Surrogacy Blog

Surrogacy according to Jewish law and the conversion of minors: everything you need to know

The field of surrogacy highlights the gap between Jewish law and modern science, with the latest science offering groundbreaking solutions to fertility problems while Jewish law can seem to place barriers in the way of these scientific innovations.

The topic of surrogacy is a subject of lively and interesting debate. On the one hand, there are many rabbis who allow surrogacy and see it as a legitimate halakhic solution for couples who cannot have children of their own. On the other hand, there are rabbis who oppose surrogacy for various reasons. This article examines the process of converting minors and how surrogacy is accepted in Judaism.

What is conversion?

Conversion is a process that grants recognition as a Jew according to Halacha. Conversion of minors is intended for children up to Bar/Bat Mitzvah age, who were born to a non-Jewish mother as part of marriage, adoption or surrogacy. There are courts with different approaches to the conversion of minors and you should familiarize yourself with them before starting the process.

Reform conversion: it is possible to undergo a reform conversion in the country where the baby was born or in Israel. Reform conversion is recognized by the state authorities but not recognized by the rabbinate. Here they offer a shorter and easier conversion while emphasizing only Jewish and communal values. Reform conversion is not recognized by the rabbinate for the purpose of marriage in Israel, but it may be accepted by Jewish communities abroad. In a reform conversion held in court, both parents are required to sign an affidavit in which they consent to the child’s conversion. A male child must be circumcised and after the court approves the conversion, the child is immersed in the mikvah or in the sea (usually on the same day as the circumcision). The child will then be given a conversion certificate and he will be registered as a Jew in the population registry. The conversion involves a fee.

Orthodox conversion: State and official conversion according to Jewish law and the rabbinate in Israel. This conversion is suitable for couples who wish to maintain a religious lifestyle. Orthodox conversion exists in Israel through the Chief Rabbinate or in one of the conversion studios, and abroad in dozens of courts recognized by the Chief Rabbinate. (In Israel there are also private – non-Orthodox courts).

It is a long process that includes in-depth Jewish studies for the parents, a commitment to observe mitzvot, Sabbath observance, kosher observance and placement of the child in religious settings. The conversion process includes the written consent of both parents, circumcision and baptism in the mikvah for the child, and at the end of the process the child receives a conversion certificate. The conversion does not involve a fee because most of the costs of the conversion procedures are financed by the state, but it is customary to pay a symbolic fee. This conversion for same-sex couples or single men is very complex.

Conservative conversion: traditional conversion that offers an intermediate path between the orthodox rabbinic approach and the reformist conversion approach. Conservative conversion is suitable for families interested in conversion with a traditional and less strict approach than that of the rabbinate, who are looking for a supportive and warm Jewish community and are interested in a civil marriage in Israel. Conservative conversion for minors emphasizes circumcision and baptism in the mikvah, Torah study, a traditional way of life and integration into the community.

Minor conversion versus adult conversion

The advantages of a minor (baby) conversion compared to an adult conversion are significant. A baby is not aware of the social and religious meaning of the conversion, which makes it easier to go through the process, including circumcision, without worries or emotional difficulties. A baby also learns and adapts to new culture and values ​​more easily than an adult. In addition, conversion at a young age allows the child to integrate into the Jewish community more easily, create social relationships and gain a sense of belonging.

Conversion at an adult age is a more complex process both emotionally and bureaucratically. Conversion requires circumcision even at an older age, which may lead to concerns about the process, and adult conversion may lead to social challenges and difficulty in adapting to Jewish culture and values.

Issues in Jewish law regarding surrogacy:

Should the surrogate be Jewish?

According to most opinions, the woman carrying the pregnancy determines the Jewishness of the child (“by birth and birth”). Therefore, a Jewish surrogate assists in the child’s conversion when the time comes. As part of the surrogacy procedure in Israel, there will always be a match between the intended parents’ religion and the surrogate’s religion to facilitate the conversion procedure. Thus, in the case of Jewish parents, a Jewish surrogate will be matched to them.

If you choose to undergo the procedure abroad, you will be required to convert the child after birth. As the chance of finding a Jewish surrogate abroad is small, you should take into account that the waiting time to find a surrogate may be longer. In addition, remember that even if you are lucky and a Jewish surrogate is found for you, you will still be required to convert the baby after birth, to ensure the baby’s Jewishness.

The egg donor

Besides the surrogate carrying the pregnancy, in Orthodox conversion, most judges require that the egg donor is also Jewish to ensure the Orthodox Judaism of the child. Reform conversion does not require the donation of a Jewish egg to convert the child. To convert in Israel, a case must be opened at the Special Court for the Conversion of Minors, after which the parents are invited to a meeting with the lawyers of the Conversion Court. The conversion is free of charge.

Conversion of minors born through surrogacy procedures

Conversion in Israel versus conversion abroad

The conversion procedure in Israel is different from the conversion procedure in many other countries.

In Israel, the conversion process is managed by rabbinic courts, which are government institutions and there are two main conversion options: Orthodox conversion and Reform conversion. Conservative conversion is not officially recognized by the state. Conversion in Israel can take longer and Orthodox conversion is the most common. The conversion process in Israel is officially recognized by the state for the purpose of religious marriages and other civil rights while adhering to Jewish tradition.

In many other countries, the conversion process is managed by private rabbinic courts or other Jewish organizations. There are many and varied conversion options abroad, ranging from strict Orthodox conversion to liberal Reform conversion, which allows for an approach that best suits individual needs. Conversion abroad is usually quicker and easier than conversion in Israel and may be less strict from a halachic point of view.

Mohel in Israel compared to mohel abroad

In Israel, only a mohel certified by the state, under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate may perform circumcision. There are other options for performing a circumcision by a qualified doctor, usually in exceptional cases, such as when there is a medical concern.

Qualified mohels in Israel must undergo comprehensive training and receive certification from the Chief Rabbinate, which includes in-depth Torah studies, medical training and practical training in making covenants, counseling before the covenant, guidance for parents and assistance in preparing the baby. Mohels in Israel gain a lot of experience during their work in the public health system and work according to orthodox Jewish law.

Abroad, there are the same options for performing a circumcision. You can find certified mohels who have undergone training similar to that of mohels in Israel, and received certification from a local rabbinate or a certified Jewish organization. Certain rabbis and doctors are also qualified to perform covenants, but it is important to make sure that they have the appropriate experience and training.

There are different certification requirements depending on the country and the Jewish stream and there may be different halachic approaches, depending on the Jewish stream and local customs. The experience of mohels abroad may vary depending on the number of alliances they perform regularly, and the scope of additional services may vary depending on the mohel.

The decision to convert is a personal decision for the parents, and should be made after careful consideration. Tammuz family will be happy to help and assist in the matter. For more details, you are welcome to contact us.

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