Thursday, April 15, 2021

Jewish Fertility Support Summit planned for February 22.

The upcoming Jewish Fertility Summit is set to occur on Zoom, on the evening of Monday, February 22. Eleven organizations that address a variety of issues relating to fertility will gather from many different geographic areas around the country for a sensitive and informational evening. Whether opting to be on camera or off, whether men will join their wives and whether the participants choose to use their real names or initials, the evening is intended to offer sensitivity and awareness, helpful information and lectures and compassionate support to couples on their fertility journey.

Dr. Aimee Baron of Riverdale is a licensed pediatrician. After giving birth to three children, she experienced four second-semester miscarriages. Baron had practiced as an attending pediatrician at the Newborn Nursery and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, but took a leave of absence after her third miscarriage. Despite being a knowledgeable medical practitioner, these experiences were shattering. After many years, she finally gave birth to her two youngest children. However, as a result of her traumatic experiences, she decided to leave her medical practice and devote herself to providing resources for couples within the Jewish community who were looking for information and emotional support. In August of 2019, Baron launched “I Was Supposed to Have a Baby,” a social media community on Instagram and Facebook whose mission was to provide a warm and nurturing space for those going through infertility, pregnancy loss, infant loss, surrogacy or adoption, in addition to connecting them to resources in the Jewish community at large.

Baron shared, “The forum was an immediate success. Stories poured in from around the world, with women clamoring to share their experiences, tips and support. Finally, Jewish people struggling to build their families had a place.”

Several months ago, Baron joined forces with Ariele Mortkowitz of Baltimore, Maryland, the founding director of SVIVAH, a multigenerational, diverse and powerful collective of Jewish women dedicated to designing and discovering a communal faith experience with women as its centerpiece, a spiritual “circle of women.” Mortkowitz is also a JOFA/YCT/Maharat-certified premarital educator and longtime mikvah ritual guide. Together they came up with the concept of a “virtual summit” bringing together many of the organizations involved in the issues of infertility and pregnancy loss from around the country. Whereas a year before, they would never have been able to fill up a ballroom, the virtual venue would allow for limitless attendees who could join from the comfort and privacy of their homes.

Baron and Mortkowitz proceeded to contact the organizations that were addressing different aspects of the fertility issue, some from specific perspectives and religious outlooks. Every organization they contacted to participate in the summit was eager and enthusiastic about the opportunity to address such a large audience. Their search resulted in spokespersons from 11 organizations who will be addressing the upcoming summit on behalf of their organizations. The 11 participating spokespersons include Gila Block, representing “Yesh Tikva,” which offers free professional psychosocial services, resources and tools to those struggling with infertility; Dalia Davis, co-founder and spiritual advisor of “Uprooted,” a pluralistic healing community that raises awareness, educates and provides support for those impacted by infertility; Elana Frank, CEO and founder of “Jewish Fertility Foundation,” which provides financial assistance, educational awareness and emotional support to people with medical fertility challenges; Molly Hess, program manager and family consultant for “Priya,” which offers emotional support, resource connection, spiritual guidance and financial assistance with fertility treatments and/or adoption; Reva Judas, director of “Nechama Comfort,” whose mission is to comfort and support Jewish families through the trauma of miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss and educate medical staff, clergy, lay leaders and community members on how best to help; Esther Kleinman, medical guidance and intake counselor for “Bonei Olam,” founded in 1999 to provide the means or resources necessary to allow childless couples facing infertility the opportunity to pursue medical fertility treatments; Malkie Klaristenfeld, director and founder of “Knafayim,” which strengthens and supports families facing pregnancy or early baby loss; Chani Levertov, founder and director of “Fruitful,” which provides community education and emotional support to those striving to build their families; Brany Rosen, founder and director of members services for “A Time,” which provides information, resources and assistance at every step of the road to parenthood; Elimor Ryzman, Cares team member for “PUAH,” which embodies a unique synthesis of rabbinical knowledge and specialized training in modern reproductive medicine to provide the best guidance possible through fully subsidized counseling and guidance; and Rabbi Idit Solomon, founder of “Hasidah,” the voice of hope and compassion that raises awareness of infertility, provides support resources and reduces financial barriers to treatment. These spokespersons hail from cities across the U.S.

The upcoming summit is being sponsored by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, whose director of govenment relations, Karen Paikin Barall, will address the gathering. The format of the evening is as follows: The first 60 minutes will be devoted to spotlighting each organization’s representative as she speaks about one of 11 hot topics related to fertility. The remainder of the program will divide the presenters and the participants into two groups, moderated by two mental health professionals. Dvora Entin, LCSW and PMH-C, has developed programs in Phoenix and Philadelphia that address the unique mental needs of the Orthodox Jewish community. Caryn Malkus, MA, LCMFT, is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist in Bethesda, Maryland. Throughout this second session, participants will be able to call in their queries and address them to the representatives of the various organizations.

Baron shared, “This is a safe space. Once the summit starts, we encourage you to join in the way that makes you feel most comfortable. We’d love to see your face, but understand that for many of you, that’s not possible as we are dealing with such a sensitive topic. Feel free to change your name, use your initials, and if you want to keep your camera off, that’s understood as well. Show up and participate in whatever manner feels right for you.”

The upcoming Summit is free of charge but requires previous registration. To register for the February 22 “2021 Jewish Fertility Support Summit,” visit www.iwassupposedtohaveababy.org/summit   and follow the guidelines for signing up. You will be provided with a link to the Summit as well as information about the program and the participating organizations. For those who are unable to attend, the Summit will be recorded and sent to all the registrants afterwards, along with a resource packet with links to further resources in the Jewish fertility community.

By Pearl Markovitz