Infertility is an issue that affects one in six couples in our Australian community. The struggle to have a child takes a physical, mental and financial toll, and can be a stressful, agonising and isolating experience. In Judaism, there is such a strong imperative for us to procreate, to “go forth and multiply”. Children are a part of most of our Jewish rituals and are centre stage in many of our chaggim, which can make things even more difficult as couples facing infertility are constantly reminded of what they are lacking.
The Australian Jewish Fertility Network (AJFN) was established in 2006 when a couple approached Shterny Dadon for help to fund their IVF cycle. Shterny immediately put her efforts into creating a small fundraising event that raised enough money for their treatment and in turn gave birth to the AJFN.
Since then the AJFN has grown into a small but mighty organisation that has recently celebrated the birth of its 38th miracle baby. AJFN’s mission is to ensure that no Jewish Australian is alone on their fertility journey and that finance is never a barrier to trying to build a family. Plunging birth rates and the fact that 1 in 20 babies are born through IVF means that there is a deep need to assist where we can to try and build the next generation.
I first became involved with AJFN in 2016 as a donor through a giving circle my husband and I are a part of called The Giving Tree. After our own three year long challenging fertility journey, we wanted to honour the birth of our first little IVF miracle by giving back to those who were still facing their own journey, so that they felt less alone and were not having to give up on their dream of becoming parents simply because they couldn’t afford the treatment to give them the opportunity to try.
After chairing the Advisory Committee for AJFN initially, I then became the Chair of our inaugural Board established at the end of 2018.
Having experienced my own fertility struggles I feel a deep connection and a strong belief in what the AJFN does, and I am incredibly proud to help bring this work to life through our world-first documentary, One in Six. The film follows Janine and Shimon Davidowitz on their emotional, unfiltered IVF journey. The film draws its title from the one in six couples in Australia who experience infertility. There were many obstacles along the way with clinic shutdowns due to Covid, a heartbreaking miscarriage and other setbacks that the film captures. As an Orthodox Jewish couple, Janine and Shimon opted for kosher IVF which added an extra layer of difficulty due to timings around Jewish holidays.
For those of us who have been through IVF, we are right there with Janine and Shimon for the retrieval, the moment their little miracle is created, the embryo transfer and the agonising wait for the phone calls from the clinic to tell you how things are progressing.
And for those who haven’t experienced infertility, it gives a frank and intimate insight into the journey. We all know someone who has struggled to fall pregnant, but we may not understand their experience or they may have chosen not to share their difficulties. Through Janine and Shimon’s bravery and openness, we can offer support by better understanding what they are going through and bringing the conversation into the open.
The film was watched by over 2,000 people online at AJFN’s major event in November 2021. Feedback was unanimously positive and viewers were galvanised to support AJFN by donating to help other couples like Janine and Shimon have the chance to create their own little miracle. I am so proud and immensely grateful that One in Six will be broadcast nationally on ABC’s Compass on Sunday 12 June at 6:30pm. With an expected audience of 250,000, this will go a long way in raising awareness around infertility and opening the national conversation, so that anyone dealing with it feels less alone.