The Jewish Fertility Foundation is expanding to Alabama and Florida

JFF has a $100,000 matching grant to hire a development director for 2 years

The Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF), a provider of financial and emotional support for people suffering from infertility, is expanding to two new locations this summer and has obtained, for the first time, funding that will support its plan to operate across the country, JFF CEO and founder Elana Frank told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The Natan Fund, a giving circle that supports innovative projects, is the donor of the $20,000 grant, said Adina Poupko, Natan’s executive director.

“The Natan Fund is honored to be the first foundation to support Jewish Fertility Foundation’s national expansion,” Poupko said. “Jewish communities should be supportive of couples and individuals on their path to creating a family, and it is wonderful to see JFF create that space for them.” 

Frank founded JFF in 2016 with help from Lynn Goldman, a reproductive law attorney. Both women had struggled with infertility. Because there were no Jewish support groups at the time, Goldman attended one in a church before starting a group at her synagogue. Frank had received fertility treatment in Israel, where insurance covers the high-cost procedures, and wanted to help people who couldn’t afford treatment. 

“There’s no infrastructure here for people who are experiencing infertility,” said Lauren Schwartz, executive director of Collat Jewish Family Services (CJFS) in Birmingham, Ala., JFF’s local partner. 

JFF is based in Atlanta and aims to help more of those who need its grants and services by replicating itself, with slight variations, in Jewish communities across the country. It already operates in Cincinnati; will start operating in Birmingham in July, and will open in Tampa, Fla., later this summer. In 2022, it will open in three additional cities.

After CJFS expressed interest in offering JFF’s program, Frank made certain there was both sufficient need and enough qualified clinics, Schwartz said. The Birmingham Jewish Foundation and CJFS together are paying the staff person who will launch the operation by developing relationships with the clinics and doing outreach to families.

Awareness of infertility is rising in the Jewish community. In February, 11 organizations hosted a cross-denominational online meeting, attended by about 2,000 people, to offer support and further educate the community. It was the first time those groups had worked together. Hadassah: The Zionist Women’s Organization of America has made infertility awareness and insurance coverage an advocacy priority. In Israel, an Australian immigrant founded Candles of Hope to shine light on the subject of pregnancy and infant loss.

Frank estimates that one in six Jewish women aged 21 to 44 suffers from infertility, compared with one in eight nationally. Her goal is to operate in 15 cities, for which she would need an annual budget of about $2 million. In 2019, JFF received about $359,000 in grants and contributions, according to its most recent tax filing.

“We are still looking for a funder to allow the organization to meet the need,” Frank said. “In the meantime, what we are able to do is to go thoughtfully and slowly, community by community.”

A local committee raises the initial investment, which funds the first staff person, who uses JFF materials and is trained and supervised by JFF in starting support groups, doing outreach and fundraising and making grants to help pay for treatment. Eight cities have formed those exploratory committees, Frank said.

As female donors gain wealth and influence, issues that have specific relevance to women are receiving increasing support from philanthropy, said Meredith Jacobs, CEO of Jewish Women International (JWI), which runs programs and does research and advocacy in such areas as domestic violence.

“This funding is going to come from other women, whether it’s Jewish women’s foundations or individual donors,” she said, referring to organizations such as the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New Jersey, which is part of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ. “Once you get a larger donor, it’s like that seal of approval, and that’s why JFF needs to keep going community by community.” Frank has a JWI fellowship that provides training and support for female leaders.

The Atlanta-based Marcus Foundation has supported JFF since 2016, and gave the group $150,000 in 2019, according to the tax filing. The Zalik Foundation, also in Atlanta, donated $50,000 that year.

More recently, JFF received a two-year, $100,000 matching grant to hire a development director who will start in January, Frank said. Frank declined to disclose the source of that grant, but said she’s raised $90,000 so far, including contributions from Debra Greenfield, an individual donor who lives in the Atlanta area and first learned about JFF on the Jewish Moms of Atlanta Facebook group. 

Greenfield thought for a short time that she would need fertility treatment. In the end, she was able to have two children without it, but the experience helped her realize how difficult infertility must be.

“Having kids was always my number one priority,” said Greenfield, who has committed to donate $10,000 a year to JFF through her donor-advised fund through 2025. “I told my parents that if I was single when I was 35, I would have a baby on my own. I would have been one of Elana’s single-by-choice mothers if I hadn’t met my husband. So to see families go through this and not be able to fulfill my dream, that breaks my heart.”