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 3 of 3)

How did she feel about her own work? “Frankly,” she informed me in a whisper, glancing admiringly at her children, who were now tumbling over each other and into us in their revelry, “their real parents are missing out. I don’t judge, however,” she added hastily. And then, pulling herself up, she recited the story she reserved for the ambivalent and the unconvinced, the one she had told so often that the facts were probably no longer accurate — a story by which to lend an air of propriety, even of sanctity, to her charitable dealings.

“There once lived a family,” she began, “whom you and I both know,” and here she broke off to indicate the street we were passing. “They were blessed with 13 strong and healthy children. When, by the grace of God, the 14th child arrived with Down syndrome, and ill to boot, the mother was compelled to be so often in the hospital tending to this, her weakest of children, that the whole family fell to pieces, and the father, unable to handle the ruination of his life, made off to America, or to Honduras.”

“I was about to object — “But you can’t honestly believe that the life of that child was not worth caring about!” — when the family planner was distracted by the sudden flight of one of her children and ran off in bemused pursuit of him.

I was left to consider that we were probably indebted to the ultra-Orthodox for the practice of “planned parenthood” in at least one of its oldest forms. But just as God is said to cry as a couple prepare to divorce, so I’m certain he cries when a mother, in a blindness that has been inspired by fear and ignorance, parts from her child and sends him, unloved, into the world.

Leslie Kolbrener lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children.


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!
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • 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.