Reproducing Jews: ART in Israel

In her book Reproducing Jews, anthropologist Susan Kahn submits three main ideas for the reader’s consideration. The first is that in Israeli culture, “…it is considered much worse to be a childless woman than it is to be an unmarried mother” (16). This view of motherhood being accepted as the highest goal to which a woman can attain is something explained and developed in Kahn’s book in tandem with assisted reproductive technology making this goal more and more achievable. The second theme is that of the continuation of the Jewish people; Kahn writes, “Because reproductive technology offers the potential to reproduce more Jews, it is understood to be a positive tool for Jewish survival” (93). There is a deep pull within the collective Jewish consciousness to follow the mandate set forth in Genesis to be fruitful and multiply. The third theme Kahn sets up for the reader is that of the evolving ideas of kinship in Israeli and Jewish culture as a result of assisted reproductive technology becoming more and more widespread. Kahn asks the reader to consider new ideas about paternalistic roles, family units, and individual rights in terms of emerging systems of reproduction, showing how new methods of reproducing Jews have the ability to impact our understanding of reproduction on a global scale.

The first of these three themes that Kahn goes into is shown clearly in the title of the first chapter: “The time arrived but the father didn’t” (9). This effectively captures the feeling of much of Israeli and Jewish culture that Kahn details in the first chapter and throughout the book: women are supposed to be mothers, and they must be allowed to fulfill this role through any means available to them. The new wave of assisted reproductive technology being made available to Jewish women in Israel is a direct result of this deeply-rooted cultural view that women are best suited for motherhood and it is their natural right and directive to have children. In this way, the method of the conception means relatively little in comparison to the actual fact of conception. Kah writes of this phenomenon, “Motherhood itself remains understood as a deeply natural desire and goal, despite the extraordinary technological measures necessary to achieve it” (62). Assisted reproductive technology allows women who are unmarried, barren, homosexual, or in a relationship with an infertile man to have children and fulfill their natural role in motherhood; for this reason, Kahn suggests, the barriers that may be in place elsewhere between women and assisted reproductive technology are not as much of a hurdle for Jewish women in Israel.

The legal hurdles that many women face in using assisted reproductive technology were not uncommon for women in Israel until, Kahn posits, the internationally publicized Nahmani case in which Ruti Nahmani went head to head with her ex-husband to gain custody of the frozen embryos that had been fertilized while they were still married. The details of the case are not as important to Kahn as the public opinion that the case generated in regards to the image of assisted reproductive technology and the attitude towards childless women. Kahn writes, “The public’s sympathy for [Ruti Nahmani] reinforced not only the rights of barren women but also the popular ideology that motherhood is the most important goal in a woman’s life, regardless of her marital status” (69). This case, a landmark case for assisted reproductive technology in itself, achieved something equally important in how it drew attention to the “pitiable state that must be ‘cured’ by any means necessary” that childlessness is seen as in Israeli culture (69). No longer is motherhood reserved for married women with complete health; assisted reproductive technology allows women in any state to have children and fulfill their natural role.

The second theme of Reproducing Jews is the deeply embedded cultural directive of the continuation of the Jewish people. Kahn argues that this desire to fulfill the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28 influences not only religious Jews but their secular counterparts as well. Israeli law is bound up with Jewish religious law and customs, both implicitly and explicitly. Israeli legislation on assisted reproductive technology cannot be created or upheld without some form of input or reaction from Jewish religious law and the rabbis that maintain it. Israeli laws that determine the use of assisted reproductive technology are bolstered by the fact that Jewish people – whether secular or religious – are deeply invested in making more Jewish people.

The state, concretely pronatal, is in agreement with this drive to continue reproducing Jews. Kahn writes of this phenomenon, “…the children conceived via artificial insemination and born to unmarried women inherit the same cultural, religious, and social identity as those born to married women… [artificial insemination] is not a choice that runs contrary to one of the most central goals of the state: the reproduction of Jews” (62). In rabbinic law, children born to unmarried Jewish women enjoy the same rights, status, and privileges of those born to married Jewish women. This further supports the idea that the actual reproduction of children is more important than the way the reproduction occurred. Kahn writes that “since reproduction is not conceptualized as a choice in Jewish law, but as an obligation, the infertile couple’s decision to take advantage of the new reproductive technologies [comes from] compulsion to fulfill a divine commandment” (170). Rabbinic law continues to evolve in reaction to emerging reproductive technologies so that it may, in its own specific and ordered way, facilitate the Halakhic use of these technologies in order to reproduce more Jews.

Jewish religious culture has also influenced public perception of childless women in much the same way as the Nahmani case, allowing it to be more widespread. Kahn writes, “Consent for the new reproductive technologies is all but universal in Israel, a pronatalist state where the despair of the barren woman has deep cultural roots” (70). She goes on to mention how this may even be an appeal to the biblical story of Rachel, a barren woman who cried out to God to give her a son (70). The influence of Jewish religious culture and law on that of secular Israel cannot be disregarded, as it informs the ways in which laws of assisted reproductive technology come about and are integrated into society. Rabbinic law is also informed by this desire to further the Jewish people; Kahn writes that “It is important to point out that a powerful motive behind the creation of new rabbinic rulings regarding reproductive technology is rabbinic concern for the survival of the Jewish people” (93). Assisted reproductive technology allows for more Jewish women to have more Jewish babies, and this is a matter of great importance to the Jewish religious community.

Nevertheless, there does exist a significant amount of discussion and concern over evolving kinship roles as assisted reproductive technology develops in Israel. This is the third point that carries throughout Kahn’s book and one that is the most fraught with disagreement between secular Israeli law and orthodox Jewish culture. There are obvious points of heated debate that emerge in discussions of assisted reproductive technology, be it IVF, artificial insemination, or surrogacy; the most basic of these are those that deal with questions of who the “real” mother or father is, and what roles biological “parents” play in a system where they may have nothing to do with the child who shared their genetic makeup.

Kahn writes strikingly of evolving paternal roles surrounding artificial insemination: “[the state] assumes a paternalistic role, both literally and figuratively. The role of ‘inseminator’ moves laterally between the imagined father and the state… the maintenance and welfare of the child is dependent on the entity that produces sperm for conception, whether that entity is the father or whether it is the state” (29). In this view, the role of “father” goes to the state, both in terms of physical mechanics and the role of provider. This introduces an interesting understanding of the ways in which parental roles can be transferred to entities far removed from the individual, personal father. As Kahn writes, “…Jewish paternity exists along a continuum” (101).

In the same way, the role of motherhood can be similarly understood to be grafted onto the state in situations of surrogacy or egg donation. Kahn writes that “By forcing the biological roles of maternality to fragment into genetic and gestational components, ovum-related technologies force a conceptual fragmentation of maternality as well” (112). These questions of who the “real” mother is are especially important with regards to a system that “determines religious identity matrilineally” (128). Jewish law depends on the identity of the mother to determine Jewish identity, and if the understanding of motherhood is fractured into various aspects, the fracturing of a straightforward understanding of Jewish religious identity is equally present.

Kahn suggests that, in these evolving kinship units forming as a result of assisted reproductive technology, the role of parent and “family” can be transferred not only to the state, but to the staff of the laboratories in which assisted reproductive technology takes place. She writes, “One could argue that the matrix of relationships that exists in these fertility laboratories can be imagined as a fictive kin network, for it is within these relationships that conception occurs” (116). This view sheds light on an incredibly intimate relationship of social and kinship bonds that surround the events, locations, and personnel involved in assisted reproductive technology. The whole network can, in this way, be imagined as a sort of family unit in which conception is achieved, children are born, and families are created. This humanization of assisted reproductive technology is a vastly interesting phenomenon; Kahn calls it the “technological creation of motherhood” (127). This can be applied to fatherhood as well, and it gives readers an insight into the blending worlds of “the medical realm of the operating room and the symbolic realm of kinship” (127) that are emerging from the culture surrounding assisted reproductive technology in Israel.

16 Replies to “Reproducing Jews: ART in Israel”

  1. Thanks for your write up, Madeline.

    Susan Kahn’s book highlighted the culture of reproduction and reproductive technologies in Jewish culture. Like you mentioned, it offers incredible insight into the dynamic of kinship (how it becomes defined beyond the nuclear family into something encompassing all laboratory staff), the single-minded goal of having women produce more Jewish children (as Judaism follows matrilineal descent), and the very interesting view the culture has on single mothers.

    Kahn proposes a variety of theoretical questions that rabbis still cannot find consensus to (eg. who is the mother in a surrogacy situation?). Professor Seeman’s essay on Jewish Israelis comments on how reproductive issues and conflicts were present even in biblical texts, citing the tension of biblical females being unable to produce children. Though the issues were frequently mentioned and individual stories had differing outcomes and resolutions, even the biblical texts have lacked any real consensus on what is good and not good; stories have wildly varying interpretations from rabbi to rabbi. This uneasy state of religious approval leaves doctors unwilling to provide accurate statistics despite the acceptance from secular Jews.

    The concept of “halakhah” was constantly mentioned in Kahn’s book. Single mothers producing children is, surprisingly enough, not forbidden. Given the sheer volume of fertility clinics and widespread usage of varying reproductive technologies in Israel, the Jewish reproductive culture provides an interesting contrast to Christianity’s reproductive culture, which has a considerably more conservative view, especially given Donum Vitae outright forbidding most reproductive technologies altogether. This likely stems from a fundamental different interpretation of Genesis – Jews see “be fruitful and multiply” as a commandment, whereas Christians see it as more of a gift.

    Briefly mentioned by Kahn is the existence of “golems.” In Broyde’s essay, he notes the existence of golems as artificial “creatures.” The creation of nonhuman golems appears to create conflict, especially given the rising number of “test tube babies.” This appears to be resolved with a Talmudic conclusion that notes that even a cloned human is a human when born to a human mother. However, when the creation of a human incubator arises, the question may come to pass once again if those born artificially without a birthing mother are considered humans or “golems.”

    Jewish culture has a deep devotion to continuing its heritage and lineage. From the Israeli Supreme Court ultimately deciding to side with Ruti Nahmani (right to motherhood vs. right to not be a parent) to the graceful acceptance of single mothers, reproductive technology has surely been a boon to to-be Israeli mothers, though not without its religious critics.

  2. Hi Madeline,

    Good job summarizing Kahn’s main points and highlighting the message “be fruitful and multiply” as an essential element in the reproductive technologies discussion. Personally, I learned that there is a great Jewish emphasis on reproduction through this week’s readings. Some other things I learned were 1. It is ideal for Jews to have two children, one male and one female, 2. Jewish identity and the way it gets passed on through kinship is complicated with reproductive technologies, 3. There can be multiple parents in some cases. Jewish law is willing to give “case-by-case analysis” for those seeking out reproductive technologies, so it seems more open to reproductive technologies compared to Christianity. It makes me wonder if we will see processes such as cloning being explored more in predominately Jewish nations, rather than Christian nations.

    I enjoyed reading the cases that Bryode provided because it shed light on the topic of kinship in Jewish law, and I was encouraged to consider viewpoints that I had not thought of before. For example, the case of the women who gave birth via ovaries she received through transplantation gave me context to think more about motherhood attribution for DNA donors versus gestational mothers. While the topic of kinship and identity is complicated, the idea that the clone is human being is assumed because clones are “separate and unique person[s]” in the eyes of God. I really like this assumption because it addresses the ‘slippery slope’ and tells us that clones should be treated with the same respect and rights just like any other human in society.

    Something I was confused about in this talk about reproductive technology is the discrepancy between “harvesting of organs” from clones as an act of “denigration of human beings” and “having [a] child to save the life of another child… is a blessed activity.” The two concepts involve the same thing: using one person’s body/organs for another person’s well being. So why is the conclusion that is drawn so different (I.e. denigration and blessing)?

  3. Thank you for an interesting blog post, Madeline. I thought you did a great job at analyzing and summarizing Kahn’s work. I really enjoyed reading her ethnography because it allowed me to understand a more personal side of assisted reproductive technology and the processes that Jewish women go through to achieve them. I learned a lot from this week’s readings because I had never known before how important reproduction and children are in the Jewish religion. I agree with you that Jewish women, compared to most other religions, have the most access and freedom in pursuing with ART. While it is convenient that the Israeli state funds most forms of ART, the pressure that the religion puts on women to have children can be too excessive at times. We discussed in class last week the verse, Genesis 1:28, that says to “be fruitful and multiply.” There were some differing opinions about whether God was commanding to reproduce or offering children as a gift. In the Jewish religion, they read the verse as a command that must be followed at all costs, which is why they enforce all forms of ART upon their women followers.

    I wanted to point out a quote from Kahn’s book that describes the role of the state in assisted reproductive technologies. Kahn mentions, “As soon as the state gets involved in controlling access to conception, it assumes a paternalistic role, both literally and figuratively” (Kahn 29). Paternalism is a recurring problem in medicine and the state taking control over reproduction makes the entire process more difficult since it takes the intimate parts of childbearing out of the picture. Although the women have great access to ART, the state may be taking too much of a role in it.

  4. Hi Madeline! Thank you for the thorough summary of the reading. I appreciated the clear elaboration of the three main ideas presented in the reading. I thought it was really interesting that one of the ideas presented was the importance of a women bearing a child regardless of her marital status or sexuality. This provides a great contrast to the readings from the previous week including Donum Vitae and the reading by Bell, because the viewpoint on artificial reproductive technologies from a christian/catholic stance is much more conservative. Furthermore, it interested me that Kahn’s reading emphasized the value of Jewish women bearing children because in the reading by Broyde, he highlighted the opposite. Broyde touched on the point that it was a commandment to men and not women to “be fruitful and multiply” as stated in genesis. Therefore a women is not obligated by religion to have children while a man is. While Kahn looks more at cultural norms and obligations, Boyde looks at religious norms and obligations.
    Throughout many of the readings we have done so far, the idea of kinship has been embedded throughout, which logically makes since when dealing with assisted reproductive techniques. I thought it was an interesting stance that Kahn explained of how a parent will be the person or entity that was responsible for the creation of the child, regardless if that entity is a living human such as in the case of the state or lab. A very important factor to consider, and idea presented both by Kahn and Boyde, is if the mother is Jewish. As Kahn mentioned in her second theme, it is very important in Jewish culture to continue to make more Jewish people. Because one only becomes Jewish if their mother is Jewish, its logical that this is an important factor in determining who the mother is. But as Broyde brought up, labeling who the mother is becomes less clear with the emergence of ARTs. These cultural and religious values of women’s obligation to bear children, and having valid kinship in order to create more Jewish people seem to juxtapose each other at times.

  5. Hi Madeline! Thanks for the blog post.

    I found it interesting that the idea that motherhood is the natural right of any woman that Susan Kahn mentions in her book is in direct contrast to the French policymakers’ ideas of what constitutes as natural when they reject anyone who is not in the “traditional” family setting from using assisted reproductive technologies.

    I also thought that the cultural directive of the continuation of the Jewish people that Kahn discusses can also be seen in a more symbolic manner in the current day, like the case of the dead soldier’s parents who wished to harvest his sperm, as they wanted to be grandparents but did not have the social desire to raise the child if the surrogate did not want them to (Seeman, 345).

    The actual reproduction of children being more important than the way the reproduction occurred can also be seen biblically, like the cases of a man’s brother dying with no children and the man being required to marry the widow and impregnate her so that the dead brother’s kinship line can continue. The children in these cases are only considered the dead brother’s (Seeman, 344).

    I thought Kahn’s mention of the role of “father” going to the state traces back to the traditional family and how children must have both a father and mother, even if the father is identified by the role that the state plays in the conception of the child. As you mentioned, the role of the mother in these cases is harder to truly understand, but what seems to be important in the family setting, is that both roles do exist, whether that role is complicated or simple.

  6. Hi Madeline,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog on Susan Kahn’s book. I thought the way you broke it up and focused on the three major themes made it easy to follow and made your arguments strong. I found the emphasis placed on women to have children to be extremely interesting. From last week’s readings, we learned that the Catholic belief is that having a children is a blessing from God and meant to be between a husband and a wife. The perspective from this week’s readings strongly contrasted that by saying it was a duty to have children. Moreover, it is “sad” for a woman not to be able to have children so it is everyone else’s duty to support her in finding another way to do so.

    In general, from these readings I tended to be a bit lost when looking at all of the different theories which would provide evidence for and against ARTs. I suppose, though, that this helps demonstrate that there really is not a clear answer to the question.

    I found the example that Seeman used of Sarah, Abraham and Hagar to be an extremely compelling example for ARTs. However, is it reasonable to argue that because our ancestors performed a type of surrogacy, that it is okay for us to do it to? This relates back to the idea that just because something is natural does not mean that it is right.

    Broyde’s discussion on cloning was also extremely interesting because it brought up another question: what does it mean to be human and have an identity? Broyde uses different theories to argue the relation of the clone to whom the DNA came from: are they siblings or is it a parental relationship? or is it something different altogether? These questions are important because your kin help define who you are, who has a right to your DNA, and who has a right to shape your future.

  7. Hi Madeline,

    First, thanks for a great post! You address many of Kahn’s points in a succinct way that enhanced my understanding and memory of the themes and topics present in her novel. I will turn to your third paragraph to begin discussion on one of your points I found particularly interesting. At the end of your third paragraph, you write, “No longer is motherhood reserved for married women with complete health; assisted reproductive technology allows women in any state to have children and fulfill their natural role.” I have been thinking about what is “natural” and “unnatural” since last week’s discussion, and if we can even define binary categories for each (I think we cannot, but I digress). To claim that women living in Israeli society have a “natural” role might assume that they also have an “unnatural” role. This physically unnatural role in the context of this topic would be failure to bring Jewish children into the world.

    Logic in Donum Vitae arguably echoes similar sentiments about the fine line between acceptable, natural and unnatural bodily processes and ART’s role in such, but obviously fails to include Jewish perspectives of obligation and pro-natalism in such debates. The failure of a Catholic woman to fulfill a “natural” role of having a baby might not be as significant in the grand scheme of things than a Jewish woman’s. In fact, a Catholic woman might be more prone to praise for not violating strict, inflexible rules while a Jewish woman now experiences encouragement in religious interpretation and reproductive exploration. Dr. Seeman’s article for this week adds to this idea as he notes, “Israel’s extraordinary acceptance of reproductive technologies can be traced primarily to sociological factors like the State’s consciousness of a ‘demographic problem’ stemming from high Arab birth rates, or the much vaunted pro-natalism” (Seeman 2010, 350).

    More fluid, changing notions of kinship also appear along with changing “natural” roles of mothers. Although a child born of ART to an unmarried mother might enjoy every official right of a child born in a traditional sense, social stigmas still challenge women’s abilities to explain ART in an appropriate and acceptable context (Kahn 2000, 47). Kahn writes of support networks shifting for women as unmarried mothers seek a community of understanding in their situations. While Israel seems progressive compared to other countries in its use and availability of ART, there is still work to be done in incorporating these women and children into Israeli culture to maximize investments in ART and promote inclusive cultural practices. A question I pose related to this topic that might be worth further discussion (and because I personally have limited knowledge on Israel’s cultural practices and daily life) relates to the importance of continuing kinship. Israel invests a great amount into technological efforts in ART, but how useful are such efforts without further social work to actively redefine and sustain notions of kinship in society? How would Israel go about doing so and what barriers are there to redefining such a concept? Thanks again!

  8. This is an extremely well-written and thought-provoking post! I think it’s interesting to note that right off the bat, Kahn prefaces with the idea that “Jewish women are under extraordinary pressure to reproduce, whether they are married or unmarried” (Kahn, 4). This relates to what you said about it being better to be an unmarried mother, also placing a large amount of emphasis on motherhood. These ideas of motherhood are ultimately what influence the stance on ART in Judaism. Broyde’s essay focuses on cloning as an artificial technique, in which Jewish law permits the use of cloning only when needed. The conditions for this are where this debate gets nuanced, as well as with questions on the clone’s kinship relationship with his or her parents (and who the parents even are). Both Kahn and Broyde mention that motherhood is defined as the woman carrying the child, rather than the ovum donor (Kahn, 144) (Broyde, 299). However, like you mention, this remains one of the largest debates with secular Israeli law and Orthodox Jewish culture.

    I think where Jewish culture and secular Israeli law agree is that there is a push for Jewish people to produce more children in their lifespan. As noted in the chapter by Seeman and going off the essay by Ball, policy makers should try to be a little bit “freer than a restrictive legal text” with some non-consensus in their policies (Seeman, 341). I feel as though this policy can give law and religion a bit more flexibility when it comes to reproductive technologies and what is seen as “permissible, a good deed, or prohibited” (Broyde, 296). Regardless, there has still been a huge push for things like IVF clinics in Israel, and increasingly “Western” views of ART in Israel.

  9. Melanie, thank you for the meaningful summary. You certainly address the main points thoroughly and explore interpretations and implications of each idea. I would like to add that I find the contrast between Jewish and Catholic interpretation of Genesis and the implications of these opinions to be strikingly different. As someone who had not read Genesis before, I found myself wavering between the interpretations of reproduction. This confusion and validation that I found in both interpretations made me realize the capacity of which religious affiliation and beliefs holds when we consider modern technology. Before this class I had rarely considered the impact that upbringings can have on the ability to have children and the use of ART, and these readings opened my eyes to the power that is held in these interpretations.

    On another note, I found one of Kahn’s arguments particular compelling. As she states on page 45, women are not only prideful to have conceived a child through artificial insemination, but “at the same time they comply with the dominant ideology of the family as the center of social life.” This comment reminded me of our discussion of the French and their similar understanding of children and family to be the center to social life and the family’s functionality as a miniature model of society. This similarity in value further depicts that the divergence of theories of Genesis I previously mentioned highlight slight variances of the same theme and values that can have impactful meaning to one’s life and choices.

  10. Hello Madeline,

    I thought that your summary of Kahn’s points in Reproducing Jews was clear and concise. Kahn’s description of the far more liberal Israeli views on ART was particularly interesting when compared to the views expressed in Donum Vitae and by the Muslims in Lebanon. As you noted, reproduction by any means possible seems to be the goal of the Jewish community since they seem to abide strictly to the commandment in Genesis 1:28: “‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…'”. Dr. Seeman’s article gave some reasons as to why differences in interpretation may exist between the Catholic and Jewish communities. Jewish communities have a more straightforward approach to religious texts; unless a practice is specifically prohibited by the text, Jewish authorities allow individuals to partake in that practice. Since ART was not specifically outlawed in texts, Jewish authorities take this, and Genesis 1:28’s commandment, to mean that any device used to expand the reproductive capabilities of Jews is encouraged. As a result of the increasing use of ARTs in Israeli society, debates on kinship have become more complex and prevalent, although Jews clearly seem to favor having a more flexible view of kinship and relationships. Kahn and Broyde both highlight this flexibility by examining the various kinship positions of parental and clone relationships respectively.

    I also loved your analysis of Nahmani’s case and how it further emphasized the need for women to have children in Israeli society. This case was especially notable to me thinking from an American perspective on the freedom and choice of the ex-husband in this case. The case really demonstrates how strongly the Jewish community agrees with the pro-life view on ART. This emphasis on motherhood is likely because Jewish culture and heritage are passed down matrilineally.

  11. Madeline,

    I think this is a very well written post! Your post definitely helped my understanding of Kahn’s novel. It clarifies what I think is Kahn’s strongest observation that dictates why IVF is permissible; childbirth is integral to Jewish society. This central idea is present throughout her book in several forms. First, she discusses motherhood. It is evident that motherhood is seen as not only good, but truly a goal to be strived for in Jewish culture. Kahn provides several examples that you cite including it being worse to be childless than a single mother. This central idea is then again seen in the interpretation of 1:28 where the Jewish people are commanded to populate the Earth. The public support of Nahmani in her custody case further shows how Israeli public opinion confirms this underlying belief of the significance of motherhood in Israel. With such a religious and cultural attention and significance toward maternity, it is clear why IVF, a technology who’s primary purpose is to increase the availability of becoming a parent, is allowed.

    It is important to take a note of how different Jewish and Catholic opinions of IVF are even though they are both based in Genesis. The Jewish people take more significance from Genesis 1:22 where G-d commanded “be fruitful and multiply” while the Catholics look at Genesis 2:24 where it discusses one man and one woman procreating. This subtle difference in attention is somewhat responsible for the diffing religious opinions regarding IVF.

    Towards the end of your post, you discuss how kinship relations affect maternity and how IVF can fracture the maternal relationship. I like how you discuss some of Kahn’s points regarding the complexity of assigning maternity to a “test-tube baby” in relationship to the maternal adoption of religion commonly seen in the Jewish faith.

  12. Hi Madeline,

    First of all, great job with the post. I felt that it did a great job hitting the key points of Khan’s book. While reading her work, I couldn’t help but contrast her thoughts with the ideas portrayed in Donum Vitae. On one hand, we have a hard no on all ART aside from homozygous IVF and the other, we have a green light for the usage of ART in several situations. Additionally, as someone who has not studied much religious text, I found the contrast in interpretation of the same text to be interesting. Where the Catholics based their argument more on the means of achieving the ends, the Jewish base their argument more on the end rather than the means. To further emphasize, on major reason Catholics were strongly against ART because it was not the union of man and wife whereas the Jewish are okay with ART since it will result in a baby.

    I also found Broyde’s reading to be very interesting in his discussion of the kinship of clones. His argument that the relationship between a person and his clone would be that of father and son was something I had never thought of before. Additionally, his also took an interesting approach on what it meant to be human. One question I have is how Broyde would classify kinship with a genetically edited person. The person’s DNA is no longer a mix of their mother and father but rather a modified version. Would the mother or father still keep their role if their child is not a genetic match? Recently, genetic editing was carried out in China where twins were conceived. One twin was HIV resistant while the other was not. Would kinship change between these two babies since they have been genetically modified?

  13. Hi Madeline,

    Thanks for a great blog post! I really liked how you provided a succinct breakdown on the book and it was in line with how I interpreted it as well (and we learned from last class-interpretation is everything).

    I think this week’s readings were obviously a stark contrast to our readings last week and I also think it’s because we (myself, at least) tend to agree with scholarly things we read. Donum Vitae presented many arguments I found plausible and even some I agreed with given certain criteria. This week’s readings challenged all of that and provided a perspective that was far different.

    I found it interesting that Jews determined that the ideal offspring would be to have two children, one female and one male because that was what I came up with for my own ideal number and genders of children when I was far younger. I even discussed Donum Vitae and Reproducing Jews in the lab I currently work in and had them weigh in on what they thought because the topic of IVF and religion is so remarkably interesting.

    Getting back on track, something that struck me when I was reading was how the state of Israel reflects on how “natural” women should have children and how horrendously sad it would be if they didn’t have children. I remember Dr. Seeman bringing up the topic of the Nahmani case and saying how the Supreme Court didn’t even consult the Bible for their decision. However, I still think this decision and the culture of having babies in Israel is affected BY religion. Imagine if members of the US Supreme Court were sitting in Israel making these decisions for the Israeli Supreme Court. I guarantee the decisions would have been different and although I realize now that I’m typing this it’s not an apt comparison because the US has a vastly different culture, I think the key point is that their culture is also influenced by their religious setting. Although the Israeli Supreme Court “didn’t consult the Bible”, they were certainly influenced by their interpretations of it, like many of the other members of that society who support the decision (or not). That’s something I wanted to touch on, because I remember telling that story to a lab member and she said how good that was because of the separation of church and state. As I thought about it, I don’t think it’s necessarily to achieve that separation, because of how intertwined religion is with culture and how those influence monumental decisions. If anyone shares this viewpoint or opposes it, please do comment. I’d love to hear y’all’s thoughts.

  14. Hi Madeline,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post on Kahn’s book. It was very well organized which helped me follow along and better understand the themes she presented. One of the main themes that I found most interesting was the belief that motherhood is one of the highest goals a woman can achieve, but more so how it was important to reproduce in order to promote the continuation of the Jewish people. When asked last week in class how I read the phrase in Genesis 1:28 to “be fruitful and multiply”, as a Christian I understood it that God had not only gifted man with a domain but also with the ability to reproduce. Another classmate, Noah Lee, who is of Jewish background, explained that instead he read this as a mandate by God that humans must reproduce. While we are by no means a representative sample of those of Jewish and Christian faith, I felt that this commentary could be reflective of the ideals that are upheld in our respective faiths. While in Christian faith if you are able to have a child, then you have been blessed but in the Jewish faith, it is encouraged or even seen as a mandate by God to pursue all avenues to have a child.

    When placed in the context of ARTs and Jewish law, Khan explains how since reproduction is not conceptualized as a choice in Jewish law, but as an obligation, the infertile couple’s decision to take advantage of the new reproductive technologies [comes from] compulsion to fulfill a divine commandment” (170). While according to the Donum Vitae, the only time it is encouraged to use ARTs is if it “serves to facilitate and to help so that the act attains its natural purpose” and still maintains the integrity of the union between a married couple (Donum Vitae 166). Even if unmarried, Jewish belief that as long as it supports the survival of Jewish people, then ARTs are an avenue that women may take to have children. When you explained that the main Jewish concern, which has influenced secular laws, is to fulfill the obligation to reproduce and survive as a people, I began to wonder if this desire was further fueled by past historical events. As a people, Jews faced horrendous acts of violence and trauma during WW2 that led to questioning if they would be able to survive. Once ARTs were introduced as a means to reproduce, I am wondering if the past traumas of WW2 had any influence in encouraging those of Jewish faith to support these technologies in order to promote the survivability of the people?

  15. Hi Madeline! Thank you for this comprehensive review of Reproducing Jews, I found it very helpful to trace through the themes of the book. First and foremost I thought this book was a perfect way to combine all of the factors of kinship, nation building, genetics, ART, religion, culture, etc. into one fairly comprehensive deep-dive. It really helped me be able to connect all of these concepts. Viewing ART through the lens of Jewish religion and culture presents many unique and fascinating ideas. I was struck by the overall unity of thought presented by Kahn and the women she worked with. While there is much debate over the implications of reproductive technologies (who is the “real” father or mother, what do the religious texts say or imply, what is “natural”), the importance of a woman’s role as a mother is paramount to all other concerns. I shared similar thoughts with Maria, who talked about the pressure on women to be mothers and the role that the state plays in this. There were several sentiments expressed early on in Kahn’s book that stuck with me throughout; the women talked about their sadness, loneliness, and struggles when confronted with the use of ART. A few pages later, Kahn outlined the rules and vetting process imposed by the state, which specified that women under the age of 30 are not allowed to make use of this technology because it is an absolute last resort. Is this really the state’s choice to make? How does the imposed pressure to bear children direct women towards using artificial insemination to have children? Is the state too intimately involved in this process? These questions bothered me throughout, especially when I started thinking about how indiscriminate the social workers and doctors seemed to be about granting women the right to use ART. I think it is easy to look at a case such as this and at first glance see empowered women taking charge of their reproductive lives, but there is certainly more to the story.

  16. Madeline,

    This was a great post with a clear and concise summary of the readings. The first thing that stuck out to me in this week’s reading is the book of Genesis and how it impacts the debate of artificial insemination and other forms of reproduction. It is important to note when discussing this topic that the Genesis instructs us to be fruitful and multiply. For starters, this allows for much more leniency in regards to reproduction compared to other religions such as Christianity where the rules are a bit more rigid. Rather than looking at it in a negative way, assisted reproductive technology is seen as beneficial in the Jewish religion. In the Jewish religion, we know that it is much worst to be a childless woman than an unmarried mother. In other words, it is better to reproduce and not be married than to be married without kids. Women are supposed to be mothers, as you say, and they must be allowed to reach these ends through any means available to them.
    Another idea that I found quite compelling was the relationship between Jewish and Israeli law. In a way, Israeli law is contingent upon Jewish law due to the powerful rabbinical voices in the state, and since reproduction is so influential in the Jewish religion, assisted reproductive technology is embraced rather than negated. As you say in your post, “Israeli laws that determine the use of ART are bolstered by the fact that Jewish people, whether secular or religious, are deeply invested in making more Jewish people.” At the end of the day, this is what seems to be of the utmost importance to the Jewish people, even if that means finding new, different ways to reproduce and expand.

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