We are looking to adopt a Jewish child, preferably a baby (as yet unborn). Can you help us find one in Israel, possibly an out-of-wedlock situation. It would be a real mitzvah for all concerned. We have excellent references within our Jewish community.

In general, what is the view of the Jewish religion toward adoption in cases of infertility? Is there a risk that adopting a child is like giving up hope of conceiving?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The official Israeli adoption agency, Sherut L'Ma'an Hayeled, requires adopters to live in Israel (at least at the outset of adoption). And even for Israelis, the waiting list to adopt a Jewish baby is approximately six years.

I would suggest that you inquire of prominent rabbis, who are often told about unwanted babies, or befriend labor ward hospital staff and ask to be tipped off when a baby is likely to be abandoned.

Given the scarcity of finding a Jewish baby to adopt, many people will look in South America or the former Soviet Republics. It is important to note, however, that a non-Jewish child who is adopted by a Jewish family is not Jewish. Only the Jewish mother's biological children are automatically Jews.

An adopted child, however, has the option of conversion, just like any other non-Jew. The child is brought to the Beit Din, has a Bris and dunks in the Mikveh. When he reaches the age of maturity (12 for a girl, 13 for a boy), he/she has the option of declining to accept a lifetime of Judaism.

In general, the Beit Din will only allow such a conversion if the parents themselves agree to observe all 613 mitzvahs of the Torah. This is the only way it is reasonable to assume that the child will also observe the mitzvahs. Otherwise the child is being put into a situation where he is “sinning” from the get-go. I’m sure that you can understand the internal contradiction that this would create.

I highly recommend a book called “The Bamboo Cradle” by Avraham Schwartzbaum, the story of an American couple who adopted a baby in Taiwan, and the amazing Jewish journey that resulted.

The idea of adopting is a humanitarian act and is quite meritorious. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 19b) says that one who raises an orphan in his home, it is as if he had given birth to him. (A child given up for adoption is, in essence, a child without parents that are capable, or willing to raise him.) Thus, a couple who physically cannot bear children, can raise a child and it will be considered as if they had given birth to the child.

The Sages also say that if the couple is not medically sterile, but they have other problems which hinders childbirth; then in merit of the adoption, God will bless them with one or more of their own.

Here are some recommended books on the topic of Jewish adoption:

• "And the Lord Will Gather Me In," by David Klinghoffer

• "Adopting After Infertility" by Patricia Johnston

• "Launching a Baby's Adoption: Practical Strategies " by Patricia Johnston

• "And Hannah Wept" by Rabbi Michael Gold

• "Sweet Grapes: How to Stop Being Infertile and Start Living Again" by Jean and Michael Carter

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