For the past 5 years Yesh Tikva’s Infertility Awareness Shabbat has been a campaign that has increased and positively impacted the conversation surrounding infertility within the Jewish Community. Each year it is observed two weeks before Pesach when people are getting their minds set for Passover cleaning and preparing for family time. The Rabbis add extra “refresher courses” to ensure you are getting every crumb out of your home, schools spend WEEKS getting divrei Torah and projects ready to be sent home, but for many couples struggling with infertility, it is expected that they travel to family, since it is perceived that they don't have a lot to pack up, and can join in the sharing of ideas and projects of their nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. It may seem like this “unburdened” couple has it easy… they only have to worry about themselves, they don't have to clean their home with as much care, but in fact, this holiday ranks among the hardest of holidays to “celebrate” because of one refrain… “and you shall tell your children.”
This year, Yesh Tikva has chosen a special theme for Infertility Awareness Shabbat one to prepare us for supporting others during this holiday, and to “Hold Space” for those facing infertility. What does this new trendy statement mean?
When you hold space for someone you have intention when listening to them. However, it is not just listening, but you need to validate them and not add any of your own judgments, bias, and insights. Imagine you're holding a bucket for them, a bucket of hope, where they can put all their anger, fear, frustration, and prayers for you to hold for them and guard so they feel safe and seen. This is what holding space means.
The core of the Passover seder is the Maggid, telling over the story, which begins with “Ha Lachma Anya,” explaining the pesach offering, matzah and marror. “Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover. This year we are here; next year in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves; next year we will be free people.”
The seder is an instruction manual of how to “do Passover” through inclusion. The four sons represent all types of personalities, and how you should meet people at their level to ensure the story is understood. This concept does not only apply to the four types of children, but rather for all those gathering around the seder table. The people at your table whose families are not complete fall into at least one of those categories.
See them, empathize with them, recognize that they are currently in a state of slavery, slaves to the calendar, the clock, their doctors, their medications, their cycles and how they truly dream of the day when they will be free. This year, they are in need, so take the time to look around your table, recognize what blessing you have, and acknowledge that there are those who may have their health maybe a spouse, maybe even one child, but their dream of their family unit is not complete, and therefore they are still in pain. Don’t offer “at least” comments:
“At least you can travel,”
“At least you have a husband who loves you”
“At least you have one child”
These are not helpful comments. Your job is to see them for who they are and hold that bucket for them. They may not want to fill your bucket, but they know it is there for them.
For those of you who are reading this and nodding your head, know that we, at Yesh Tikva, hear you and see you. The goal of Infertility Awareness Shabbat is not to shine a spotlight on you, but rather on our community as a whole in order to make a more inclusive, educated, understanding and sensitive Jewish community. We wish you a holiday that will enable you to feel free and hopeful throughout your journey through the desert and eventually reach the promised land soon.
Elie Salomon is the Fertility Advocate and Community Outreach Director and Co- Founder of Yesh Tikva. After informally counseling others through their fertility journeys, she became a founding member of the organization in 2015. Elie has become a major advocate in the infertility community by stepping forward and sharing her story so that others can understand what many cannot vocalize. A natural educator, Elie is also the Program Director at the Nefesh Yehudi Academy: After-School Judaic Studies Program in East Brunswick, NJ. She is a former Television Producer with credits on CBS, MTV, and NBC shows. Throughout her career she has interviewed celebrities, physicians and everyday people in order to research and produce informative content for the viewing public. In her own journey through infertility, she has utilized those same skills to gain vast knowledge in order to become the best advocate for her own care.
Yesh Tikva, Hebrew for “There is Hope,” was established to end the silence and create a community of support for all Jewish people facing infertility. Yesh Tikva gives a voice to these struggles, breaks down barriers and facilitates the conversation surrounding infertility. For more information visit us at www.YeshTikva.org
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