“We saw that there’s not really resources for people going through this and the community really wasn’t talking about it,” said Davis. “There’s a lot of feelings of shame and embarrassment, and we wanted to help destigmatize the experience and help the community know how to be supportive during those times.”
Davis, along with co-founder Becca Shimshak, founded the organization Uprooted: A Jewish Communal Response To Fertility Journeys. Uprooted is a non-profit organization that educates American Jewish leaders in assisting families with fertility journeys. Davis, who moved to Minnesota with her family when her husband, Rabbi Max Davis, took over the pulpit at Darchei Noam, has been working to build up the organization locally since then. Uprooted’s first local program, Planting Roots: Building a Jewish Communal Conversation Around Fertility Journeys, is on March 3 from 10-11:30 a.m. at Adath Jeshurun. A direct link to the registration form can be found here.
The organization started in 2015 when Davis lived in Massachusetts and found that during their journeys, being in the Jewish community was hard, so people found support outside of it.
“People are very comfortable asking questions, and making comments, and suggesting advice and asking if you’re pregnant,” Davis said. “Saying the things you can’t believe people would say. The focus is often on families with babies, and these are people in a place of no-mans-land.”
Davis said that Jews have a slightly higher infertility rate than the general public. Davis also stressed that when they say journeys, it doesn’t just mean people who have trouble getting pregnant.
“We include people who have gotten pregnant many times and had a loss, any alternative path, people who are single by choice, in the LGBT community, or anyone who doesn’t have the ‘traditional’ path,” Davis said.
Uprooted has been active in Massachusetts, Florida, and Washington, D.C., which is where some of the board members are, and Davis is hopeful the program will be replicated here. One of the programs they’ve done is an online mentoring program which connects people with a mentor.
“Anyone who wants to speak to someone can look at bios online say they want to speak to this woman or man,” Davis said. “Sometimes they are together the whole journey, sometimes it’s a one-time thing.”
One of the training they do for the community is a UJA-Federation of New York funded program for clergy, mental health professionals and lay leaders. Davis said she’ll be having meetings with the Minnesota Rabbinic Association, and Jewish Family Service of St. Paul; she has already met with Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Minneapolis.
A third component of what Uprooted does is building awareness. Through another UJA grant, Davis helped create TRYmester, a performance piece that is a combination of art, music and dance that came from creating stories after interviewing people around New York City. Uprooted received a grant from Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council, to bring the performance to the Twin Cities in 2020.
“We’re trying to build programming leading up to it to build up interest, and then more direct support afterward,” she said. “This is part of the cornerstone of what we’re trying to do. Anybody can come and hopefully, it feels open, whether you’re touched by this personally or you’ve never heard anything about it. It’s a pretty emotional experience.”