By Becca Shimshak
I learned about Tu B’Av only a few years ago from my co-founder Dalia Davis. Tu B’Av comes a few days after the mournful holiday of Tisha B’Av to offset the sadness our community has endured. Tu B’Av in Temple times was considered the start of the grape harvest so it began a time of joy and the lifting of many bans, particularly those on women. I picture “I Love Lucy” where she and Ethel are stomping grapes in that big vat. Why are we women associated in so many cultures with harvesting? Well, biologically, we are designed to carry and bear children – the ultimate fruits of our labor.
And how does our community respond when that biological design has a hiccup or a major impediment to success? The truth is, until recently, our Jewish community had not had a response. We relied on our secular world to show us the way. And sometimes that was tremendously helpful for individuals. Concurrently, a larger and larger void grew in our Jewish communities as secular life progressed to incorporate words like IVF, egg donation and gestational carriers into our colloquial language and the Jewish community had not developed a parallel language and social change shifts to joyfully include these experiences in with our own tradition.
We at Uprooted are here to do just that: to help the American Jewish community: develop a language and a culture of acceptance around the challenge to conceive a child or grow a family. For some who may be starting a family on their own or in a same sex marriage, alternative methods might be the only choice. For others who may seem on the outside to have everything they need – egg, sperm, a great partnership – their journey is not as easy as we all may picture.
Let’s commit on this day, a day of love and lifting bans, to help those who want Jewish children. Let’s commit to building a language and culture of support, lifting the perceived bans on speaking about fertility challenges. Let’s build a time where people understand that there are no guarantees in life however we are in charge of how we respond to our realities and our Jewish community needs to be there to help people with their response.
Tu B’Av is known as a Jewish Valentine’s Day of sorts so take out a card or open an email and write to a friend that you know is struggling with fertility. You may not know what to say so start by saying Shalom (may peace be with you): you are here for them when they come and go during their fertility journey. And we at Uprooted will be here for you too as you try to be the best friend you can be to someone during a time of struggle.
Becca Shimshak is the co-founder of Uprooted. Becca successfully experienced the harvest process of IVF on this past secular Valentine’s Day that resulted in Zoe Ann and Isabella Rose exactly eight months later. Without the support of Jewish peers, lots of lifestyles changes and a lot of luck, these two beautiful girls would not be in this world. It is for Zoe and Isabella that Becca is motivated each day to do the work that she does.