TEANECK On top of the frustration and despair shared by all couples struggling with infertility, those who are devoutly religious also may experience a crisis of faith.
That aspect will be addressed at an upcoming meeting of the North Jersey chapter of A TIME (A Torah Infertility Medium of Exchange), an organization that provides free services and support to observant Jewish couples.
"Teaneck and the surrounding areas are so rich in families with so many activities and functions revolving around children," said "Len," an active member. "You can imagine the pain and loneliness that a childless couple feels every Shabbos when they walk past the park or are invited over for a Shabbos lunch."
The North Jersey chapter began almost a year ago. "We have had over a hundred couples attend our events and each event grows larger and larger as the word spreads of our existence," Len said.
On Wednesday, June 6, at 8 p.m. at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls here, psychotherapist Rachel
Lerner will address the topic "Maintaining faith in HaShem during challenging times."
Lerner is a mother and grandmother, yet she can empathize with the couples on a different level.
"I can’t really speak to the subject of infertility, but I can speak to the subject of faith, having battled cancer for four years," said Lerner, a township resident and popular adult-education lecturer. "I certainly understand how it feels to be in a disempowered and fragile position and wanting to stay deeply connected to God, not wanting to lose God along with my hair."
Lerner said she is planning her talk using many of her own thoughts "because after all this time I have come to some sort of clarity on this" and books including Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s "Out of the Whirlwind," "Jewish Perspectives on Suffering" by Shalom Carmy, and Yitzchok Kirzner’s "Making Sense of Suffering."
"I want to talk about the fact that infertility is a bitter pill in a culture that prizes children the way ours does," she said. "You’re out of the mainstream, and it’s hard to keep your anger from turning into a disconnection from God. So in a sense we’re talking about how to deal with depression, anger, and a sense of isolation while still having an ongoing committed and faithful relationship to your God."
"Renee" attended a learning-and-discussion group Lerner led for female A TIME members last summer. Her husband, "Ben," said he appreciated how that session helped his wife and how the group has helped both of them.
"When we were first facing infertility, it was so isolating," he said. "I had such trepidation just walking into my first meeting. But what I’ve found is a community. It’s normalizing some of what we’re going through."
For further information, contact NJ@ATIME.org or (’01) 645-166′.