Religious and Using a Sperm Donor? Best to Get a Rabbi's OK First

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Sperm samples at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center's sperm bank.Credit: Moti Milrod

There little dispute among arbiters of halakha, Jewish religious law, that children born to Jewish mothers from sperm donations are Jewish, by virtue of the mother’s Jewishness. In fact, Orthodox rabbis even recommend that Jewish women who want to use donated sperm should get the donation from a non-Jew, in order to prevent the possibility that the donor might be a blood relation.

The Ashkelon Rabbinical Court did not deviate from this policy this week when it was asked to rule on the personal status, in terms of religious law, of two sisters who were conceived using donated sperm from the United States.

The dayanim, rabbinical judges, assured the mother that when the time came, her daughters would meet all the requirements for a Jewish wedding, adding that they will even be able to marry kohanim, men of priestly ancestry, despite the more stringent requirements of such marriages.

The head of the court, Dayan Rabbi David Dov Levanon, cited a large number of Jewish sources according to which he ruled that there is no question regarding the Jewishness of the girls, whose mother is Jewish and who has a certificate proving the source of the donor sperm.

In his ruling, however, Levanon noted that while “this halakhic ruling is being issued after the fact, after the birth of the girls ... in order to permit artificial insemination or fertilization in advance, approval should be received from a certified rabbi who is a moreh hora’a,” or a halakhic authority.

According to sources in the rabbinical court who spoke on the condition of anonymity, this is only a recommendation.

“This is a practical aspect of the dayan’s view of the situation,” one told Haaretz.

“The rabbinical court does not approve every type of fertilization in advance, and recommends to those who adhere to its decisions to check in advance in order to prevent problematic situations. Usually it is possible to find a solution in advance that is less problematic in terms of halakha.”

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