Mothers of Down Syndrome Babies Have Options in Ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem

Some Give Up Children in the Insular Religious Community

Getty Images

By Leslie Kolbrener

Published July 18, 2013, issue of July 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

What the family planner cannot provide the mother with is an alibi to explain to her remaining children where the joyously awaited babe has gone. It is a tricky question indeed, one best left to the inspiration of the “bereaved” mother.

The family planner does, however, advise to begin by saying that the baby, whom nobody has ever seen, is to be reared in an undisclosed location by unknown people, to be taken back at a more suitable though unspecified time. Everyone, including the parents, can live with this fiction for a while.

But the child is almost never returned home.

The family planner isn’t the only one in my neighborhood who sees the mothers of Down syndrome babies as a charitable cause. After I gave birth to Shmuel, I had an early morning hospital visit from my friend, a nurse. She took a look at him and wondered aloud whether he really had Down syndrome. (An examination of his hand convinced her. “Well, if it’s only in the hands,” I must have thought.)

Then she made the staggeringly handsome offer to take the baby off my hands at once, and with him, time itself — the time of his birth so freshly remembered, and the time of my life to come, wedded to a child unsound by nature, unseen and unsung. Did she indeed despise the baby, or did she suspect that I did?

A great smile spread across my face, the first since his birth. “Do I get to choose then?” I marveled to myself, as I bantered with her. “Can you really make good on all that?” I asked. And so it seemed she could. But like the elderly guest at a wedding party, who eyes the indigestible but alluring morsel laid down before her and politely waves it away, I rejected an offer that something told me I could not accept.

Ten years later, on a recent brisk Sabbath afternoon when the streets were already bristling with strollers and the parade was in full swing, I recognized the family planner. There were two children with Down syndrome gamboling at her legs; over the years, she had taken in four of these castaways herself.

I wanted to show off my own immaculate foundling if only I could locate him. Lately, his “three minute” strolls around the neighborhood had lasted hours. I spotted Shmuel pretty soon, in the embrace of another boy entering a building, but he had his back turned to us, so his full glory was shielded. “

Ah, I recognize them by their gait,” she remarked innocently. I was abashed and angry. “I am not accustomed to referring to my children in the third person,” I sharply replied. “You have no idea what has gone into the grooming and education of this child.” But she was not particularly impressed, so I let the conversation flag.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.