When we were discussing what makes our Fifth Annual “Yesh Tikva’s Infertility Awareness Shabbat” different from all others, we knew we wanted this year to encompass a unique call to action. This year IAS is not just reserved for communal leaders to address the topic, but for Jewish women and men across the world to be active participants in ending the silence and extinguishing the shame surrounding infertility.
This year our theme is HOLDING SPACE. Holding space for those facing infertility in every context. Whether you are facing primary, secondary, male factor, circumstantial, halakhic, genetic, unexplained, etc., know that your community, the Jewish world and individuals in it are “holding space” for you.
But what exactly does holding space mean? This “catch phrase” explains a process of understanding and empathy. If you hold space for someone, you witness and validate someone else’s emotional state while simultaneously being present in your own. This means the person holding space has double duty.
We as Jews always have double duty… we are taught that:
כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה – kol yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh
we are all responsible for each other. We manage our own lives and look out for our community and the nation and land of Israel. So it is not out of our comfort zone to hold space for others facing infertility, we just need to be mindful to have our sensitivity antenna up.
So you may be asking yourself, “How can I hold space for someone if I know, or even if I don’t know exactly what they are facing?”
To start be an active listener. If someone wants to share their emotions – listen – there is no need to fill the silence, you can simply hold the silence or respond with “I am holding space for you.”
Follow their lead, and don’t push. Give people the space to share only what they are comfortable sharing and only when they are ready.
“Can I drive you somewhere? Can I pick up food for you? Want to go out for coffee?” These concrete olive branches lets the person know you are there for them and ready to help when they need.