Finding Liturgy for Infertility and Pregnancy Loss

in European Judaism
View More View Less
  • 1 Leo Baeck College
Restricted access


Infertility and pregnancy loss (miscarriage, termination, stillbirth and neonatal death) affect a significant proportion of our community, both women and men. While biblical narrative shows a range of reactions to infertility, the idea that a child is a blessing, or even a reward from God, can be unhelpful for people struggling with childlessness. Meanwhile, standard Jewish liturgy is completely silent, as though these issues are too painful to be confronted, even in prayer. Our prayer books must offer support and spiritual guidance to individuals at times of crisis. The article concludes with some new liturgy, and with relevant readings and prayers, adapted for the purpose, from existing prayer books.

Contributor Notes

Gwendolen Burton is a musician, ba’alat tefillah (service leader), and a part-time academic student at Leo Baeck College, who won the John Rayner Prize for this article.

European Judaism

A Journal for the New Europe

  • Artscroll Klein Edition. Ohel Sarah Women’s Siddur, Mesorah Publications 2005.

  • Barenblat, Rachel. ‘Through: Author’s Note’ ( 2009.

  • Baumgarten, Elisheva. Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

  • Ginzberg, Louis. Legends of the Bible, Robson Books, 2001.

  • Gold, Michael. And Hannah Wept – Infertility, Adoption and the Jewish Couple, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1988.

  • Grossman, Susan and Rivka, Haut. Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1992.

  • Hertz, Dr Joseph Herman. The Authorised Daily Prayer Book, The Soncino Press, 1946.

  • JPS Tanakh – Stein, Rabbi David. JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1999.

  • Kay, Devra. Seyder Tekhines, Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2004.

  • Kraemer, David. Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

  • Kushner, Rabbi Harold. When Bad Things Happen to Good People, London: Pan Books, 1981.

  • Lavie, Aliza. A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book, Spiegel & Grau, 2008.

  • Liberal Prayer Book – Rayner, John D. and Stern, Chaim. Siddur Lev Chadash, Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, 1995.

  • Liberal Machzor – Goldstein, Rabbi Dr Andrew and Middleburgh, Rabbi Dr Charles. Machzor Ruach Chadash, Liberal Judaism, 2003.

  • Reform Prayer Book – Magonet, Jonathan. Seder ha-t’fillot, Movement for Reform Judaism, 2008.

  • Rothschild, Sylvia and Sheridan, Sybil. Taking up the Timbrel: The Challenge of Creating Ritual for Jewish Women Today, London: SCM Press, 2000.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sacks, Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan. The Authorised Daily Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Collins, 2007.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schauss, Hayyim. The Lifetime of a Jew throughout the Ages of Jewish History, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1950.

  • Spanish and Portuguese Prayer Book – Gaon, Solomon. Book of Prayer of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, London, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tarnor, Norman. A Book of Jewish Women’s Prayers: Translations from the Yiddish, Lanham: Jason Aronson, 1995.

  • Umansky, Ellen and Ashton, Dianne. Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality: A Sourcebook, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1992.

  • Wolfson, Dr Ron. ‘Stillbirth and Neonatal Death’ ( undated.

  • Weissler, Chava. Voices of the Matriarchs, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1998.


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 128 60 2
Full Text Views 6 3 0
PDF Downloads 5 2 0