JUF has launched a new program to increase awareness of the issue of infertility in the Jewish community--and to develop new support systems to help community members on their paths to parenthood.
Infertility is a challenge that impacts one in six couples in the Jewish community in some form, a rate that is 25% higher than in the general population. Some of this is due to family planning and delays in parenthood common among Jewish young adults because of career and education advancement.
And that's not including members of the Jewish community who need to consider alternative family-building strategies for other health-related reasons, such as carrier status for one of the genetic disorders more common among persons of Jewish descent.
Now, encouraged by generous donors and community interest, JUF is seeking to raise the profile of this issue and to expand assistance to individuals and couples as they pursue their parenthood options.
"Of course, friends and families are the first line of support for anyone facing these issues. But we believe there is a need and a place for a more organized Jewish community response," said Paula Harris, JUF Associate Vice President of Community Outreach and Engagement. "In 2019 we created JUF's Path to Parenthood initially to provide financial assistance for family building-related medical treatments, and now in 2021, we are expanding this program to include other kinds of resources and support."
JUF volunteer and donors David and Melissa Grund Sarnoff provided the initial funding for medical treatment assistance, and --to date--11 families have received grants. To evaluate candidates and distribute funds to treating physicians, JUF works with a local partner organization, the Chicago Coalition for Family Building (CCFB). The next round of financial assistance will open in late April and will include additional funding to support adoption expenses.
To begin its expansion beyond financial assistance, JUF's Path to Parenthood will present a series of educational programs, beginning with a webinar titled, "Every Conceivable Way," produced in collaboration with JCFS Chicago, on Monday, April 19 from 7-8:30 p.m.
"JCFS Chicago has a long history of providing support to couples who experience challenges building their families," explained Jason Rothstein, a member of JUF's executive staff who helped bring this project to fruition. "We are fortunate to have such an incredible asset within our community, and we anticipate working more in depth with JCFS Chicago as we build on these initial efforts."
The free webinar will feature an interactive panel of distinguished local experts: Dr. Eve Feinberg, CCFB president and Northwestern reproductive endocrinologist will offer an update on the latest developments in fertility treatments. Attorney Dena Levy, of Levy Law Solutions, will explore legal questions related to adoption and reproductive medicine. Dr. Sylvia Schneider Fox, Reproductive Psychologist and Founder of Fertility Resilience, will address psychosocial considerations. Rabbi D'ror Chankin-Gould, of Anshe Emet Synagogue, will moderate the panel and provide a Jewish lens on these issues.
"It is our hope that this webinar serves as a launch pad for input on additional topics and support services needed in the community as well as provide greater awareness of this critical topic." Harris said.
The program was initiated by David and Melissa Grund Sarnoff, who provided the seed money for a three-year pilot program. The program has received additional funding from the Eli & Dina Field Family Foundation, and the Harry and Sadie Lasky Foundation.
Registration for the April 19 webinar can be found at
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