The stigma of infertility

March 4, 2021 by A J-Wire community service announcement
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The Australian Jewish Fertility Network (AJFN) is to host the sixth annual Infertility Awareness Shabbat (IAS) to raise awareness and break the stigma surrounding the infertility journey.

On 12- 13 March, synagogues across Sydney will come together to show support for couples in the community who are dealing with fertility issues.

Being in the synagogue, especially on festivals like Purim and Pesach where children are such an integral part of the celebration, can be particularly confronting for couples longing for a child. Questions from well-meaning relatives and congregants like “when are you going to have a baby?” or “you need to give him a sibling” can be quietly devastating. Awareness and education is key to support.

Rabbi Dovy Rappaport of Kehillat Kadima said, “In a religion that is so centred around children and building a family, the pain and stigma felt by those who are struggling with fertility is deep and often kept silent. We as a community do all we can to support those in need.”

Many local synagogues, including Maroubra, Kadima, Southern Sydney and Emanuel will be joining in, showing support to couples struggling to build and expand their families. Some will be featuring community members speaking about their fertility experiences, many rabbis will work the message into their sermons and a community fertility prayer will be recited in shuls.

“One in six couples in our community face issues with fertility, and even in 2021 this can still feel like a taboo subject which means many struggle in silence without the support they desperately need.” said Kerry Gonski, AJFN Chair.

“We know 2020 was a particularly tough year, with pauses placed on treatment and many people experiencing financial hardship. The AJFN exists to provide Jewish couples with financial and emotional support, as well as to educate and create awareness around fertility to bring this very common issue out in the open,” she said.

Shterny Dadon, AJFN executive director explained that the Infertility Awareness Shabbat also helps those who have been lucky enough not to experience the heartbreak of infertility to better understand the issue. “By getting community leaders involved, we are reaching out to a wider audience, promoting understanding, sensitivity and empathy,” she said. “We all know someone who has struggled to become a parent and we hope that by getting community leaders involved, we are reaching out to a wider audience, promoting understanding, sensitivity and empathy to others who may not comprehend the impact of the issue on a couple and their relationship.”

The Infertility Awareness Shabbat was started by Yesh Tikva in Los Angeles and now has garnered support worldwide. Yesh Tikva has some helpful tips of what NOT to do or say to couples dealing with infertility:

  • Don’t assure your friend or family member that everything will be okay.
  • Don’t offer “at least” comments (“At least you have a husband who loves you.” “At least you’re healthy in every other way.”)
  • If your friend or family member has shared their story, don’t bring it up every time you see them. Let them set the frequency, if at all.
  • If you have experienced infertility, don’t constantly speak of your own experiences or projecting your own feelings; listen instead.
  • Avoid sharing advice or tips on how to increase chances of conception, unless requested and let them guide the conversation.
  • Refrain from putting forward a recommendation of a specific doctor, medical procedure or
  • other therapy. Allow the person or couple to perform their own research and find the best fit for them.
  • Let the person or couple share their story – don’t guess or ask or demand to know, even if you think you have the “right” (e.g., you wish to become a grandparent, aunt, etc.).


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