Childfree Reflections

With Marcia Drut-Davis
August 23rd, 2013 by Marcia Davis

Jewish Guilt For Not Procreating

Last October, on the night of my actual  70th birthday, my sister and I flew to Prague.  We stayed in Prague for two days before boarding a river boat cruise down the Danube.  One highlight was our trip to Terezine, a concentration camp where  beautiful Jewish souls were killed during the Holocaust. It was a difficult four hours on a special tour lead by a survivor of that camp. From time to time, her eyes would fill up even though she lead this tour many times.

I have seen many photos and read books where the horrors were brutally detailed. However, walking through that camp, being in actual places where barbaric things happened,  I couldn’t help but have a stab of guilt.

Whispering in my ear was the voice of my beloved grandfather, Harry. “Mashinka” he said. “When you grow up, never forget what happened to four of my five sisters. (One of my aunts escaped by coming to America with her brother.) Never forget what happened to six million Jews and other innocent men, women and children. Have children to replenish their lost lives.

His words haunted me after I decided not to have children and remain childfree-by-choice. I would push the guilt out of my mind knowing I couldn’t agree to a lifestyle my heart wasn’t committed to. Children, in my opinion, need parents totally ready, willing and able to accept the responsibilities. I didn’t want them.

Recently, I met our local Rabbi from this area. We participated in a  weekly discussion group  amongst Muslims, Christians, Jews,  non-believers and their leaders. The goal was to learn and grow in  understanding of each religion. Differences were accepted, not condemned.The topic of religious expectations, when it comes to procreation, came up. When I mentioned I chose never to have or raise children and, from time to time felt guilty because of the expectation I should have children, the Rabbi spoke.

He said, in his opinion, what we do, here and now to other humans is more important. He mentioned how passionate I was as a teacher. He acknowledged how I touched the future through what I taught and how I lovingly treated those hundreds of children.

I felt a sigh of relief. Although intellectually I already knew that, hearing a clergy-person confirming that was a gift to my life.

What about you? Are you living with any guilt stemming from religious upbringing? Do you still hear people admonishing you for not following the religious expectations to “Go forth and multiply?”

I would love to hear from you.




6 Responses to “Jewish Guilt For Not Procreating”
  1. Hello Marcia.

    As you know we have discussed the topic of this article in depth. As I told you before and as you know I have studied the Holocaust since age 12 (coincidentally the same age I decided I never wanted children). Many female Holocaust survivors chose to never have children because they didn’t want to see those events happen to their children. Others were physically unable to have children due to their daily struggle to survive the camps which were designed to slowly kill people if they weren’t selected for death immediately upon arrival. There were also women who were scarred by medical experiments, specifically sterilization, which rendered them incapable of ever bearing a child.

    I think the Rabbi who spoke to you was a very wise man. You have had a huge impact on so many children. Now you help young women decide whether they want to take on the huge responsibility of parenthood or not. You have impacted so many lives in a positive way.

    I am a Christian and most of the abuse I have endured for my choice to be child-free has come from other so-called Christians. I have never let it bother me because I made a decision I will never regret unlike most parents who are lied to about how wonderful parenthood will be. They then discover that is definitely not the case.

    Of all the ministers I have had over the years the female minister at my church is the first one that accepts and understands my choice. She is my age and is neither married nor has children. I have lost count of the parishes I left because I was harassed for being child-free.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your trip to Europe and Jewish guilt. I think every religion believes its members should have children, just because that is what you do. They don’t have a valid reason for why that is the case though.

  2. Shannon Parker says

    I am a Childfree woman (and soon to be step-mother to a 23 year old). I am also Jewish. I constantly struggle to feel as though I belong at Temple, I’m the only woman my age (late 30s) without kids. I feel like I have “done my part” as I have been a pediatric oncology Nurse and a school teacher. Your Rabbi’s words resonated with me, It’s something those of us who have made the CHOICE to remain childfree need to be reminded of.
    Thank you.

    • marciadavis says

      I hope this gets to you! I’ve been remiss in answering my blog!
      To know I’ve reached another heart is a gift .
      You HAVE done a lot as a pediatric oncology nurse! How lucky for those children and their parents.
      Many thanks for sending me this response. HUGS!
      PS: Do you know about our childfree group cruise this December? Email me at nokidcruise@gmail and I’ll send info!

    • Marcia Davis says

      Shannon….did I ever respond to you?

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