Hundreds of young parents, some pushing strollers and with toddlers in hand took advantage of a warm fall day to turn out for an early Family Sukkot Day at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. The event, which was held on Oct. 2, was sponsored by the center and the Jewish Fertility Foundation, which noted that several of the attendees had benefited from the financial, psychological and educational services the organization offers to encourage healthy births.
The Atlanta-based foundation’s director of development, Shari Seiner, who helped to staff the sign-in table, believes the event complements the group’s work.
“We’re a family-building organization. Our business is to help people who are struggling to grow their families. So, we want to celebrate with those of our clients who have already succeeded. These children are our miracle babies,” she said.
Seiner pointed out that they have had 105 babies born since the organization was started in 2015 and that more than 45 women are pregnant now because of the help they have received. The group was started in 2015 by Elana Frank, who gave birth to children in Israel, where fertility treatments for up to two births are part of the national health service. In the United States, such treatments are often not covered by medical insurance and can cost $20,000 or more for each procedure.
So far, the organization has made over $1 million in grants and donated services to help finance medical services that include help with procedures related to in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
The IVF process also allows for screening for genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs, which has a higher incidence rate among Jewish couples with Ashkenazic ancestry. Only healthy embryos with a high chance of successful maturity are implanted in the womb. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of Jewish women use fertility services.
In the last four years, the organization has expanded to four other cities in the United States, with a fifth expected to be added in the coming year. The group was cited this year by Slingshot, which annually compiles its list of “Ten to Watch” young, innovative Jewish organizations that have been particularly successful in meeting urgent community needs.
Among the many groups who participated in the event were three Jewish day schools, the Jewish Kids Groups, which provides after-school Jewish education and the MJCCA Day Camps program which had a climbing wall for young would-be campers to test their skills. The director of the summer camping program, Mackenzie Sherman, saw the afternoon as an effective way to show off the camp’s facilities.
“I think more than anything, it’s an opportunity for us to walk the walk and be a community partner with Jewish Fertility Foundation,” he said, “and to present some engagement through a Jewish lens with what we offer.”
The event, which also offered holiday music from the MJCCA’s Rabbi Brian Glusman and Sukkot arts and crafts, was one of the first events organized by the center’s new director of experiential education, Kelly Cohen. She began work in June, after successfully launching JumpSpark ATL, the innovative teen program that is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. She sees her new job not only as developing an attractive new educational program but of providing an entry point particularly for the young, who are seeking a deeper engagement with the Jewish life.
“I’m always an advocate for points of entry,” Cohen points out. “I like to think that I am part of a continual process of change to meet people’s needs where they are.”
Cohen, who has the job of bringing not only new experiences to the center’s program, but to bring new participants, was impressed by the success of the Sunday event, which brought many new faces to the center’s Dunwoody campus.
“That’s why we were so excited to partner with the fertility foundation,” Cohen said, “I think the foundation has brought in a crowd that is different than the crowd we see every day at the JCC. A lot of people that came were not members and we were so excited that we were able to create an opportunity for them to come on to the campus and see what we offer.”
I think the foundation has brought in a crowd that is different than the crowd we see every day at the JCC. A lot of people that came were not members and we were so excited that we were able to create an opportunity for them to come on to the campus and see what we offer.
In addition to the Sukkot program, the Jewish Fertility Foundation produces a podcast “Fruitful and Multiplying.” It also has started a peer support program called Fertility Buddies which provides what it calls “relationship-based support” on a one-to-one basis for those seeking an opportunity to exchange their experiences with another person who has been trained by an infertility therapist.
- Elana Frank
- Jewish Fertility Foundation
- Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
- Kelly Cohen
- in vitro fertilization
- Family Sukkot Program
- Bob Bahr
- Family Sukkot Day
- health service
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Ten to Watch
- Jewish Kids Groups
- MJCCA Day Camps
- Rabbi Brian Glusman
- JumpSpark ATL
- Fruitful and Multiplying
- Fertility Buddies
- Shari Seiner