When I was 39 years old and still single, I decided to move forward with my “Plan B” to have a baby on my own as a single mother by choice. After finding a wonderful and generous sperm donor, I learned that I would also need an egg donor.
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As a petite, well-educated Jewish woman, I wanted to find an egg donor who resembled me and my vertically-challenged extended Jewish family, all of whom are descended from Eastern European immigrants. I found a donor attending graduate school who is also petite and quite athletic, like myself. With all of the other concerns about logistics, injections, the timing of the retrieval and the pregnancy, whether my baby would be considered Jewish by my rabbi was an afterthought.
Of course my baby boy will be Jewish, I thought, because I am Jewish - and I am his mother. As it turns out, there is little consensus among rabbis in the United States and Israel about whether a baby born to a Jewish mother with the help of a non-Jewish egg donor is Jewish or not.
“If the egg is from a non-Jew, then the DNA is from the other person, says Rabbi Shaul Rosen, who founded a support network for infertile Jewish couples. “In order for that child to be Jewish, it would have to go through a conversion ceremony like any other non-Jew.” For babies, this requires immersion in a mikvah, and boys must have a bris. Other Orthodox rabbis take this approach as well.
I myself am affiliated with the Conservative movement. I carried my baby, Solomon, and he had a bris with a mohel. Eighty of my closest family and friends attended his bris and Solomon is Jewish, according to my family, community and rabbi.
The question of a baby’s parentage may seem to become more complicated when a Jewish couple uses an egg donor and a surrogate to have a baby, but it need not be. Requiring the conversion of a baby born from a non-Jewish egg donor and/or a surrogate places unnecessary significance on the baby’s genetics rather than on the child’s Jewish parents. As such, it echoes, even faintly, nefarious eugenics programs or other genetic ancestry-based discrimination that has led to violence.
Solomon is named after two of his great-great grandfathers who fought their way to the United States in order for their Jewish children and grandchildren to have a peaceful and prosperous life. His bris was a huge celebration for me and my family.
Solomon knows the Hebrew alphabet and sings “Shalom Alechem” and “Shabbat Shalom.” He reminds me every Friday afternoon that we need to light the Shabbat candles.
We do not need rabbis or halakhic (Jewish law) scholars to tell us if our baby is Jewish. Our children will tell us themselves that they are Jewish. They have known all along.
Jessica Rutzick founded and operates Premium Egg Donation, Inc., www.premiumeggdonation.com an egg donor agency that matches intended parents with academically credentialed egg donors. She is also a trial lawyer and single mom by choice and lives with her son, Solomon, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.