Making jewish babies in the new year!


ELUL 5781

Before you read this article, please take a few moments to watch this video.

On the second morning of Rosh Hashanah, we will celebrate the creation of the world by hearing from the beginning of the Book of Genesis. The Torah teaches, that following the creation of the first male and female, God “blessed them and God said to them ‘P’ru urvu’ ‘be fertile and increase,’ [often translated as ‘Be fruitful and multiply’].” Jews refer to this phrase as the “First Commandment,” of the Torah. However, the words from Genesis 1:28 are in fact part of a “blessing.” Either way, you translate the text this is God’s blessing to the first woman and man to make babies.

One of our most cherished Rosh Hashanah traditions at Congregation Beth Israel (“CBI”) is welcoming/blessing new babies who were born in the previous year to our communal family. Every year at our Tot Yontif Service we invite parents with their newborn babies up to the bima for a special blessing.

Over the years of joyously blessing our newest members, I have paradoxically felt a pang in my heart for our couples who so desperately wanted a new baby, but for a variety of reasons are not able to conceive. Jewish law clearly states that couples who cannot have children due to fertility-related issues are exempt from the fulfillment of ‘P’ru urvu’.Yet, I believe that especially in an era of unimaginable (albeit expensive) medical advances in fertility treatments and technologies, making Jewish babies and thus, creating Jewish homes, is not just the singular duty of parents, but also the calling of a community. After all, making Jewish babies is a “calling” for the Jewish People, writ large.

This idea of the communal “calling” to make Jewish babies has become part of CBI’s newest efforts as part of our Mishpacha Project which we introduced to the congregation at our 2019 High Holy Day Services. Through the Mishpacha Project, we recognize our communal responsibility to – quite literally – build the Household of Israel. Our stated goal is to recognize those young couples who are struggling with infertility and the high cost of many procedures by offering fertility assistance grants to enable members to achieve their dream of building a family through advanced fertility treatments such as intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization.

We know that it is not only an emotional, physical and spiritual drain on these couples but can be cost-prohibitive as these technologies and procedures typically must be paid “out-of-pocket.” This creates undue stress for couples who often must take out second mortgages or engage in lengthy payment plans in their pure effort to fulfill their dreams of creating a Jewish family.

I am thrilled to share that during the year 5,781, our CBI family provided the first grant to a young couple which was used to pay for medical treatments enabling them (God willing) to have their first child in the coming year. Under the leadership of a highly sophisticated and passionate committee (CBI members: Lauren Hendeles, Debbie Yunker Kail, Cassie Weisz-Marin and Dr. Jesse Hade), our efforts to assist in making Jewish babies is underway. Please help us in sharing the aspirations of the sacred work of our Mishpacha Project with other families and friends. We hope you will both support and take pride in our congregation’s role in creating Jewish families.

This Rosh Hashanah we will (virtually) welcome and bless all of the babies born in the Jewish year 5,781. My prayer is that one year from now, at the beginning of 5,783 we will count among our newborns those who were born as the result of our small, but incredibly significant, efforts toward building a Jewish future in fulfillment of God’s blessings.

May it be a sweet and happy new year for you and your families. Ethan, Elle and Ethan join me in wishing you a Shanah Tova u’Metukah.

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