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Jewesses with Attitude

Giving the gift of Jewish genes

I just came across a Craigslist posting via Twitter (oy, my life!) looking for a Jewish woman to donate her eggs to a Jewish couple looking to conceive. This couple, through an agency called A Jewish Blessing, is offering $8,000 for an egg from a Jewish donor. A Jewish Blessing was founded by Judy Weiss, RNC in 2005 in response to the growing number of requests from Jewish families for her help in finding qualified and extraordinary young Jewish donors and surrogates. And this is one of many similar organizations helping connect Jewish parents-to-be with Jewish eggs.

I remember seeing flyers posted around the Brandeis University campus for Jewish egg donors with high SAT scores promising upwards of $20,000 or $40,000 for a Jewish over-acheiver's egg. I remember the first time I saw one of those flyers. "Forty thousand bucks?" I thought. "What a deal!" I called up my dad, a doctor, to ask him if this sort of thing was for real. Within about five minutes he had convinced me that this was something I would never do. Egg donation is no small matter. The procedure is incredibly invasive and there is a risk that it could leave you infertile. Also there's the matter of being pumped up with hormones so you produce more eggs in the months before the surgery. No thank you. Not even for 40 grand.

It's an interesting and complicated issue, for sure. I understand the impulse for Jewish couples pursuing egg donation and/or surrogacy to want a genetically Jewish egg. But does the egg have to come from a Jewish woman to create a Jewish baby? What if the fertilized egg grows inside a Jewish womb? Or what if it is simply raised by Jewish parents as a Jew once it is born? Would a Jewish couple accept the egg of an African-American or Asian-American Jew? A Jew-by-choice? Or if this is about ethnicity, would they accept either an Ashkenazi or Sephardic egg?

There is certainly disagreement about when life begins. Some (Catholics) believe life begins at conception, while Jews (and please correct me if I'm wrong) believe life begins when a baby is born and touched by the light of G-d. So, if life begins at birth, does Jewishness also begin at birth? And if so, does it matter if the egg or the womb is genetically Jewish?

Oy, the Talmudic scholars never had such issues. So what do you think?

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Giving the gift of Jewish genes." 10 December 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/giving-the-gift-of-Jewish-genes>.

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