Expanding nationally, Jewish fertility group opens office in Birmingham

The Jewish Fertility Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance, emotional support and educational programs for people experiencing infertility, is opening an office in Birmingham this month.

Founded in Atlanta in 2015, the organization is working to replicate itself in communities across the country to reach more people who need its grants and services. In 2019, a Cincinnati office opened, and Birmingham is the third location. A Tampa office will open later this summer, with three more cities scheduled for next year.

The organization’s Birmingham presence is made possible by a partnership between JFF and Collat Jewish Family Services, which will house the new office, with support from the Birmingham Jewish Foundation.

Julie Cohen, who is also a Speech Language Pathologist, is the manager of the Birmingham office. She and her husband went through “a lot of pain” before becoming the parents of a 4-year-old and twin toddlers. “I like to think that we’ve gone through that so that I can help others.”

Cohen said she would have loved to have a Jewish resource to fall back on during those days. “People would invite me to Christian support groups, but that did not feel comfortable for my husband or me. I personally have reached out to others who I knew were going through it, but there has never been a formal network for Jewish families,” she said.

The organization was started by Elana Frank and reproductive law attorney Lynn Goldman, both of whom had struggled with infertility. Goldman attended a church support group before starting a group at her synagogue.

Frank received fertility treatment in Israel, where insurance covers what is a high-cost procedure, and when she moved back to Atlanta in 2015, she wanted to help those in the U.S. who could not afford treatment. Thirty-one states have no insurance coverage for fertility treatments, and the average cost of an IVF cycle is $20,000, with no guarantee of success.

She estimates that while one in eight women ages 21 to 44 nationally suffers from infertility, in the Jewish community it is one in six.

When CJFS expressed interest in bringing the program to Birmingham, Frank evaluated the need and availability of clinics.

CJFS Executive Director Lauren Schwartz said the partnership is a perfect fit for CJFS, which works to strengthen families and improve mental health and wellness. “CJFS is always evolving to meet community needs, and we’re thrilled to be bringing JFF’s successful model of education, support and connection for families experiencing infertility to Birmingham,” she said.

Cohen said it is difficult for friends and families to be supportive, as they don’t realize the “roller coaster of emotions that goes along with infertility. JFF’s programming addresses all of these issues and also assists with the high cost of fertility treatment for those eligible.”

She added, “I can’t wait to build this resource for our community!”