Tulips background for text The Infertility Awareness Shabbat- Thoughts and ReflectionsWe are pleased to be able to share thoughts and reflections on the Infertility Awareness Shabbat by Ariella Ganz. This is the first year that more than 30 synagogues and organizations in Israel took part in the international shabbat.

I’m so grateful that this conversation is finally taking place on a communal level. Being an issue that affects 1 in 8 couples, it’s about time to bring the conversation out of the hush hush corners of society, and into the public sphere. Break the stigma. Remove the debilitating isolation. Build more understanding, accepting, supportive and empathetic communities.

Yoetzet Halacha, Atara Eis, spoke to a group of women and men (yes- men are affected by challenges of infertility as well!)

this past Shabbat in Efrat. The Haggadah emphasizes the importance of giving over the story of leaving Egypt to our children, which can be especially painful for those waiting for their next generation to begin. She wove stories of couples throughout tanach who struggled to have children together with statistics and findings from modern research. The pain is strong, and it runs deep.


Had this taken place last year, I would not have gone. Having waited 9 years for our precious gift from Hashem to arrive, it was important for me to be there. I wanted to support this initiative of starting a conversation, because it’s such an important one to have.

I hadn’t planned on sharing at all, but once the discussion began after the presentation, I knew it would be foolish to stay silent.

How Do we Know What to Say?

“Every person and couple goes through their journey differently. Each with their own needs, sensitivities, and boundaries. How are we supposed to know what to do, what to say?”

I want to take a moment to address this excellent question and offer some suggestions of my own.

  • Every horrifically inappropriate comment that Atara brought as an example of what not to say to someone struggling with infertility has been said to me and my husband (and then some!) At some point we all will probably say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and wish we could pull our feet out of our mouths. Once we realize what we’ve said, we have the opportunity to reach out to the person whose pain we may have increased, and apologize. Send a text, pick up the phone, write an email, get together for coffee. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but that you do. Struggling with infertility can be so isolating, so knowing that someone cares, respects your feelings and struggle enough to try to make things better means so much. More than you may realize. Trust me.
  • Some people don’t want to talk about it, others may be offended that it’s not brought up. Don’t avoid them. Cultivate a relationships of trust, respect, understanding... empathy. Again, you may mess up, but please- don’t not try.
  • Invite them for meals on Shabbat! If it’s not good for them, they can turn down the invitation. Don’t make the ‘no’ decision for them by never asking.
  • If they accept your invitation, don’t leave them alone at your table while everyone is taking care of the children (I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to us) If you both really need to be away from the table, because let’s be honest- it may sometimes happen, it can be done in a way which respects them (and your children)... such as apologizing for needing to get up for a few moments, trying to get back to the table as soon an possible, etc.
  • Have some non child related topics ready to make them feel welcome, respected, and accepted.
  • Healthy community consists of people throughout all stages of life. If you are past the stage of babies and diapers, reach out to a couple without children. Some of the most important relationships that we developed over the years without children were with wonderful couples a half or full generation above us.

Atara shared the statistic that a third of infertility cases are due to issues with the woman, a third are due to issues with the man, and a third are due to unknown issues.

Chronic Illnesses

I want to shed light on another factor in the struggle with infertility- illness. Many people with chronic illnesses take medications which on the one hand allow them to function, but on the other hand make it difficult or impossible to get pregnant. 

  • How do you make the decision to try starting a family?
  • Do you go off of medications (often going through withdrawal, and a return of painful complicated symptoms)?
  • Do you risk the process of pregnancy?
  • What about surrogacy?
  • Do you even qualify?
  • What about adoption?
  • At what point do you make the decision to stop trying to bring life of your own flesh and blood into the world? 
    Each option incredibly complicated. Emotionally. Practically.

There is no one right way to do things. There is no script that works for everyone. But with awareness, kindness, and empathy we can together build a more supportive and loving environment in which we can all thrive.

To anyone struggling with infertility, who feels isolated- please know that you’re not alone! There are individuals and organizations (like Keren Gefen) available to help.

To those who have struggled with infertility- what can you add to my list?

Looking forward to continuing this important conversation.

Do you have something to add? Please share.

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