Sperm Donors and the Goal of Racial Purity

Being the product of a marriage between a Jewish man and a Catholic woman, I will admit to being rather opposed to the idea that one should never marry outside one’s faith.  If a couple can get past their religious differences, I don’t see a problem with it.  Of course, I’m rather dismissive of religion and its influence anyway, so perhaps it’s not surprising that not everyone agrees with me.  Rabbi Dov Lior, a prestigious Rabbi in Israel and an authority on Jewish law, goes further and says that Jewish parents need to make sure their kids are 100% Jewish too.

But if both parents are Jewish, how could their child possibly be anything less than 100% Jewish?  The problem crops up when a couple turns to a fertility clinic for help in conceiving a child.  Previously, it was widely accepted among Israeli Jews that the sperm of a gentile was preferable to that of an anonymous Jew because of possible genetic risk.  That anonymous donor could be a close relative to the mother.  Rabbi Dov Lior, however, had reversed that ruling, saying that a Jewish woman should never get pregnant using the sperm of a non-Jew, even if no other options remain.

According to the good Rabbi, character traits such as mercy, charity, and shyness are passed from the father to the child genetically via the father’s sperm and that these traits are indicative of the Jewish faith.  Non-Jews don’t get those good genes.  “If the father is not Jewish,” he says, “what character traits could he have? Traits of cruelty, of barbarism! These are not traits that characterize the people of Israel.”  He went on to imply that Jews don’t commit crimes because they are genetically programmed not to.  “I even read in books that sometimes the crime, the difficult traits, the bitterness,” the Rabbi explained, “a child that comes from these traits, it’s no surprise that he won’t have the qualities that characterize the people of Israel.”

Clearly, Rabbi Dov Lior wants Jews to keep their lineage pure so as to avoid any taint from other groups.  It’s almost as if he sees his people as being superior to all others — some sort of “master race” if you will.  Now, I hate to be the one to cause Godwin’s Law to come true so early in the discussion, but surely I can’t be the only one to see such an ironic parallel between Rabbi Dov Lior’s remarks and the goals and policies of another group the good Rabbi ought to be familiar with?

As if all that weren’t enough, Rabbi Dov Lior goes on to artificial insemination in general, egg banking, and women’s rights.  He’s not strictly against women getting educated but thinks it should certainly take a back seat to their motherly duties.  “The role of women – child rearing – is not less important than an academic degree,” he says.

While I agree that being a single mother isn’t the best option — he rants against that too — I disagree with his reasoning.  I think that raising a child is simply too much work for one person and you really need at least two, if not more, people to do the job right.  It really does take a village.  The Rabbi, however, simply says that “if a child is born without a father, he cannot be 100% normal,” adding that such kids are “criminals and subjects of other negative phenomena.”

Clearly, the Rabbi is out of touch with reality and shouldn’t be offering opinions on anything more than what he’d like for breakfast; I, for one, am not willing to lose more family members to his misunderstanding of genetics.  People like this should be stripped of whatever power they might possess and be sent to play with the big LEGOs so they don’t hurt themselves or anyone else.

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