QUESTION A Jewish woman is married to a Gentile. She is
unable to conceive. However, doctors are planning to fertilize an egg from another woman, in vitro, with the husband's sperm, and then implant the fertilized ovum in the wife. Since genetically neither the father nor the ovum donor is Jewish, although gestation will take place within the womb of a Jewish woman, would the child require conversion? (Rabbi B. Lefkowitz, Taunton, MA)
ANSWER: The issues raised by this question are not akin
to anything else which has been discussed in Jewish literature. The traditional material which has some bearing on the subject has been cited in an earlier responsum on surrogate mothers (W. Jacob, American Reform Responsa, #159). Somewhat akin to the question is the situation of adoption in which the child has been born to Gentile parents, or a child whose origins are not clearly known, and raised by a Jew from early infancy. In that case, we have decided that the child should be treated as any other Jewish infant with an option of tevilah (W. Jacob, An American Reform Responsa,"Adoption and Adopted Children," #63).
questions differ from adoption as the child has been part of the mother throughout the period of gestation. The intent of this procedure is to provide the parents.with a child which is as much theirs as possible. It, therefore, goes one step further than adoption and means that the child should never feel the anxieties of an adopted child. As the Jewish community has always placed a strong emphasis upon family and upon children as an essential part of the family, this technique, which raises other questions also, will enable a large number of families to have children and will certainly be utilized.
As this child has been part of the mother
throughout the period of gestation, we should consider this child born of a Jewish mother as potentially Jewish without any formal act of conversion. The child, of course, will need to participate in "positive acts of identification," and just as in the case of any other child of mixed marriage, this would be in keeping with the resolution of the Central Conference of American Rabbis of March, 1983 (W. Jacob, American Reform Responsa, Appendix). This child is, therefore, considered as potentially Jewish and no act of conversion is necessary.
If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.