Frequently, American couples wishing to adopt children look abroad, sometimes because they see children born in the U.S. as less desirable, sometimes out of ignorance of their options. Malka Groden, having adopted two American-born children, explains, in both ecumenical and Jewish terms, why more families should consider domestic adoptions and comments on her own experience of doing so as a member of the tightknit community of Chabad Ḥasidim in which she and her husband live. (Interview by Kathryn Jean Lopez.)
God tells the Jewish people repeatedly in [the book of] Isaiah that we’re meant to be a light unto the nations. We have an ability to transcend considerations of race and other dividing factors, because they should be of no consequence to us as Jews and more broadly as believers. Our adoption agency couldn’t fathom that [two] ḥasidic Jews from Brooklyn were one of their more [openminded] waiting families. I think as believers we’re uniquely armed for that role.
[Yet when it comes to adoption], there really hasn’t been much of an approach or vision in the Jewish community. Orthodox Jewish families have many biological children and simply don’t have the bandwidth to adopt or foster, so it hasn’t been part of our culture unless it’s emergency services within our own communities. . . . [W]hen I speak about adoption in the Jewish community, I am constantly asked about Jewish children, because we have an ethic of taking care of our own first. That just isn’t the landscape of adoption today. There aren’t many Jewish children waiting for homes. . . .
Another important factor to consider here is race and pushing ourselves beyond what we originally thought we would be comfortable with. Children being placed for adoption are disproportionately [members of racial] minorities. I struggled with the decision to open myself to a child of another race primarily because I feared what it would be like growing up in a predominantly white Jewish community, but the numbers our agency shared with us struck me. Out of 150 waiting families, only 30 were open to a child of another race. A family that is [unwilling to adopt] a child of another race can wait for eighteen months to two years to adopt. A family that’s open has an average waiting time of six months or less.