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Lines Of Communication

Infertility: Not Only a Woman’s Problem

To the Editor:

I was pleased to note that the Spring 1988 issue of LILITH devoted several articles to “The New Infertility,” an increasingly pervasive problem in our community. However, I was troubled by the simplistic connection which Shirley Frank in her article “Wanting Babies” draws between the delayed childbearing of career minded Jewish women and infertility. While she anticipates and denounces calls for women to return to childbearing as a first and only priority, it is Frank herself who contributes to what she calls “the-women-get-back-to-the-bedroom-and-kitchen-scare” by defining the problem as that of women alone.

Frank’s argument also completely overlooks the role that male infertility plays. Indeed, problems result from the male in some 40 percent of couples. Furthermore, in 20 percent of cases both partners contribute to the difficulties. Truly then, in a minority of cases, only 40 percent, childlessness results from women alone.

The article “Surrogacy in Jewish Law” by Arlene Agus inaccurately portrays Jewish views about surrogacy. She writes that “there is surprising consensus among both classical and contemporary Jewish thinkers, from Orthodox to Reform discouraging synthetic families.” However, Agus does not acknowledge the tendency to permit surrogacy arrangements when all other medical treatments fail. The Responsa Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis of the Reform movement wrote in 1982: “We would hesitantly permit the use of a married surrogate mother in order to enable a couple to have children…. We would have to treat the use of a surrogate mother as a new medical way of relieving the childlessness of a couple.” In addition the New York Federation of Jewish Philanthropies Compendium on Medical Ethics — published in 1984 by its Committee on Medical Ethics comprised of rabbis from all the streams of Jewish life — while not encouraging the procedures, definitely permit host wombs and artificial insemination by donor “in the absence of an alternative.”

by Rabbi Deborah Prinz, Teaneck, New Jersey

“Pushy” and Proud of It

To the Editor:

Several months ago I had the pleasure of seeing you on “The Donahue Show.” As a displaced Jewish woman from Brooklyn, New York, I cannot forget one thing in particular that you said: “If a Jewish woman speaks out she’s a pushy, loud Jew, but when a Christian woman speaks out she’s informed and gutsy.”

We live in a town of 70,000 with about 150 Jews who are very concerned about “fitting in.” My husband and I are always introduced as “Our Jewish friends, the Keeners” and each week I get invited to attend some church for “awareness” and “a Christ is the answer” speech.

Anytime I speak out on a new issue, I’m a “loud, Jewish woman,” or an “outspoken Jew.” It has been quite an experience living here where people think Jews have horns.

So I’m a pushy loud Jew and a smart one—and proud of it! Hearing you speak was indeed a pleasure.

by Susan Keener, Longview, Texas

Not the Only TV Rabbi!

To the Editor:

In the Winter issue of LILITH (#18), there was a picture of a rabbi performing a wedding (on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives”). I thought you would be interested in knowing that another real life rabbi performed another Jewish ceremony on primetime TV last fall.

Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles performed a baby naming ceremony during the show “A Year in the Life.” It’s nice to see Jewish issues presented in the media. It’s especially nice to see Jewish issues with female rabbis participating.

by Rikki Horne, Beverly Hills, California