Gestational Surrogacy Raises Question of Who Is a Jew'

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An illustration of sperm swimming toward an egg.Credit: Archive

A number of observant Jewish couples in Florida are facing the question of "who is a Jew?" after they hired gestational surrogates to enable them to have children.

Gestational surrogacy entails matching a couple's sperm and eggs - but where the mother for medical reasons can't be or get pregnant, a surrogate is brought in to carry the baby or babies to term.

The babies are thus related genetically to both parents and unrelated to the surrogate.

A strict reading of Jewish law says that a Jew must be born of a Jewish mother. But the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that rabbis are flummoxed by the question of whether a baby created by two Jewish parents but carried to term by a non-Jewish surrogate is halachically Jewish.

The couples interviewed by the paper tried to get pregnant, investing enormous resources in the effort. They then turned to surrogacy and became parents – but the local rabbis can't declare the children Jewish.

Two of the mothers with whom the paper spoke said the rabbis wanted to help but simply weren't familiar with in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy.

"The problem is that science and rabbinical law have not met at the same level yet," one of the mothers told the paper.