JUF’s Path to Parenthood

One dad’s journey to growing his family

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The author and his husband’s two bundles of joy.

It was early in my relationship with my future husband that we talked about our shared desire to have children. Broaching this discussion early in the relationship isn't typical in the LGBTQ+ community, especially among gay and bisexual men. From the start, I expressed to Ben, who is not Jewish, that raising a Jewish family was vital for me. Ben, who saw the depth of custom and peoplehood in the Jewish community, said he was happy to oblige.

We got married under a chuppah in the woods of Colorado, six months after attending a conference that outlined options for growing our family. We soon discovered our primary obstacle to parenthood would be financial. Despite saving as much as we could and requesting that all wedding gifts be directed toward a family fund, the cold simple fact was that surrogacy would cost upwards of $150,000. Even in the best case scenario, navigating this process takes a lot of time and energy. Yet, for us, we had to contend with the added challenges of both COVID lockdowns and other red tape with our insurance company.

Then, we discovered the Chicago Coalition for Family Building, which aims to remove financial barriers facing those in need of fertility treatment. We applied--and were accepted--for our first grant in 2020. It was then that I learned that the grant was funded through JUF's Path to Parenthood program.

Learning that JUF was supporting families like mine felt beshert . One of the most beautiful parts about Judaism is the strong sense of community--when times are tough, we show up for each other. Knowing that the Jewish community would be here to support us in this life-changing journey has reinforced my belief in the power of our community.

Our twins are now approaching eight months old and have begun to develop distinct personalities. Our little girl has a laugh that reverberates throughout the room, while our son smiles perpetually. They're crawling, climbing, and just starting to recognize each other, which is so fun to watch. Loving them has deepened the bond between Ben and me. We read to them every chance we get, and have started introducing them to Shabbat candles and other Jewish traditions as they cycle through the year. 

In short, we couldn't be happier--thanks to JUF and the strength of the Jewish community.

Ari Cohen is a California transplant who has lived on Chicago's South Side for seven years and works in biotech. He and his husband welcomed twins in the summer of 2022.


Fulfilling the dreams of hopeful parents

Since 2019, JUF's Path to Parenthood has been providing a safe Jewish space for hopeful parents--including those battling infertility, single parents, and same-sex couples. In partnership with JCFS Chicago, Path to Parenthood offers free educational webinars, support groups, and other resources for local couples and individuals. In conjunction with the Chicago Coalition for Family Building, JUF's program awards financial grants toward medical treatment and adoption expenses.

Path to Parenthood--by the numbers:

*28 grant recipients

*$275,000 in financial grants

*15 live births--including 1 adoption & 2 sets of twins

*12 currently are in treatment or pregnant

To apply for a Path to Parenthood grant, one partner needs to identify as Jewish. Applications are assessed using medical, financial, and psychological criteria.  Applications, which are being accepted now through June 30, are available at coalitionforfamilybuilding.org . For more information, emailpathtoparenthood@juf.org.

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