Taking its name from one of the biblical midwives who defied Pharaoh’s order to kill newborn Israelite boys, the organization In Shifra’s Arms (ISA) seeks to help pregnant Jewish women in distress, many of whom are victims of domestic abuse. Mona Charen writes:
When ISA debuted, it was greeted with deep suspicion in the Jewish world. Efforts to raise funds proceeded at a glacial pace, though the Jewish community gives generously to charities of nearly every other description. The United Jewish Appeal, for example, boasts that it supports programs for the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, at-risk children, and the sick, among dozens of other categories.
Perhaps suspecting that In Shifra’s Arms was an anti-abortion group, Nancy Ratzan, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, condemned it, declaring that the NCJW was “greatly concerned about pregnancy-crisis centers and their focus on limiting women’s choice and undermining the rights of women.” Alyssa Zucker, professor of psychology and women’s studies at George Washington University, was equally dismissive: “While these organizations say they are about choice,” she told the Washington Jewish Week, “they are really not. Their goal is to convince women not to have abortions.”
In fact, In Shifra’s Arms was merely attempting to fill a gap. Abortion is readily available. There are even Jewish charities that help women to pay for abortions. What about the Jewish women who were being pressured into abortions? What about those who were abandoned by husbands or boyfriends? Until ISA opened its doors, there was no American Jewish organization dedicated to helping women who wanted their babies. . . .
In Shifra’s Arms does not attempt to discourage women from seeking abortions—some women who have sought ISA’s help have indeed chosen abortion—but does provide critical encouragement and assistance to those who want an alternative. The board of In Shifra’s Arms includes Jewish women who consider themselves pro-life and pro-choice, and their religious identification ranges from Orthodox to unaffiliated. . . . The women ISA has reached have been offered the assistance and the wherewithal to choose their heart’s desire—to give birth. Surely that is an overlooked women’s issue.