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Congregations consider women’s infertility on Rosh Hashanah

ebecca Gruenspan, of Chicago, holds her eight week old son, Trey, while her cousin, Kim Wolfson, plays with the newest family member while sitting down for Rosh Hashanah dinner on Wednesday Sept. 28, 2011. Becca, a single mom, adopted Trey this year and this will be their first Rosh Hashanah together as a family.   (William DeShazer/Chicago Tribune)

ebecca Gruenspan, of Chicago, holds her eight week old son, Trey, while her cousin, Kim Wolfson, plays with the newest family member while sitting down for Rosh Hashanah dinner on Wednesday Sept. 28, 2011. Becca, a single mom, adopted Trey this year and this will be their first Rosh Hashanah together as a family. (William DeShazer/Chicago Tribune)

As her conservative Jewish congregation at Anshe Emet in Lakeview joyfully ushered in Rosh Hashanah last year, Rebecca Gruenspan could only grieve. Shortly before the Jewish New Year, she had learned from doctors that she probably would not bear children.

Incapable of rejoicing, she was able to draw inspiration from the women throughout biblical history who shared her struggle: the dozens of infertile women in the Old Testament who lived to see their longing fulfilled, witnesses to God’s miraculous power.

As congregations celebrate the first of the Jewish High Holy Days on Thursday, many will hear the heartbreaking story of Hannah, a barren wife whose prayers are answered when she gives birth to a son, Samuel. Grateful for God’s blessing, Hannah promises her son to the priesthood. Samuel grows up to become a great prophet and pivotal figure in biblical history who restores law, order and worship to Israel.

 

At Shir Hadash, a Reconstructionist congregation in Northbrook, the resident storyteller, Beverly Berneman Lieberman, will share her interpretation of Hannah’s tale based on her own experience. Hannah reflects much of what her modern counterparts face, she said, including a loss of dignity, cruel comments and a husband’s futile efforts to understand.

 

Read more at chicagotribune.com.

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