Considering adopting a child? Pursuing parenthood through artificial insemination or surrogacy? Interested in using a Jewish framework to think through the myriad ethical questions each path presents?
Then be sure to register for the upcoming online learning series, “Growing Today’s Jewish Families: New Spiritual and Ethical Perspectives.” The five live sessions, which will be shared on Zoom, begin on Sunday, Jan. 14, at 4:30 p.m. EST, concluding Sunday, March 10, at 4:30 p.m. EST. (See schedule and register here.) The series also includes an array of pre-recorded sessions.
“This is geared towards anyone who is not able to pursue parenthood through their own body and their partner’s body,” explained Rabbi Miriam Geronimus, founder of the Cleveland Jewish Collective, a startup community in Cleveland, one of the organizers of the series. It will also speak to those who, for a variety of reasons, have decided not to pursue biological reproduction.
As a queer woman, Geronimus is pursuing parenthood through artificial insemination. She also focuses on the added challenges that queer couples face in becoming parents. This series grew out of conversations between Geronimus and Minna Scherlinder Morse, an adoptive parent who, in writing and research, has explored the ethics of adoption and has been critical of some aspects of the adoption system. The two were introduced and supported by Rabbi Mira Wasserman, Ph.D., who directs The Center for Jewish Ethics, part of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
In addition to the Ethics Center, other sponsors include the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Keshet, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Modern JewISH Couples, and the Jewish Fertility Foundation.
Organizers are requesting a $90 suggested fee, though no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Topics will include adoption, foster-parenting, gamete donation, surrogacy, and various forms of reproductive medicine. What is different about this learning series is it will touch on all these paths, which are usually discussed in separate settings. Also, the focus won’t be on how to pursue these avenues: instead, the series will explore a range of questions and empower participants to think about these issues through the lens of Jewish values and reproductive justice. The series will focus on the interests not just of hopeful parents but the children themselves, birthparents, surrogates, gamete donors and more.
“It’s primarily geared towards people who are thinking about becoming parents but is also geared toward rabbis and other professionals who might want to be supportive of congregants or of people who are pursuing these paths to parenthood,” added Geronimus.
Between live and pre-recorded sessions, the series has more than 20 speakers lined up to share both professional expertise and their own lived experience.
“Many of the people who we have invited to be on the panels have already written very sensitively about their journeys,” said Scherlinder Morse, a member of Adat Shalom in Bethesda, Md., who has written “Questioning Easy Narratives: Exploring Adoption” for Evolve: Groundbreaking Jewish Conversations. (She has also discussed issues around adoption and social and economic justice on Evolve’s podcast and taught on the subject in a number of settings.)
“These stories and the individuals’ approaches to them are very nuanced. We hope the series will highlight many of the choice points that potential parents confront along the way,” said Scherlinder Morse, who is married to Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb.
The Reconstructionist approach to Judaism animated much of how the series is framed, and it will be inclusive of all who are drawn to the subject matter, said Geronimus.
“Certainly, the Reconstructionist movement has been a trailblazer in creating a Judaism that is welcoming of different paths, including queer folks. A big part of our goal is to create more space for diverse pathways to parenthood and to kind of counter some of the narratives that we hear often in Jewish spaces,” she said.
“The approach to Jewish ethics that we’re taking is very much about personal narratives and lived experiences,” added Geronimus. “If we believe that Judaism is the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people, I think that means that Jews create Judaism through their lives.”