This question would have made the ancient Talmudic rabbis' heads spin. The idea of intentionally having a child outside of a marriage--by whatever means, biological or adoptive--would not have crossed their minds. Artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization would have defied their imagination.
But times have marched on, technology has made the unimaginable possible, and so has the social acceptance of what was once a taboo. Not only are secular Jewish women choosing to become single parents by choice; stunningly, so are Orthodox women. There is even an organization in Israel, Kayama Moms, that supports observant single mothers by choice. The American group Single Mothers by Choice reports that 20 percent of its 15,000 members are Jewish. Once again, we're ahead of the curve!
And if we want a text, let's go back to the beginning: "How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures." (Ps. 104:24) Even I, a non-theist, can get behind this notion that all creatures and all children are blessed and a gift, no matter how they come to us. "Be fruitful and multiply" may originally have applied to the first couple. Let's open our arms and welcome the children of single parents too--men and women alike.
Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer
The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism New York, NY
It's kind of like the Talmudic image of "one hand clapping." (That's right, folks, it was in the Talmud first.) To be a single parent by choice is to deliberately create a scenario for a newly arriving human that deprives them of the balance available in a two-parent venue. Now, it isn't always possible to keep two parents together, what with divorce, death, abandonment and other mitigating factors. And we cannot judge those who choose to remain single, whether because of career situations or plumb bad luck. But to bring a child into the world just to have one, as if the kid were some kind of acquisition of personal want such as an iPhone or a brand-new Jaguar, feels antithetical to the kind of consciousness of intent and regard for the Other encouraged by our tradition. The general Judaic principle is that we do the best we can within the limitations of our circumstances. But we do not deliberately create those limitations, not for ourselves and not for others.
Rabbi Gershon Winkler
Walking Stick Foundation Cedar Glen, CA
Jewish texts are replete with stories about women who yearned for a child. Sarah and Hannah especially come to mind. And Judaism valorizes the passing down of our traditions to the next generation...