Idit Solomon is a rabbi, mom, occasional Kveller writer, and activist trying to raise awareness about Infertility. We talked to her about her organization, Hasidah, which aims to help Jewish families struggling with fertility issues.
Why did you found your organization, Hasidah?
In the Kveller community, we all know that infertility, secondary infertility, and the whole host of fertility challenges are painful and isolating. It can be a cycle of despair and hope, not to mention financially devastating. I formed Hasidah (Hebrew for stork) because it seemed to me that the Jewish community ought to provide support and financial assistance to Jewish couples in need. Hasidah shows that the Jewish community can stand together to help all Jewish people struggling with infertility.
My husband and I went through a good majority of the things that happen to people going through infertility. The cycle of hope and despair was unforgiving and most of the time things did not work out well for us. We tried to face them with humor – dark humor about the people who get pregnant and don’t want to be, the womb dance routine in the doctor’s office, and shooting up with hormones in public bathrooms. But in truth, it was laughter just so we didn’t cry. And we cried.
Ironically, we did have some luck on our side. We had insurance for the first part of our journey. We had a couple cycles with very few out-of-pocket expenses. But then my husband changed jobs, we exceeded the maximum benefits and switched to a clinic that wouldn’t take any insurance. I remember a medical evaluation with my credit card in one hand, blood being drawn from the other arm, and my husband in the parking lot taking a consulting call to pay for it. Ironic luck.
But with each IVF we learned more and on our sixth attempt we were pretty sure it would work so we made an oath to help others. To seal it my husband ran to the courthouse to incorporate. That is how Hasidah was born. I held a job that invested a lot of money to help educate Jewish children. Now I was committed to helping people have the children.
What are the hurdles facing others who want to do IVF?
Even more so than some of the emotional issues, studies show that the financial strain can actually be more stressful. The average out-of-pocket expenses for a round of IVF are over $24,000 and the average that someone actually spends in the IVF process is over $60,000. Notice that those numbers are not for getting pregnant. Just for having the IVF, which is only a chance. In my work as Hasidah, I have spoken to many people who have taken on debt, moved in with their parents, mortgaged their home, changed jobs, left jobs, ran up credit cards… you name it. Some Jewish people simply cannot afford to become parents when IVF is their best chance.
What sort of work have you done so far with the organization?
Hasidah has really grown and evolved in its first three years. We expanded from grants to include loans and a Jewish professionals scholarship. We just had our third baby this week too! We have another pregnant client and two others still pending. On the more activism and awareness side, Hasidah provides training for rabbis and rabbinic students and speaks at various events and programs. We started the National Jewish Fertility Network for advocates and professionals (not a support group) and a whole host of partnerships around the country. We provide support in many ways and have served over one hundred and fifty clients. However, many Jewish institutions and particularly funders need to have more awareness about this issue. It is not only isolating and financial difficult, it is effecting our birthrate. The Jewish community still needs to wake up to this issue.
What can people do to get help from Hasidah?
Call us for support or check out our website for our grant and loan applications! Hasidah is running a funding cycle right now for people in the Jewish community, throughout the United States, who require IVF in order to have children and need financial assistance for treatment. The deadline for applications is Thursday, March 30.
Amid the Birthright-free-trip-to-Israel, subsidized Jewish camp, free children’s books and community funded education world, Hasidah is committed getting fertility issues on the radar. Infertility and fertility challenges are a real issue in the Jewish community. Hasidah is committed to changing the Jewish community to be more supportive and to have more resources to assist fertility. We are committed to building Jewish families.