My wife and I we are Gentile, and we will adopt a (frozen) embryo, probably in Israel.

If the ovocyte of the embryo comes from a Jewish woman, and later my wife gives birth to this baby, can the baby later embrace the Jewish religion, without having to convert?

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    Hi Alessio :) Please remember that this site makes no claim of authority and any practical issue (groan) should be directed to a local rabbi for a final ruling. I wish you much health and success in your venture! – Double AA Jun 22 '13 at 19:22
  • why not make your own children? – user4951 Dec 30 '13 at 3:24

This is a subject of contemporary debate.

30 years ago, the vast majority of American rabbis ruled that the Jewish status of a child is determined entirely by the status of the birth mother. The late Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik of Chicago went so far as to write "the egg is treated as nothing more than some synthetic device made in Japan."

In Israel, many rabbis are of the opinion that it is determined by the egg mother. (This is also the opinion of two very significant rabbis in Baltimore, of one whom heads the kosher organization and the other of whom its council of rabbis.)

At this point in America, many rabbis are shifting their views (for various reasons, including influence of Israel, and the possibility in the future of an artificial womb, or gestating a human embryo in some other species) and calling it a toss-up.

Hence -- as always, ask a local rabbi -- most likely it would be recommended that the child undergo a conversion ritual, just in case.

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  • thank you Shalom, would it be wise to have a certificate from the clinic that states that the donor mother is Jew, altought she should remain anonymous? We want this child to be ours, but still connected to his roots, if he/she later wants to. – Alessio Jun 24 '13 at 0:41
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    @Alessio, it might save everyone (including your future child) a lot of headaches if you knew for certain that the embryo was not from a Jewish mother. I hope you don't mind my asking, but why are you so determined to raise a Jewish child in a non-Jewish environment? – Seth J Jun 27 '13 at 22:55
  • As I said is just to leave him an option: in our family we think of religion as a matter of personal choice. Thank you all for all the friendly and informative answers, you all were of great help. – Alessio Jun 30 '13 at 22:05

Even if it's already two weeks since your question, I'd still like to answer. As Shalom already pointed out, there is as of yet, no unified opinion in Halacha (orthodox Jewish religious law) regarding embryo donations and also egg donations. In Halacha, the religious status of a child (if it is considered Jewish or non-Jewish) depends only on the mother. In the case of embryo- and egg donations there are, so to speak, two mothers involved: the egg or embryo donor and the woman who carries out the pregnancy and gives birth.

The three basic opinions in the halachic discussion are therefore 1) The woman who donated the embryo or egg is the mother 2) the woman who gave birth to the child is the mother 3) both are mothers to the child. Which position is given preference depends on which Rabbi you ask. However, there seems to be a trend shifting from the older position (No. 2) to positions No. 1 and No. 3. As you can see, it will be difficult to get a clear answer regarding whether the child is Jewish or not - different Rabbis in different places will view this differently.

For the child, this uncertainty could make finding his or her identity rather complicated. There is another issue as well: Assuming that the child is halachically Jewish, he or she would be obligated by Jewish Law to follow Jewish religious customs, such as keeping kosher and Shabbat and many more. In a non-Jewish household that is extremely difficult. (I'm speaking from experience - was born non-Jewish but in my teenage years got interested in Judaism and started trying to live as a religious Jew while still with my parents - it led to quite some trouble. I've converted to Judaism since and live now in Israel.)

Aside from practical considerations, Judaism in general discourages Jewish children growing up in non-Jewish families, because the child might very well identify with the religion of his or her adoptive parents and then, from the strictly Jewish standpoint, be lost to Judaism and a "sinner" (though it is of course not the child's fault as he or she couldn't choose how and where to be raised). Therefore it seems to be the better option to choose an embryo from a non-Jewish woman in order to avoid all of these issues. (By the way, the child still could convert to Judaism later in life, without all these complications, if he or she is interested ;-)

I would like to recommend visiting the website of Machon Puah. They are a well-known institution in the United States and in Israel and research all kinds of questions involving fertility treatments and Jewish law.If you contact them, they might be able to give you more information.

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for this contribution. I've made some edits to your post for formatting (no content changes). You can see what changed in an edit on any post by clicking on the "edited" link above the editor's name, just FYI. I look forward to seeing you around the site; perhaps some of our other questions on gerut-conversion will interest you? – Monica Cellio Jul 8 '13 at 15:13

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