A Mother Is Who I Am

The Pain and Joy of Hasidic Motherhood

Mother’s Day: Jewish families stroll the streets of Williamsburg.
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Mother’s Day: Jewish families stroll the streets of Williamsburg.

By Rachel Freier

Published March 13, 2013, issue of March 15, 2013.
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On Monday on the Forward, Judy Brown shared her perspective on motherhood, based on her experience in the Hasidic community that she left. Now, I’d like to share my perspective on motherhood from within the Hasidic community of Boro Park. Having children was always important to me and I chose to remain steadfast to Haredi ideology while pursuing a law degree and then maintaining a law practice without compromising my role as a yidishe momme to my children.

I was engaged at 18 years of age and married at 19. During the first year of my marriage, I shared the barren fate of our matriarch Rachel and beseeched G-D for children, only to be disappointed month after month. During the second year of my marriage, I suffered a miscarriage, like Judy Brown did, and learned that it may not have been my first. I cried over my loss, and yearned to carry a full term pregnancy, which seemed so effortless for my friends and neighbors in Boro Park.

After the miscarriage, I was recommended to a high-risk OB/GYN who helped me. I was thereafter blessed with three sons and, while I juggled college and law school, gave birth to my three daughters. Being a mother remained my primary occupation; my vocation was secondary. While I yearned for more children, I learned to be grateful for the six precious gifts G-D gave me.

Rachel Freier
Courtesy of Rachel Freier
Rachel Freier

My favorite class at Brooklyn Law School was Constitutional Law. I was the only Hasidic woman in the class. One day, the professor was discussing Roe v. Wade and the case law that followed. He explained the judges’ reasoning for why a woman should have the right to terminate her pregnancy: Since the woman is onerously burdened with carrying the fetus, it should be her choice to have an abortion.

I squirmed in my seat and debated if I should share my disagreement with the Supreme Court’s reasoning. Slowly my hand went up. Timidly at first, and then with a bit more resolve, I explained that having children is a blessing and each day that I gave birth was the most memorable day of my life. The joy of motherhood cannot be properly described in a law school casebook.

My comments created a stir and it was only when the professor asked for the opinion of a fellow student, a young Italian woman who was pregnant, that the class quieted down. She agreed with me, that this was a very special time for her. It seems that women universally share an innate maternal instinct and a desire for children.


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