Sisterhood Blog

In Israel, a Call To End Anonymous Sperm Donation

By Elana Maryles Sztokman

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Rabbi Dr. Einat Ramon has gone to war against surrogate mothers, sperm donors and feminists. In a recent op-ed in Haaretz, Ramon calls for making illegal anonymous sperm donation and all forms of surrogacy, and replacing it with an exclusive Jewish sperm bank filled only with the seed of Jewish men who died childless. I am sure that mine is not the only jaw that needs lifting from the floor.

Ramon opens her essay with an attack on what she calls radical feminism. “The lurking danger to the wholeness of the Jewish people in our times,” she writes, comes from “the ideology of radical feminism, which refuses to acknowledge the proven biological differences between men and women and the moral value of joint parenting between the man and the woman in the absolute majority of human cultures throughout history.” That’s a surprising statement. I would think that there are many other, more pressing dangers to the wholeness of the Jewish people — Iran, Hezbollah, anti-Semitism, to name a few.

Ramon has regressed by a generation or two, at least, in this assertion that LGBT parents and single parents are by definition inferior parents. It’s particularly shocking to hear Ramon, the first Israeli woman to be ordained as a rabbi and the first woman to hold the position of Rabbinical Dean at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Israel, defend so passionately the theory of gender difference.

It is hard to fathom how such an argument can come from a woman who owes her entire career to the struggles of “radical feminists,” who dared challenge the notion that women are not cut out for the rabbinate by virtue of their biology. It is so deeply disappointing that a woman who was able to break barriers for herself is now placing herself in the way of other women who are challenging similar stereotypes.

Ramon’s article continues with an attack on people who choose to use anonymous sperm donors or surrogate mothers, women she calls victims of “the sex trade.” At the risk of stating the obvious, I would like to say that there is no moral equivalency between young girls kidnapped and forced into prostitution and violent brutality for years on end and women who choose to carry in their wombs the babies of eager, infertile parents in exchange for payment in order to enable them to have a family. It is absurd to think that these are in any way comparable scenarios.

Nevertheless, Ramon goes on to criticize any system in which the identity of the biological parent is unknown to the child, on the grounds that it negates the child’s right to know his or her identity. She writes:

Jewish sources that were written thousands of years ago did not recognize the global fertility industry that uses the bodies of poor women as objects and denies children their identities. The bible and midrash did, however, warn that manipulating the ways of the world in the area of fertility and family structure will bring an end to humanity, no less.

In order to remedy this situation, Ramon proposes that the Knesset put in place a law that “recognizes the value of knowing the identity of one’s biological parents,” which she says is a value among “the absolute majority of religions and sectors in Israeli society.” In a bow to single Jewish women, who she says “suffer from a shortage of Jewish men (in Israel, due to war and in the Diaspora, due to assimilation),” Ramon suggests that a sperm bank should be established for the Jewish people that enables donations of Jewish men who died or were killed, in order to create a ‘shidduch’ between the family of the deceased and the mother who will raise the deceased’s offspring.” In other words, put the bodies of single women to good use in perpetuating the names of complete strangers. Or, put differently, childless women should donate their wombs to dead men and thus be useful to society. Ramon argues that this is better than anonymous donations because it will eliminate the issue of mamzer — bastard children — although she fails to account for the idea that a voluntarily donation is preferable to a forced one.

I think Ramon’s idea is simply off-the-charts mad. From my perspective, this is proof that ideas that rest on bad theories of humanity are bound to be useless. Ramon is so caught up in her archaic and antiquated rant about gender that her proposals are completely divorced from reality, and should go the way of the bubonic plague.

And it’s so sad. Because women need all the help we can get to promote social change. Too bad that help is not likely to come from Einat Ramon.


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