United States. With nearly 300,000 members, Associates, and supporters, Hadassah brings women together to effect change and advocate on such critical issues as ensuring the security of Israel, combating antisemitism, and promoting women’s health. Through the Hadassah Medical Organization’s (HMO) two hospitals in Jerusalem, Hadassah delivers exemplary patient care to over a million people every year and supports world-renowned medical research. HMO serves without regard to race, religion, or nationality and earned a Nobel Peace Prize Nomination in 2005 for building “bridges to peace.” Additionally, Hadassah supports several Youth Aliyah villages that set at-risk children in Israel on the path to a successful future. For more information, visit www.hadassah.org.
About the Jewish Women’s Archive
The Jewish Women’s Archive documents Jewish women’s stories, elevates their voices, and inspires them to be agents of change. JWA is a national organization dedicated to collecting and promoting the extraordinary stories of Jewish women. JWA explores the past as a framework for understanding the issues important to women today; inspires young people with remarkable role models; and uses Jewish women’s stories to motivate actions toward a more equitable future. Jwa.org is the world’s largest collection of information on Jewish women, and draws more than 1.6 million visitors a year seeking information, inspiration, community, and a sense of identity. For more information, visit www.jwa.org.
Your Family-Building Story complements reConceiving Infertility, a national information and advocacy campaign HWZOA launched in April 2020. The objective of the campaign is to demystify infertility and the inability to conceive. Infertility also encompasses pregnancy loss, adoption, foster parenting, becoming a single parent by choice, LGBTQ+ family-building and blended families. It’s about redefining what it means to be a family.
About Uprooted: A Jewish Communal Response to Fertility Journeys
Uprooted: A Jewish Response to Fertility Journeys provides support and healing through a Jewish lens to those on difficult fertility journeys. By raising awareness within the Jewish community, educating Jewish leaders and providing direct support to those struggling, Uprooted is shifting the culture so that the community is more inclusive for those who face family-building challenges. Uprooted is committed to pluralistic ideals and has established a responsive, community-wide approach that provides opportunities for emotional and spiritual healing for anyone on a fertility journey. By sharing Jewish teachings and spiritual traditions, creating new rituals and forging connections among Jews negotiating this difficult road, Uprooted is establishing itself as a resource and a beacon of support to those struggling to grow their families. For more information, visit https://weareuprooted.org/.