The sea of strollers parked at the entrance to a synagogue can be an extremely painful sight to someone struggling with infertility.
Gila Block, founder of Yesh Tikva, a nonprofit that provides resources and tools to those struggling to conceive, knows this firsthand. She and her husband struggled with infertility for four years. During this time, Block was struck by the loneliness of the experience.
“Infertility is known for being in a doctor’s office with hundreds of other couples and becoming a nobody,” said Block, a trained behavioral therapist who today works full-time for the organization. “Even in a pool of so many people going through the same thing, you’re on your own. Everyone is too ashamed, too consumed by what they are going through, to reach out to the person next to them — it’s like ships in the night.”
She decided to change that. Yesh Tikvah, launched in April 2015, is intended to create a community for those experiencing infertility. The organization’s website, which publishes first-person articles by those struggling, reaches several thousand people with every post. Most recently, the organization completed the 100 Shuls Project, an initiative to raise awareness and sensitivity regarding infertility in synagogues across the world.
“We are not just targeting individuals struggling with infertility, but communities at large,” said Block. “As a whole, we can increase our emotional sensitivity about this topic so people already in pain aren’t caused additional hurt.”
Block, who is Orthodox, was careful to stress that the organization is non-denominational. “This problem is not unique to the Orthodox world,” she said. On Passover, one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays, the focus is on children, no matter the denomination, she said. “Everyone around the table is having, or thinking about having children. Someone who does not have children can be immediately isolated from the conversation.”
Looking towards the future, Block, who is today the mother of a baby girl, hopes to continue expanding the organization. “There are so many resources still needed,” she said. In the meantime, she is buoyed by the nonprofit’s quick growth in only a few short months. “We’ve activated a community that already existed — people just didn’t realize that they were never really alone.”
Do-It-Yourself: For years, Block and her younger sister owned their own headband company called “Head On Designs.” They sold their unique products to boutiques in Israel and Los Angeles, Block’s hometown.