Naomi Less discusses fertility challenges in the Jewish community.

Photo courtesy of ELI Talks
At 36, Naomi Less, a singer-songwriter and associate director of Lab/Shul in Manhattan, got married. At 38, Naomi tried to conceive. Over the next seven years, her fertility journey unfolded with eight in vitro fertilization treatments, including two with donor eggs.

It’s a path many in the Jewish community know all too well, with their own individual twists and turns.

And it’s more common than you think. One in eight individuals or couples has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy.

Facing fertility challenges is never easy, but it’s especially fraught in the Jewish community, where there’s a large emphasis on family building. This tension cuts across all lines of Jewish affiliation and engagement.

“It impacts your life, your career goals, your finances. It’s all encompassing,” Naomi says. “One of the hardest parts is the crippling isolation. For way too many people in the Jewish community, it is a silent secret and sometimes shameful struggle.”

That’s why UJA now funds a new initiative to raise awareness in our community, so individuals and couples coping with fertility issues will feel greater support.

This spring, we supported a training session for clergy, mental health professionals, and lay leaders about fertility struggles. Naomi was one of the facilitators at the event, which was run in collaboration with Uprooted: A Jewish Communal Response to Fertility Journeys.

A performance art event — based on the stories of people living this journey — is also planned for early next year to continue to highlight the many ways fertility challenges unfold.

“More people speaking openly about this normalizes the experience,” Naomi says. “It’s not taboo, it affects so many people. And the more we speak about it in the Jewish community, the more people with this experience will feel that they are not the only one.”