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Rabbis and Reproduction: The Uses of New Reproductive Technologies Among Ultraorthodox Jews in Israel

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Publication Date: August 1998

Publisher(s): Hadassah-Brandeis Institute

Author(s): Susan Martha Kahn

Special Collection: Berman Jewish Policy Archive

Topic: Culture and religion (Religion and religious groups)
Law and ethics (Family law)
Population and demographics (Family planning)

Keywords: Gender; Orthodox Judaism; Fertility; Jewish Law (Halacha)

Type: Other

Coverage: Israel


Ultraorthodox Jews have embraced the practical and theoretical challenges presented by the new reproductive technologies and have created innovative, if often contradictory, rulings about their appropriate use. This phenomenon yields insight in to how the traditional Jewish legal system allows for innovation, provided the impulse towards innovation preserves and reinforces foundational assumptions, in this case, about the Jewish family. We learn how contemporary rabbinic attitudes towards these technologies have created remarkable applications for the treatment of infertility among ultraorthodox Jews, applications that embody innovative and counter-intuitive understandings of reproductive genetic material. We also learn from what is absent from this account and from the discourse about the new reproductive technologies in Israel more broadly: the voices and experiences of ultraorthodox Jewish women, whose bodies bear the brunt of most high-tech reproductive interventions. This study is based primarily on my analysis of contemporary rabbinic legal opinions regarding infertility and on fieldwork I conducted in Jerusalem-area fertility clinics.