The Pater: One Man’s Med­i­ta­tion on Child­less­ness and Father­less­ness in Jew­ish Civilization

Elliot Jager
  • Review
By – October 9, 2015

In my ear­ly days as a young rab­bi, I was invit­ed to a meet­ing of a sup­port group for Jew­ish adults fac­ing what in those days was vague­ly referred to as fer­til­i­ty prob­lems”. The expe­ri­ence for me was a pro­found­ly mov­ing one that changed my approach to many aspects of the rab­binate and of Jew­ish com­mu­nal ser­vice. Even thir­ty years after that expe­ri­ence, I opened The Pater with great trep­i­da­tion, only to find an enlight­en­ing and unique approach to the top­ic. Elliot Jager skill­ful­ly inter­weaves three nar­ra­tives: his per­son­al strug­gles with child­less­ness, inter­views with indi­vid­u­als and cou­ples who open up about their expe­ri­ences with child­less­ness, and the sto­ry of his per­son­al rela­tion­ship with his some­what estranged father, who is con­tin­u­al­ly rec­om­mend­ing faith-based approach­es to infer­til­i­ty. Pep­pered through­out are ref­er­ences from Torah, Prophets, and Tal­mud, with their approach­es to child­less­ness, which, unlike con­tem­po­rary life, is usu­al­ly resolved. The lit­er­ary approach employed by the author works. The read­er fin­ish­es the book with a greater under­stand­ing of the vast range of feel­ings expe­ri­enced by those expe­ri­enc­ing child­less­ness, and with insight into the author’s own journey.

Relat­ed Content:

Rab­bi Arnold D. Sam­lan is a Jew­ish edu­ca­tor and rab­bi liv­ing in Mia­mi, Flori­da. He serves as exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Orloff Cen­tral Agency for Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion of Broward County.

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