Who confers Jewish status?


Several rabbinic rulings have been made in the last few months which are confounding and frustrating Jewish mothers. The latest ruling places the genetic mother (egg donor) above the gestational mother as far as Jewish lineage is concerned and thus calls into question the religious status of thousands of children who have already been born using undetermined eggs. The ruling is not consistent with previous teachings and directly contradicts what some families are hearing from their rabbis.

As IVF has increased in popularity, the issue has become tumultuous in Israel where restrictions on egg donation make parents turn to other countries for a source. Those eggs are likely not Jewish.

Traditionally, faith is passed from mother to child. Until recently, Orthodox rabbinic authorities have stated that the birth mother is the parent who confers religious status to the new baby. At the January conference in Jerusalem of the Puah Institute, Rabbi Mordechai Halperin contradicted that stating “the pendulum of rabbinic opinion has swung toward conferring maternity on the egg donor,” according to Gabrielle Birkner, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward and author of an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal on this topic

But it’s not a universal point of view. A prominent Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Tendler believes “Genetics provide only the blueprint, and for the next nine months the work is done by the gestational mother.”

New regulations on egg donation in Israel would theoretically solve the problem, but the debate is getting heated. “The notion that there is Jewish blood is offensive. It’s not about science; it’s about race. It’s saying, ‘We don’t want outsiders, and our criterion is blood’,” said Zev Chafets, a former government spokesperson who writes on reproductive issues.

It’s a serious issue for families. A woman who would not identify herself for the Wall Street Journal piece pointed out that her children were conceived using non-Jewish eggs but at a time when the prevailing opinion favored the gestational mother. With these new opinions, her children could be expelled from their Orthodox school and could even have trouble finding a spouse if their Orthodox rabbi will not sanction a union. “I can’t say her fears aren’t justified,” said Rabbi Dr. Reichman.

Source: The Wall Street Journal


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