Lauren here, CEO of Cofertility and someone who's thought a lot about building my own Jewish family. I know many of our Jewish intended parents are asking themselves questions about Jewish identity and egg donation, so I asked my sister-in-law, Rabbi Julie Bressler to weigh in. Her thoughts are below!
If you are Jewish and beginning the egg donor process, you may be wondering whether it’s important that your egg donor is Jewish as well. Is it the egg donor, the gestational carrier, or the social parent that passes down a person’s Jewish status? These are questions that really didn’t exist until recently as modern medicine has allowed us new ways to build families. So let’s dive in.
Many Jewish intended parents, whether religiously observant or not, want to make sure that their children will be Jewish as well. Remember, Judaism can be both a religion and/or an ethnicity (some even consider it an ethno-religious identity!). With adoption, when a Jewish family adopts a child born to a non-Jewish birth mother, that child can become Jewish through conversion. Is the same true for egg donation? It depends on who you ask, but more than anything, it’s up to you.
What the Torah says about egg donation
There is no clear injunction in the Torah against donor eggs, and there is a clear imperative to “be fruitful and multiply.” Jewish law, in general, defines a child's native religion according to the religion of the mother at the time of birth.
Most Jewish people embrace egg donation and recognize the child as Jewish
The Reform movement (which comprises about 70% of Jewish people worldwide), defines Jewish identity based on upbringing rather than on genetics. If a child is raised Jewish and has one Jewish parent, father or mother, the child is considered Jewish, and so the issue of a Jewish egg donor is moot
Furthermore, in 1996, The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly stated that “we hold that a child born to a Jewish woman is Jewish, regardless of the religious status of the ovum donor."
Topics to discuss with your rabbi/cantor/spiritual leader
Talking to your spiritual leader can help you find clarity in what this means to you. So much about Jewish identity is about what feels right for you and talking to your rabbi can help you parse these things out. Here are some sample topics you can discuss:
- How important is it that the egg donor is Jewish?
- What if the egg donor converted, but was not born Jewish?
- What if I’m carrying the baby? What if a gestational carrier is carrying the baby?
- What is more important, that the donor looks like me or is Jewish?
- If we choose an egg donor who is not Jewish, do we need to convert the child to Judaism? How soon can we do so if we need to?
How to find a Jewish egg donor
Cofertility is a human-first fertility ecosystem rewriting the egg freezing and egg donation experience. Our Family by Co platform serves as a more transparent, ethical egg donor matching platform. Our unique model empowers women to take control of their own reproductive health while giving you the gift of a lifetime. Our donors aren’t doing it for the cash – they keep half the eggs retrieved for their own future use, and donate half to your family.
Join now for free to begin searching for Jewish egg donors!
Rabbi Julie Bressler serves as the Associate Rabbi & Educator at Temple Sinai in Oakland, CA. She is very proud to be co-aunts with Lauren to two wonderful nephews and one awesome niece. Rabbi Bressler is passionate about encouraging folks to live their Judaism, however they define it, proudly and fully in the public and private spheres. She is an advocate for social justice, especially reproductive access, and is grateful that Cofertility exists to help individuals have more agency in their fertility journeys.
Lauren Makler is the Co-Founder and CEO of Cofertility, a human-first fertility ecosystem rewriting the egg freezing and egg donation experience. Previously, as an early Uber employee, Lauren founded Uber Health, a product that enables healthcare organizations to leverage Uber’s massive driver network in improving healthcare outcomes through patient transportation and healthcare delivery. Under her leadership, the business helped millions of patients get to the care they needed. Prior to that, Lauren spent the early years at Uber launching the core business throughout the east coast and led the company’s first experiment in healthcare, national on demand flu shot campaigns. After a rare disease diagnosis, Lauren’s fertility journey led her to believe that everyone should have the opportunity to freeze their eggs–and that there should be better access to egg donors. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their miracle baby girl. She was named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business in 2023 and recieved her BA from Northeastern University in Organizational Communication.
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