Choosing to be a single mom in the religious world

Over Shavuot we had an interesting discussion around the table at a friend’s house.  I have heard of some single women in large religious communities who are still unmarried in their mid to late thirties and feeling the tick tick tick of their biological clock, and have spoken to their rabbis about the ethics of having a baby through sperm donation.


I totally get these women – they desperately want a child, and mr right has not shown up, (or he has been and gone without them realizing it) and their child bearing years are coming to a close. What to do? In the secular world, many women would not think much more than twice about going to a sperm bank, or even (following a coronation street story line – I watch ‘em all) have a male friend help them out donation wise. Single mothers by choice are not the anomaly they once were. Plus these days we are so part of the NOW generation. I want a baby, I want it now, there is no man on the horizon, nor is there likely to be, I am out of patience, let’s go get me a baby.


(Let me just say that it is another thing if one finds oneself in a situation where one is pregnant and the father walks away from the responsibility. To me this is a totally different kettle of fish)


But this is the religious world I am talking about. There must be so many halachic issues here. So, the baby will have a Jewish mother, that makes it Jewish. It won’t be a “mamzer” because that only applies to the child of a married woman who becomes pregnant by a man other than her husband. The woman isn’t sinning because she is not having premarital sex. Does she have to ensure that the anonymous donor is NOT Jewish? Because if the donor were to be Jewish, then maybe one day the child may meet a sibling, not know it was a sibling, and fall in love.


Then, what would she tell the child? How would the child be treated in its religious school? The “acceptable” Jewish family is mom, dad and kids. Other children can be so mean. Would she be setting up her child for a lifetime of aggravation from his/her community. Would the child be accepted? What about the child’s emotional needs? doesn’t every child have the right to two parents, at least to start off life properly?


I also wondered, where is this woman’s emunah, faith, in G-d? Does she not trust that He will send her a husband when He decides it’s the right time? That if G-d decides she should have a child, then He will make it happen in the right way?


I have so many concerns about this, and am so curious as to what others think about it.  Those of you who live in Israel (or other places with a high concentration of Jews) – have you heard of cases like these? What have been the reactions of the community and rabbis? Please let me know your thoughts – I am sure this is a complicated topic.

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  1. doesn’t god help those who help themselves? Realistically, if you’re like 38 and have no prospects, I don’t think it’s fair to a woman to say “oh have faith in god, you’ll just find a man in time, and totally marry him in time to get pregnant.”

    also, there’s nothing to say the woman won’t meet a man after she has the kid, and the kid will have 2 parents there. If god wants the kid to have 2 parents, wouldn’t it work out that way? (following your own logic)

  2. The Chief says:

    If you research the halachic technicallities that organisations such as Boei Olam and A time run into with couples struggling with infertility, you would probably realize that such a thought as having a baby out of wedlock or through a sperm donor is considered outragious to the orthodox community. I personally, as a skeptic, believe in choices and rights. I think a woman who wants a baby should have one. But in the frum world, such a child would have a difficult time fitting in and would only end up suffering at first in school and later with shidduchim.

  3. Hadassah says:

    Eden – its like the old joke, the guy is hanging off the edge of the cliff, and they send him a helicopter – no no god will save me, they send a boat, no no god will save me,,,,,,, finally he lets go, dies, and comes into heaven before G-d. G-d why didnt you save me? G-d answers “who do you think sent the damn helicopter??” – G-d does help those who help themselves, but i would guess being alone at 38 with no prospects is enough to give anyone a doubt as to whether a mr right is on g-ds priority list. but what religious man will date a religious woman who has had a kid through sperm donation? it just wouldnt fly in our communties.

    Chief – i totally agree with you, but i am very much a live and let live kind of person, and if i had a friend in the community who wanted to go this route, i would support her.

  4. I think The Road Taken had a post about this (and what the consequences might be) a while back.

  5. Hadassah says:

    i found the post from The Road Taken
    exploring my options

    thanks for the heads up – its fascinating reading.

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