Unpacking the Israeli Affinity for ART

This week’s readings discuss in large part how Jewish law, culture, and kinship relations impact the use of assisted reproductive technology in a Jewish society. Sue Kahn, a social anthropologist who specifically focuses on women, explores Israel as her case study, conducting ethnography on various Israeli women to enrich her understand of the relationship between Israelis and reproductive technology. In the introduction to her book, she provides context to the subject, introducing numerous themes, two of which I’d like to focus on at the onset of this blog post. Firstly, she writes about Israeli pronatalism, saying that “the overwhelming desire to create Jewish babies deeply informs the Israeli embrace of reproductive technology” (Kahn 2000, 3). This desire stems from numerous causes including political population concerns as well as the religious sense that reproduction fulfills a God given commandment. This notion of a religious obligation to reproduce is a central theme throughout Kahn as well as the other readings, as this approach is at odds with the Catholic view of a child as a gift that stems from viewing the text as narrative rather than a binding rule book. We will discuss this contrast in further detail shortly. 

Kahn introduces another central theme in her introduction: the emphasis on the mother as bearing the main, central role in the reproductive process. Kahn notes that “Israeli Jewish women are left as the primary agents through which the nation can be reproduced as Jewish,” relating directly to the desire to create Jewish babies but also emphasizing that woman are the means to this continuity, as the mother is the medium through which babies are reared (Kahn 2000, 4). One example of the Israeli focus on motherhood is found in Kahn’s discussion of the Nahmani case, which we already began to discuss in class. A married couple elected to begin the preliminary stages of infertility treatment in hopes of successfully yielding embryos. Before they went through with implanting the embryos in the woman, the couple got divorced. The woman wanted to bear children with these embryos, and despite the man’s resistance, the court ruled in her favor, bolstering the woman’s right to a child. Kahn writes that the reason for and implied message of this decision is that “motherhood is the deepest desire of women and should be pursued at all costs” (Kahn 2000, 70). The court allowing the mother to implant these embryos again ties back to the theme of the centrality of women in the reproductive process. These embryos equally belong to the man, who, despite wanting not to father these children, is clearly less of a priority in the eyes of the court than the mother. “I chose life,” said Judge Ya’akov Turkel, not only recognizing the mother’s right to a child but also encouraging more reproduction of Jewish babies (Kahn 2000, 68). The Nahmani case is an important example of how both of Kahn’s main points are deeply related. The Jewish concern with creating Jewish babies and the proper treatment of the mother given that she bears the child are two of the major factors that lend to Israel favoring the use of reproductive technology. 

Where does this emphasis on the mother stem from? Judaism is inherited matrilineally, so Jewish heritage is passed down through the mother. Kahn logically points out that “the creation of a Jewish child can only be accomplished via gestation in, and parturition from, a Jewish womb.” (Kahn 2000, 167) Back during biblical and rabbinic times, there was no genetic testing or any way to prove kinship other than viscerally, by witnessing the baby emerge from the mother. Seeing as the baby comes directly from the mother, that is the most foolproof way of confirming heredity. Thus, “the specific identity and origin of sperm is conceptualized as irrelevant to Jewish reproduction” (Kahn 2000, 166). Jewish conceptions of kinship and reproduction does not care necessarily about the identity of the sperm, as the mother passes on her Jewishness to the child. Obviously, some recognition of the father is granted, as boys are referred to by name as the son of their fathers. For example, in Hebrew, I am referred to as “Noah ben Hayim,” Noah,  the son of Hayim, my father’s Hebrew name. Another example of a Jewish tradition passed patrilineally is the Cohanic legacy. Yet, the religious status of being Jewish itself is granted through the mother. This total concern for the mother and lack of concern about the identity of the father allows for a cultural the permits and even favors the use of reproductive technology, including sperm donation and IVF, as a means of reproduction, the ultimate Jewish goal. Yet again, we continue to see the theme of centrality of the mother in the extremely significant process of creating Jewish babies. This notion of the lack of a need to identify the origin of the sperm invites us to consider the Jewish view of kinship. We see not only the emphasis on the mother rather than the father in reproduction, but we can also infer a sense of flexibility when it comes to demarcating kin. A mother is a mother so long as she rears the child (according to the Rabbis, this is how Jewish heredity is granted), and while a father is a father if he provides the seed, a baby born to a Jewish mother with sperm donated by a non-Jewish man is considered fatherless according to Jewish law. This very flexible view of kinship allows for reproductive technology to gain traction in Israeli society and ultimately work toward creating as many Jewish babies while working within the confines of Jewish law. 

Given this discuss of kinship, I would be remiss not to mention another underlying theme of Kahn’s book. Given the widespread accessibility of assisted reproductive technology in Israel, how does this affect kinship relations in Israel? She poses the question “what will marriage come to mean if it has ceased to be the exclusive locus of legitimate reproduction” (Kahn 2000, 86). While this question is written as a rhetorical one, the resulting views of kinship is certainly a significant ramification of allowing the use of reproductive technology. While it is obvious that the use of reproductive technology invites a change in kinship relations, Kahn writes “the choice of unmarried women to get pregnant via artificial insemination does not threaten to destabilize foundational assumptions about kinship among Jewish Israelis, for these foundational assumptions are grounded in rabbinic notions of kinship that do not delegitimate children born to unmarried women” (Kahn 2000, 62-63). Kahn clearly expresses that the Israeli use of ART does not contradict and is actually in line with the fundamental Jewish understanding of kinship.

I’d now like to return to the question of the Jewish perception and use of ART as opposed to the Catholic one that we discussed last week in our reading of Donum Vitae. The emphasis on motherhood and desire to create Jewish babies is one reason why we see a more willing approach to IVF from Jewish political and religious leaders as opposed to Catholics. Another stems from the notion that “reproduction… [is] not imagined simply as a biological process that creates human beings, it is imagined as a cultural process constitutive of humanity” (Kahn 2000, 168). The Rabbis, who, again, had no concept of science, did not view child rearing as empirically as the Catholics. According to Kahn, rather, it is a more holistic process of raising a human, only a part of which is biological. ART is more permissible to Jews than Catholics because, as opposed to the hardline commitment to the institution of marriage found in Donum Vitae, the Jewish desire to reproduce grants a more flexible conception of kinship than that of the Catholics. 

One crucial, fundamental difference between the Jewish view of ART and the Catholic view is their approach to Bible and following the laws. Professor Seeman, in his article about reproductive technology in Israel, writes “unlike Jewish writers, Catholic and Protestant writers who use the Bible tend to focus on what can be derived from narrative rather than legal portions of the biblical text” (Seeman 2010, 348). Here, we see a conflict. The Jews read the text as binding; they must follow the letter of the law. Thus, when it comes to reproductive technology, if there is no law against it, then it is within their system of morals to embrace reproductive technology given that it supports the survivability of the Jewish people by increasing rates of reproduction. Catholics, on the other hand, have a different approach to text. They read the Bible as narrative, and thus prioritize values such as the sacredness of marriage over being flexible when it comes to ART because it does not contradict the letter of the law. As Dr. Seeman writes, “it is precisely the legalistic emphasis on discrete prohibitions that has given Jewish bioethical deliberation so much more flexibility than that derived from narrative based ‘foundational anthropology’ approaches,” highlighting both the tension between Catholic and Jewish readings of the Bible and also the focus on the text as law of the Jewish reading that allows for flexibility when it comes to reproductive technology (Seeman 2010, 349). Given a better understanding of the Jewish approach to scripture, we return to Kahn to add an additional layer of understanding to the Jewish approach to ART, as she says that “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 does not evolved out of a consumerist impulse but out of a compulsion to fulfill a divine commandment” (Kahn 2000, 170). Last week, we discussed the line from Genesis 1:28 “be fruitful and multiply,” noting that the Jews read this as a commandment while the Catholics read this as more of a general lesson rather than a requirement. The Catholic view of the child as a gift is starkly in contrast with the above quote from. Kahn, who describes reproduction as a religious obligation to the Jews. While a child certainly is a gift for them as well, having a child is also not an option. Jewish parents must do whatever it takes to reproduce, even if it compromises traditional conceptions of marriage or strict boundaries of kinship. 

Before I conclude, I will quickly mention Dr. Broyd, who writes an article about the Jewish view of cloning. When discussing the question of who would be considered the mother of a clone, he writes that “the Jewish legal tradition would, in my opinion, be inclined to label the gestational mother (the one who served as an incubator for this cloned individual) as the legal mother of the child, as this woman has most of the apparent indicia of motherhood according to Jewish law” (Broyd 2005, 298). Even given a technology as exciting and controversial as cloning, Dr. Broyd notes that Jewish law gives motherhood status, and thus heredity of the faith, to the woman who bears and delivers the child. This matrilineality directly relates to our analysis of Kahn in our discussion of the focus on women in Israel in considering reproduction. 

Kahn develops a strong, holistic argument for how and why reproductive technology is so accessible in Israel. She describes the political and religious conditions and the Jewish conceptions of kinship and reproduction such that Israel embraces these technologies as opposed to some other traditional and religious cultures. I can only appreciate the work that Kahn has produced. While there is certainly a spectrum of varying Jewish opinions on this matter, I believe that Kahn captures very well the essence of the mainstream Jewish views of today.

22 Replies to “Unpacking the Israeli Affinity for ART”

  1. Hi Noah,

    Thank you for your blogpost. You brought up many big concepts regarding ART and being Jewish as well as included Donum Vitae in part of the conversation. I think you’re right to say that the Catholic Church takes a stance that heavily shows “commitment to the institution of marriage.” Jewish law is more accepting of ART while Catholics, as Dr. Seeman pointed out, are concerned with “rupture” or the separation “between genetic and gestational parenthood… the child and its embodied connection to its heritage, and… the body and personhood.” Dr. Seeman brought up the idea of using relying on different parts of biblical texts more heavily and discusses how that influences certain interpretations which affect real life application. The two books in the Bible he brings our attention to are Genesis and Leviticus. A question I am left with (as someone not very familiar with the Bible is, are there other parts of the Bible that could be used for interpretation that may allow greater acceptability toward ART?

  2. Thank you for you post, Noah. I thought you did a really great job at analyzing all the texts and tying them together along with the previous readings we did last week. I enjoyed reading your comparisons of the Jewish religion and Catholicism in regards to reproduction and interpretations of the Bible. Judaism seems to interpret the scripture more literally than Catholicism which allows for more freedom in women using ART. In agreement with your statement, reproduction to Jewish families is a commandment given by God and must be fulfilled at all costs. Kahn does a great job at highlighting such processes in Israel, as you have pointed out, and describes how although having a child is highly favored, it is not always easy to reproduce. The Jewish law recognizes this and provides multiple ways to allow women to try to have a child so that their religion is preserved and also reproduced from generation to generation.

  3. Hi Noah. Thank you for your blog post and thorough analysis of this week’s readings.

    I find myself disagreeing with Kahn about the mother having a stronger role in the reproductive process, only due to Kahn’s mention of the symbolic role of the father belonging to the state – although the state is not the same as the biological father of the child, there is no ignoring that the state as the father has a stronger role in the reproductive process than even the mother. Although such a definition of parental roles is still not traditional, I do think that these symbolic roles do trace back to the “traditional family” idea, although they may be more complicated.

    You mentioned that there is the requirement of Jewish parents having to do what it takes to reproduce which is reflected in Genesis several times, in the examples of the Matriarch Sarah giving her handmaid Hagar to her husband in order for Hagar to beget the couple a child who will then be considered Sarah’s child only, as well as the requirement of the man who must marry his dead brother’s widow in order to continue the brother’s family line and whose children will then be considered the children of the dead brother only (Seeman, 342; Seeman, 344).

  4. Hi Noah,

    First off, thank you for your blog post. I really appreciate your title because it puts an emphasis on how the Israeli view on ARTs is quite different than the Western point of view. The contrasting perspective of Judaism with the Catholic perspective we learned about last week really brings to light the complicated issues associated with ARTs.

    The quote you used in your opening paragraph, “the overwhelming desire to create Jewish babies deeply informs the Israeli embrace of reproductive technology” (Kahn 2000, 3), I believe really gets to the core of the beliefs. As Kahn points out, having children, no matter how, is embed in the Jewish culture; it is a part of who they are as a people.

    This desire is seen in the example in the beginning of Seeman’s text. He uses the example of Sarah giving Hagar to her husband so that he may reproduce since she cannot give that to him. To many, the thought of letting one’s husband sleep with another woman to have children seems moralistically challenging and against the marital vows. However, in a culture where reproduction is essential, a duty and not a choice, this decision does not seem out of place.

    I believe this idea also plays into cloning. Broyde discusses that a clone could be considered the child of whomever donated the DNA. If this is true, then cloning is just another form of helping one reproduce. As Broyde went on to discuss the different ways of assigning maternity and paternity to the clone, I found it difficult to follow because there are so many different ways in which one could choose the parents of a clone. Moreover, the donor of the DNA could be considered the sibling of a clone since their genetic relationship is most like that of identical twins. If this is the case, then cloning is not a form of reproduction and thus is it even an ART?

  5. Hi Noah,

    Thanks for your blog post. You did an excellent job of summarizing the readings for this week, particularly from the Kahn book. I really enjoyed the Kahn reading due to its focus on women – which to me, specifically for discussing the viewpoint of Judaism on reproductive technology, makes a lot of sense since Judaism is inherited matrilineally. I agree with Pamela in that Jewish law is more accepting of reproductive technology, as was mentioned in Dr. Seeman’s article. Reading that this difference is rooted in the analysis of Leviticus instead of Genesis surprised me but the quote that you chose (Seeman 2010, 349) summarized why this makes sense.

    Dr. Broyd’s article about cloning and specifically, the discussion of Rabbi Bleich arguing that there does not have to be a singular mother under Jewish law in the cases of surrogate motherhood. Thus, I wonder if soon we will be able to branch away from the idea of having a single mother or father – not only in recognizing the complexities of modern reproductive technology but in additionally being inclusive of same-sex couples. Dr. Seeman’s article mentioned that in Israel, lesbian couples are permitted to use IVF the same as heterosexual couples. Considering this, how do LGBT+ factors into the discussion of motherhood and fatherhood?

  6. Hi Noah. Thank you for the summary and commentary. I liked how you brought up the example of the Nahmani case to emphasize the points Kahn was trying to make in the reading. I also liked the point you brought up about where the emphasis of the mother came from. The idea of the sperm being less relevant than the womb in which the child is created in is demonstrated in the reading by Boyde. He explains that whoever gave birth to the child is considered to be the mother.
    I also liked how you brought up the comparison of the different views of reproductive technology from last week’s readings. Jewish people and culture seem to be much more flexible in their stance on reproductive technologies in comparison to christian people. When trying to understand and compare the different stances on reproductive technologies, it becomes increasingly important to consider not only the biological context, but also the social context of the viewpoint. The reading by Don Seeman points out that Jewish Law is more discreet than the “open ended narrative analysis” (Seeman 349) that christians favor. He argues that the reason for the differences is how the two religions utilize textual hermeneutic strategies to create laws and moral judgement. Seeman gives the example of the matriarch Sarah who is unable to bear a child with her husband, and gives her servant to her husband for what would resemble surrogacy. Because it occurred in Genesis, Jewish and muslim people view surrogacy as permissible while Christian people view it as forbidden because of the resulting problems.

  7. Hi Noah,

    Thanks for a robust and stimulating blog post (also, great title!). You prompted me to think about the readings differently and provided some extra perspectives that allowed me to better understand my own thoughts on the content. Though there are countless topics to discuss surrounding this subject, I will just respond to a couple of your points in this response in the hopes that we will address even more in class. I’d always known that Jewish relationships were considered officially through the maternal side of the family, but I never stopped to look into the reasoning for such a system. Your further description of the certainty of knowing a baby’s mother, versus the relative uncertainty of knowing a baby’s father, connected to other concepts in the readings.

    I was particularly interested in Kahn’s notion that fatherhood can be considered fluid between a state entity and an actual human male. She writes, “The role of ‘inseminator’ moves laterally between the imagined father and the state. The vestigial assumption at work here is that 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” (Kahn 2000, 29). The emphasis of maternal lineage in Jewish culture allows for this flexibility in definition of role and boundaries of kinship. This aspect of Jewish culture might be considered by some, however, as a type of “slippery slope,” a concept mentioned in Broyde’s article related to cloning (Broyde 2005, 312). How far is too far in assigning paternal roles to a non-person? Traditional Jewish beliefs may be wary of allowing an entity to be widely considered as a traditional father figure. With respect to this, I am curious if there is a conceivable line for conditions of fatherhood in Israel today. Should changing definitions of motherhood even influence what is considered fatherhood today?

  8. Noah, thank you for the discussion of the readings and personally commentary. I found your discussion of themes and connections between readings to be thought provoking. After understanding the centrality of the Jewish mother to the religion, I feel that I can begin to understand Broyd’s argument regarding cloning. Jewish interpretation of reproduction draws a fine line between obligatory reproduction and excessive or prohibited reproduction, and I believe that Broyd outlines the do’s and don’ts very clearly based on this principle. At first I struggled with this kinship association, but found clarity in the example where if a female is born without ovaries and she receives an ovary transplant, then “had a sexual relationship with a man, and who ovulated, conceived, implanted, nurtured, and bore this child is the halakhic mother of the child, even though she has no genetic relationship to the child” (Broyd, 299).

    1. Eleni,

      I was just about to copy/paste this to Madeline’s post. But I see you beat me to it! I’ll just delete your post here for now and try to figure out what the editing deal is.

  9. Hello Noah,

    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.

  10. Thank you for such an interesting take on these readings! Something you mentioned that struck me as like teachings that I am used to is about the need for reproduction to fulfill a religious obligation. In Hinduism, like Judaism and unlike Catholicism, children are produced for the sole purpose of creating more pious Hindus in the world. Especially when the mother and father are both Brahmin, this is seen as the most surefire way to inundate the population with more Brahmin Hindus. This “God given commandment” as you mention definitely comes from feelings of displacement from those of other religious backgrounds, as Kahn mentions with “Palestinian and Arab birthrates” (Kahn, 3).

    That leads into the idea of reading religious texts as binding or more as narratives. It is interesting that you mention that if there is no law against reproductive technology, Jewish people embrace it and see it as simply the procreation of more children, as per the wishes of God. A different approach is seen when reading scriptures as narratives, where there is less flexibility in what is seen as morally permissible and for what PURPOSE reproductive technology is used for.

  11. Hi Noah!
    Thank you for writing a wonderfully written blog post! I found your views on kinship especially intriguing as you explain the fundamental Jewish understanding of kinship in relation to the mother. As women are necessary vehicles to help promote and fulfill the mandate set by God to reproduce, it makes sense that there is an importance in heredity placed on the mother in relation to reproduction. You demonstrate this very well when you explain that “A mother is a mother so long as she rears the child”. This then allows for flexible interpretation by those of Jewish faith and supports the uses of ARTs as a means to have more children.

    Khan explains very well that the general consensus is that ARTs would not influence how kinship is established due to the fact that it is based in the importance of the mother raising that child. Something that confused me, however, in this definition of heredity is how heredity is established by a mother raising that child. According to Dr. Broyd in his argument for cloning, explains that in his opinion, the gestational mother fits the idea best of motherhood in Jewish law. Where my confusion draws from is if this definition of raising the child extends to the gestational period, how this fits into the idea of surrogacy and the role that the surrogate plays in the establishment of kinship?

  12. Hey Noah,

    Thanks for including a personal account and explaining through your viewpoint this principle of ART and your religion. I found both your and Madeline’s description of matrilineage interesting. I did not know even a week prior that Jewish societies have this structure and how the man plays a lesser role in Jewish heritage than the woman. Armed with this knowledge, I can see how much easier it would be for Jews to accept something like ART than traditional Catholic Christian societies. The role of father is diminished in a way where there is even a “continuum” of fatherhood or paternity (Kahn, 101). In a way, society would be the child’s father even if there was no biological father present. It wouldn’t matter, as long as the mother was there with her child. This was an interesting concept to me, as I would especially hate to be a single mother yet to people in Israeli culture, this would probably be the highest honor a woman could have (having a child). That being said, I can see why Jews embrace ART with far more open arms than Catholics.

  13. Noah,

    Thank you so much for your informative post! I want to focus on your third to last paragraph as the ideas you discuss there stood out the most for me when I did the readings. At first, when reading Donum Vitae and learning the fundamentals of Jewish thought on IVF, the decisions of what portions of the Bible that each faith took value of seemed to be arbitrary and almost random. After reading the Seeman article and your blog post, I understand how these interpretive differences are so significant. While Jewish values and ideas may arise from stories and characters in the bible, actual Jewish Law must be explicitly stated. Because IVF is not outright forbidden and because of the biblical emphasis on parenthood, it is completely logical that IVF is permitted not only to married couples, but to single mothers as well. The Catholics meanwhile take law from biblical stories. As a man and a woman “became one flesh,” in addition to the emphasis on marriage present in Catholism, the Catholics interpret the bible as forbidding IVF for single women (Genesis 2:24).

  14. Noah,
    I truly appreciated reading your blog and find it helpful to read a wonderful summation of Susan Kahn’s book. There is a very interesting parallel between Susan Kahn and Professor Seeman’s writings. Following your article, I went back to browse through “Kin, Gene, Community” and I discovered a significant point that Professor Seeman discusses that I feel was not wholly taken into account by Kahn’s “Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel”. There are certain ethical concerns that arise with the complex mixing of religion, state, and medicine in Israel that leaves women and children at risk of manipulation. As Seeman describes, “there has been no sustained public debate about the ethics or advisability of aggressive and invasive genetic testing of fetuses with its attendant risk to fetuses and the resultant increase in social pressure to terminate pregnancies for relatively minor medical reasons.” (Seeman, 352). I struggled a bit to find the connection between interpersonal kinship and the relationships between women hoping to use ARTs and state. How is kinship constructed and with what rules in a situation where there is such a complex relationship resembling that of a familial bond between a hopeful to-be mother and a collective of peoples comprising the state who supports her on her conception journey?

  15. Hi Noah,
    Thank you for the great post. I thought you did a great job incorporating what we covered in class and the readings with your personal beliefs and experiences. As you mention in you comparison of ideas presented in Kahn’s work with those in Donum Vitae, the Jewish are more flexible in regards to ART due to differences in which texts analysed. In Seeman’s text, we can see how the Catholics base their ideas off of Genesis whereas the Jewish base theirs off of Leviticus. This difference in which book is analysed resulted in completely different sets of regulations for ART despite being present in both religions.
    You also discussed how reproduction was matrilineal and how the faith of the mother is what was important in the heredity of the Jewish faith. This concept was very surprising to me when I first read about it and it greatly helped me understand the case of Nahmani. When we discussed this in class, I did not realize the importance of her right to a child in terms of her culture and religion. This weeks readings really helped me synthesize our most recent discussions in class and you did a great job summarizing the information.

  16. Hey hey Noah,

    You did a fantastic job going through the readings and incorporating the readings and discussion from last class. I think ARTs are a place where we can see different conclusions drawn from the same text, but it’s only when we put it in a societal construct, as Sue Kahn did, that we really get the why and how the two separate conclusions were reached. With this unique kinship constructional (matriliny with the father being some entity be it man or state) one does have to wonder what the differences in a scripture based Rabbinic law declaration and the lived Jewish experience are? And; what the scripture says about commanding fruitfulness versus a community want for fruitfulness. Food for thought.

    One particular point you bring up that I really liked was the idea of the role these varying kinship definitions place on the institution of marriage and how the strength (or lack thereof in the case of Jews) of it directly impacts the scope by which ART can be seen. If ART is a means to a family then by Catholic doctrine you have missed the mark, but if ART is a means to reproduce then according to Rabbinic law you are in the clear. I think that’s a crucial point you touched upon briefly.

    Again, awesome job on the post as it was a really good read.

  17. Hi Noah,

    I thought that your blog post was informative and thoughtful. As the son of a Jewish Father and Catholic Mother, I am informed consistently that I am not considered a ‘real’ jew due to the matrilineal method of determination. I enjoyed your analysis of this belief in both a logical and theological perspective, with the first being new information to me. I think it is important, however, to analyze the quote you included in the 5th paragraph; “reproduction… [is] not imagined simply as a biological process that creates human beings, it is imagined as a cultural process constitutive of humanity” (Kahn 2000, 168). While this quote definitely supports your point that the Jewish view of reproduction is less scientific and matter-of-fact than the Catholic view, I also believe that it supports another quote earlier in your post. The quote “the overwhelming desire to create Jewish babies deeply informs the Israeli embrace of reproductive technology” (Kahn 2000, 3) reflects on a larger issue of population among modern Jews. Tying this back to my first point, even though I am not considered a Jew underneath the same strict following of the theological law, since 1970 I am legally able to become an Israeli citizen underneath the Law of Return. The Law of Return allows for any Jew with at least one Jewish grandparent to claim Israeli citizenship, and become a member of the Israeli population. As such it appears that modern day Jews understand their population disadvantages, and are adapting their laws towards welcoming new ‘Jewish’ life, however they may come to do so. Therefore, the Jewish view on reproductive technology is a mix of religious belief, an aspect of culture and adaption to a realpolitik issue.

  18. Noah,

    Thank you for your thought provoking blog post. I liked how you focused your post on Israeli pronatalism and the central theme of one’s obligation to reproduce; as well as the role of the mother in the reproductive process. It has been interesting to observe the different ways in which the responsibilities of women and “the mother” have been depicted over the readings we have done the past couple of weeks. Kahn’s piece really emphasized that women are the key to the survival and longevity of the Jewish race. It was unique to see importance and emphasis placed on women in this reading, rather than men which I feel has been quite prominent throughout other readings.

    Furthermore, you suggested that the Nahmani case “is an important example of how both of Kahn’s main points are deeply related.” I think the Nahmani case is truly distinctive in the sense that it places such raw power in the hands of the woman or the mother, that is truly unique in a sense of history and sexism that has been so prominent on Earth. The quote you used, “motherhood is the deepest desire of women and should be pursued at all costs” really places women in a different light and emphasizes the power and importance they hold in any society. In regards to the argument of whether she should have been allowed to have her ex-husbands child after they divorced, I’m not sure how I feel on the matter. In one hand I want to immediately say no because of how I would feel should I marry a women and her attempt to have my child after we have divorced; however, I can certainly see the other side of this argument after completing this reading.

  19. I’m glad you started by re-introducing the Nahmani case first because I was very intrigued by it. More specifically, I was interested in the ruling that the judge made. The emphasis
    that is placed on the mother during the reproductive process is immense and this was a big factor in the final decision. Initially, I thought that this view was a little old-fashioned thinking, but the court allows the woman to continue with the infertility treatment, which might not have been allowed elsewhere. I was curious whether the outcome of the case would have been different if it took place in a different country or different religion. I think that the biggest difference might be, like Kahn mentioned that “the choice of unmarried women to get pregnant via artificial insemination does not threaten to destabilize foundational assumptions about kinship…” in addition, the underlying belief that children born to unmarried women are still legitimate, aids in the wide availability of reproductive technologies there.

  20. Noah, this was a great post that made me really take a step back and think about the core values of the Jewish religion and what it means to truly be Jewish. As it has been established both in the readings and class discussions, reproduction for the Jewish religion is concerned mainly with population and the act of fulfilling God’s commandment. It is the duty of the Jewish people to not only complete what God put them on the Earth for, but also to remain a populous group for future generations. Another point that I found quite compelling in your post is in regards to motherhood. It is clear in the Jewish religion that motherhood is the deepest of all desires for women and that it should be pursued over all else. Furthermore, and something that I was able to grasp from this post on top of the previous one, is that the religious state of being Jewish stems from the mother, which plays in favor to the assisted reproductive technology we have been discussing. I thought that this was quite prevalent to the Nahmani case as it established an interesting angle to look at things. While both the husband and wife had equal rights to the frozen embryos, the judge “chose life” and gave the embryos to the woman. For me, this shows that it is far more important who the mother is, and her religion, when discussing ownership and the Jewish religion. Since Judaism stems from the mother, and the embryos were essentially faced with a life or death situation, they went to the mother in anticipation that they would eventually become Jewish children in this world. Overall, very interesting read and it should make for great class discussion.

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