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Judaism and Reproduction
Presenters included Nanette Elster, Rachel Kohl Finegold, and Dr. Elan Simckes.
Assisted reproduction has raised many medical, legal, religious, and personal issues for healthcare providers, policy makers, rabbis, patients, and their families. One of the most thoroughly discussed, emotionally volatile of medical technologies today, assisted reproduction is a complicated subject. In the annual Tulsky Symposium on the American Jewish Future, we are pleased to present a panel of distinguished speakers from medical, legal, and rabbinic perspectives to clarify key issues associated with this important and sensitive issue.
This session addressed recent medical developments in assisted reproduction, halakhic and legal discussions about the use and limitations of reproductive technology, and communal and spiritual concerns related to reproduction. The session surveys a range of medical, ethical, and legal issues, including those related to collaborative reproductive agreements, fertility preservation, the disposition of cryopreserved embryos, and disclosure issues in egg, sperm, and embryo donation. The session also explores Jewish case law for recent and classical approaches to reproduction, such as the status of the Niddah, the production of sperm samples, the identity of sperm or egg donors, and the halakhic status of surrogate mothers.
Participants learned about:
- recent medical advances in infertility treatment
- challenges faced by Jewish religious couples who struggle with infertility
- the interplay of reproduction assistance with Jewish legal, spiritual, and communal issues
- the use of Mikveh in a healing or coping context
- medical, legal, and halakhic responses to miscarriage
- Jewish rituals to welcome an adopted baby
- training for healthcare professionals and clergy to adequately address clinical and pastoral needs of patients
Nanette Elster, JD is vice president of Spence & Elster, PC, a Chicago-area law firm working in the area of fertility law. She also teaches Assisted Reproduction and the Law as well as Public Health Law at the John Marshall Law School, and is a lecturer at the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. She has extensive experience in legal, public health, and ethical issues related to women’s and children’s health. Ms. Elster currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Jewish Genetics and is a member of the University of Illinois at Chicago embryo stem cell research oversight committee, RESOLVE Advisory Board on Public Awareness of Embryo Donation, the Alliance for Fertility Preservation, and the ABA Special Committee on Bioethics and the Law. She has authored numerous articles and has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, and NPR.
Rachel Kohl Finegold is the education and ritual director at Chicago’s Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation. She holds the Dr. Carol Fuchs Kaufman Rabbanit Chair. She received her BA in Religion from Boston University and completed the Scholars Circle program at the Drisha Institute in New York. She is currently enrolled in the inaugural class of Yeshivat Maharat, a new institution training Orthodox women as halakhic and spiritual leaders, and is a founding member of the Orthodox Women’s Leadership Project. Rachel lectures widely around Chicago, serves on the editorial board of the JOFA Journal, and was recently named one of the JUF’s Oy! Chicago “36 Under 36.”
Elan Simckes, MD is medical director of The Fertility Partnership and president and senior partner of Women’s Care and Fertility in St. Louis. Dr. Simckes has long had an interest in helping women battle infertility. In the 1980s at Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, he assisted in the laboratory during some of Israel’s first in vitro fertilization procedures. While managing his highly successful OB/GYN practice in St. Louis, Dr. Simckes also honed his infertility care knowledge and skills through ten years of work at the Infertility Center of St. Louis, and then with the Sher Institute of Reproductive Medicine. He has been a clinical instructor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis since 1993, and has trained residents at the St. John's Mercy OB/GYN Residency program. Additionally, Dr. Simckes has been a preceptor for the nurse practitioner program at the University of Missouri St. Louis School of Nursing since 1995 and a preceptor for the medical assistant program at Sanford-Brown College since 1999.