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Jewish, No Kids.

September 10, 2011





Jenny: “You’ve wanted me out of the house from the moment I set foot in here. What is it, Warren? Am I too fucked up for you? Am I too perverted? Look at me. Do I remind you of how messy and out of control your life is? Warren… I’m just not the girl you wanted me to be.”
Jenny’s mom: “Jennifer, stop.”
Jenny: “No, you stop. When are you gonna start being an actual person and not this silent slave to this man?”
Warren: Don’t you dare disrespect your mother.”
Jenny: “That’s a privilege that’s reserved for you.”
Warren: “Well, I — don’t know what more we can do.”
Jenny: “Nothing. There’s nothing more you can do for me to make me the person that you are comfortable with. Because I’m not gonna marry that nice Jewish boy. I’m not gonna have those nice Jewish kids. I’m not gonna shut up and be subservient. I’m not gonna set the dinner table and pretend that bad things don’t happen. Because when you don’t talk about them, they get worse, Warren.”

The above is my favourite quote from the Labia Majora episode from the L Word TV Show which is Episode 3.1. It is when Jenny confronts her mother and stepdad about her relationship with ultra-butch Moira, who later becomes transgendered. Jenny Schecter is a Jewish character in the TV Show (and she’s also Jewish in real life and from my neck of the woods in Toronto!). She stands up for herself and against the nice, married Jewish life her parents have set out for her.

’ve known Ari Gold since we were ten. We went to an Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva together. He was my first big crush because he sang jingles for TV commercials and we both loved Madonna, which, in the Orthodox community, automatically made us freaks. And which, as I of course didn’t realize at the time, made Ari gay. Flash forward 20 years and I’m working at a magazine called Vice while Ari is a successful, dance-chart-topping, out R&B singer who is inclined to perform topless, greased-up, and in a wrestler’s mask, while singing songs with Yiddish lyrics. Like our parents often say, “Oy! Why us”My boyfriend and I will watch The Bachelor, Real Housewives of New York, and we laugh at it, or whatever, but it just horrifies me to think there might be young impressionable girls who think this is what being a woman is, being a rich conniving backstabbing cunt or someone who is flattered to be one of 25 girls some guy gets to pick from.”? Everyone else grew up normal, why do you have to be so different?” Well, let’s find out.

This is the angry feminist side of Sarah Silverman, which usually takes a backseat to the adorable vulgarian side, the one that wrinkles her Samantha Stevens nose and delivers some of the most profane bits ever to grace cable. This season on The Sarah Silverman Program, on top of the usual proliferation of fart jokes, Silverman dated (and later dumped) God. In one episode, titled “A Fairly Attractive Mind,” she urinates in a mailbox.

Silverman wants her own kids some day, but says she doesn’t feel ready yet. “I want to have kids when there’s nothing else I want more, and I can make them my world. I figure, I’ll be a super-young-grandma age when I have kids,” she said. “Grandparents are way more laid-back anyway. I’ll just go straight to grandmotherhood, like Diane Keaton.”

But what happens when the enfant terrible has enfants of her own? Does the whole Sarah Silverman thing still work if she ages out of “winking sexpot” phase and into “concerned mom”?

At age 40, I think Sarah Silverman (one of my favourite female comedians) is childfree in the closet. Coming from a culture that really pressures Jewish women to have kids, it’s pretty impressive she hasn’t popped one out yet. Go Sarah!

Ken and Alissa Koven love kids — as long as they’re other people’s.

“We like to give them back when we’re done,” Ken said.

The Marina del Rey couple have no intention of ever having children, a decision that may rankle bubbes everywhere but is just fine with them.

They’re not alone, by any means. In 2008, nearly 20 percent of American women ended their child-bearing years without having kids, compared to 10 percent in 1976, according to a June 2010 report by the Pew Research Center that drew on U.S. Census Bureau data.

While some of those women may have put off having children because of work or education, Alissa decided at an early age that she would be childless by choice.

“I knew by the time I was 20 that I didn’t want children,” the 38-year-old said. “I spent many hours and years baby-sitting. I really enjoy spending time with children, but I like my nice, quiet, peaceful home. It was a very informed decision.”

Coming to an agreement about this subject with her husband was easy. Ken, an IT consultant who grew up in Thousand Oaks, was pushing 40 by the time they were married in 2003. At that point, having kids was not at the top of his list of priorities.

“I was on the fence. I was open to either way,” he said.

Now, at 46, he’s grateful they made the decision they did. It allows them to lock up the house with little notice and travel the world as Ken’s job requires. (They recently returned from a year living in Australia.) They can be, in a word, spontaneous. Their mantra is that it only takes two to make a family.

“Our lives are complete,” Alissa said. “We don’t need kids to have a full life.”

Some relatives had a tough time being persuaded, however.

“Jewish parents want grandchildren,” Ken said. “My mother’s probably still holding out hope.”

Both of the Kovens, whose parents have other grandchildren, were raised Jewish but are not members of a synagogue.

“I do feel some Jewish guilt about not having children, because I do, or did, have the opportunity to increase the Jewish population by one or two and am not doing it,” said Alissa, who does freelance work in market research and as a copy editor.

Despite the divine commandment in Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply,” fertility rates among Jewish women are lower than those for U.S. women in general and are not high enough to replace the current population, according to the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey, sponsored by United Jewish Communities and Jewish Federations.

The decision to have children in today’s world is about much more than creating life; it’s about quality of life, too.

“People don’t talk about the negatives of raising kids. It’s always about the positives,” Ken said. Some parents make it sound like having kids is all about baking cookies, tossing baseballs and sharing hugs, he said. What they tend to leave out is the exhaustion, worry and frustration, not to mention the expense.

The Kovens, who said conversations with others on the topic can sometimes be awkward and make them feel defensive, said they see both sides of the equation.

“We both knew what it would take — the amount of time and effort — in order to be a good parent, and we’re just not comfortable with that kind of commitment,” Ken said. “If you’re going to have kids, it has to become the center of your universe.”

They admit that there are inherent downsides to their choice: Alissa would love to be a grandmother someday, and she worries about what will happen when they get older.

“I see my friends taking care of their parents in nursing homes and dealing with issues of the elderly,” she said.

She also knows that she will never experience the special bond and unconditional love that parents have told her exists between them and their child, but she said she’s willing to miss out on that part of life.

And let’s be clear — not wanting kids isn’t the same as hating them. The Kovens spend plenty of time with little tykes. Many of their friends have children. “When I go see these kids, I’m all about fun,” Ken said. “I can just be this crazy person who roughhouses and gives piggyback rides — and leaves.”

They just don’t have as much in common with friends who are parents as they do with other child-free friends. With that in mind, the Kovens joined an organization called No Kidding! Founded in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1984, the international social club for childless singles and couples now has 44 chapters around the world and about 10,000 members.

Jerry Steinberg, who is the group’s “founding non-father emeritus,” said in an e-mail that there were two main reactions when he started the group.

“Most people were appalled that anyone would actually choose not to have children, and sure that anyone who would do so must be some kind of child-hating monster,” wrote Steinberg, who was born Jewish but said he does not subscribe to most tenets of the religion. “A much smaller minority were relieved to discover that they weren’t alone in their choice, and that there were some very intelligent, caring, fun people who had also chosen not to add more consuming polluters to our overpopulated planet.”

The majority’s reaction has softened since then.

In 1988, only 39 percent of adults disagreed with the statement that people without children “lead empty lives,” according to the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey. That figure rose to 59 percent by 2002. Likewise, nearly half of those surveyed in a 2009 Pew Research Center poll thought it didn’t matter that a growing share of women never want to have kids.

As the societal pressure to bear children diminishes, the message from couples like the Kovens is clear.

“We’re not evil people,” Ken said. “It’s OK to make this choice.”

About 125 people are members of the Southern California chapter of No Kidding!, which started in the San Fernando Valley and now is based in Long Beach, according to organizer Dominic Albert.

At first glance, there’s nothing inherently different between this social group and many others that get together to eat, chat and socialize. Dig a little deeper, though, and Ken points out a dead giveaway:

“Nobody needs to worry about finding a baby-sitter before they go out.”


I am 38, my husband is 44, we are both Jewish (non-practicing), and after dealing with infertility issues we decided that we were complete as we are and didn’t need to be guinea pigs to science or go through the expense, process and procedures, and risk of adoption. Being childfree allows me to focus on international development issues, and travel with short term notice.

Comment by Wendy on 3/16/11 at 11:09 pm




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