Wednesday, November 29, 2006
When I started thinking about recipients for these embryos I was sure the most important thing would be finding a Jewish recipient. Being Jewish is like being on the receiving end of a very long chain letter directly from God. While I don't generally like chain letters, in this case I don't want to be the one to break the chain after 5 millenia. Giving these embryos to a Christian family means any children who result will not be raised Jewish. They would be the first people in my blood line in over 5,000 years to completely break with the Covenant of Israel.
Being Jewish is not only, or in my opinion mostly, a religion. It is a distinct ethnicity with multiple flavors. We have several languages, including Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino. Our foods are a reflection of our travels as we endured dispersement in various lands. We value education, a sense of humor and family. Our history is rich, though sometimes sad.
For example, while my mom was growing up in the USA, 99% of her family was killed by the Nazis in Europe. In the face of all of this history, for me to voluntarily turn a Jew into a Christian by giving genetically Jewish embryos to be raised as Christians feels wrong to me.
So I was surprised to feel my attitude shift recently. I was contacted by a very special lesbian couple who want to become parents via embryo donation. They are not Jewish but we have much else in common. I have been extremely impressed by their unique attitudes towards parenting and embryo donation.
I was not raised religious, so I am no biblical scholar, but here is how I understand the story of my people: Abraham was the first Jew. He was the first person to recognize that there is only one God and to talk to God directly. He and God made an agreement that Abe's descendants would follow certain laws. This is "God's Covenant with Israel". In exchange, God agreed to help out the Jews and be our special pal. I guess He has kept His part of the bargain because throughout history people keep trying to wipe us out and we're still here. (Not to be presumptuous, but I think a better way to help us would be to maybe discourage all those folks from trying to kill us in the first place, but God really doesn't ask my opinion often enough...) .
Lots of Jews who were given the choice between forced conversion or death picked conversion and stopped keeping to our Covenant. My direct forebears never made that choice. That's also why there are Christians -- because Jesus' mom's family kept that covenant going for three thousand years before his birth.
Part of the issue is that once the embryos are transferred to the recipient I am finished with any sort of input. The recipients can raise their children Muslim or Hare Krishna or vegetarian or Republican (God forbid) or in Antarctica or on the moon and it is just none of my business whatsoever.
I shared my feelings with this couple and was, as usual, impressed by their reactions. I'll tell you more about our conversations next time.