Times of Israel blogger Professor Alon Tal blogs Nine reasons why having nine children is a bad idea, in response to Arizona rabbi Pinchas Allouche blogging “effusively” in the Times of Israel about his and his wife’s “magnanimous” contribution to the world by having nine children. Professor Tal, “[a]s a Jew and human being who cares about the planet,” offers nine reasons why “this level of fertility is anything but a blessing for the Almighty’s creation.” I beg to differ effusively.
For full disclosure: I would have loved to contribute nine kids and am sorry that I did not have the chance. I don’t expect from my three kids to compensate for my failure as I don’t believe that children are their parents extension. They are people in their own right who have to make their own decisions in life. One of my kids though seems set on getting as many kids as possible. So far so good. My carbon footprint is small as I am a strict vegan, use little water and electricity and public transportation.
Professor Tal did not add a disclaimer for personal biases and carbon footprint. That means that he assumes not to have personal bias, and we see that in his argumentation he mostly hides behind statistics as if he is an objective observer – while there’s no such creature. As he shows.
Here follow his nine points with my eighteen points disputing them.
Because more people means less nature
1. “Nine children mean accelerating the wholesale devastation of the natural world.” We have billions of people and nine more or less will make a difference? Ah, the professor means not nine but every couple getting nine? But we’re not talking about that. How many want to have such a large family? How many can do that psychologically, physically, economically?
2. But even if the number of Jews in the world would get ten times larger over 25 years – which it won’t – then still nothing bad happens to any animals or nature. The number of Jews in the world – it has been mentioned before – is not more than a statistical error in the Chinese census. The world can always use a few more Jews.
Because more people means uncontrollable global warming
3. Having a child is worse environmentally than flying planes? Got to be kidding. A family of ten eating vegan does less damage to nature than one meat eater. The problem lies in what we do, not how many we are.
4. If burdening nature is really such a major point, he should plead for people over one and a half meter from having kids. But he is not.
Because children who grow up in very large families frequently suffer from neglect
5. Children is large families with responsible parents have a great life. Their attention does not only come from the parents, but also from the older siblings and peers, which makes their learning more equal. They often are also less spoiled and learn early to be responsible – an asset for life! They also have so much more opportunity to find a playmate within the home and choice in how they want to act in life – while in small families the children are very dependent on each other – one is very responsible, then the other needs to be naughty for balance, etc. One choice by one child often forces the others. Single children miss out the most.
6. “[T]he IQ of children in Israeli families with more than five children on average is nine points lower than those raised in smaller families.” The soundness of such a conclusion depends on a proper matching of the groups – if they have a different social level the whole comparison does not go – and reproducibility – one statistical “proof” proofs little.
7. “[C]hildren in large families are statistically shorter than children in homes where more modest numbers presumably allow for greater nourishment.” There must be real hunger for children not to reach their biological height. The professor surely doesn’t want to claim that poor families should have no children. Raising children is the greatest value anyone can produce. It was scandalous that government child moneys were slashed in Israel. Don’t blame the parents for struggling. Besides, shorter people have a smaller footprint, so that should make the professor happy, no?
Because traditional Judaism never expected Jews to have a maximum number of children
8. Of course all human action needs to happen within limits, including the number of children. But why regard nine children as limitless? Proponents of large families seldom say: we’ll disregard all arguments and we’ll just go for the maximum. Of course the mother must be mentally and physically up to it again. Breast feeding might be more important than getting pregnant again. The fact that many parents with one or two children have limited their number of kids doesn’t mean that parents in larger families are irresponsible and limitless. Your norm should not be everybody’s norm, in a free society, where everyone is allowed not to be the same.
9. Most forms of birth control are not acceptable. Most are unreliable, some are unhealthy and some are against Halachah.
NB: Even for the most diehard atheist and secularist, abortion should not be equated with or considered a form of birth control – perish the thought!
Because we have already replaced the Jews who perished in the Holocaust
10. If the number if Jews now is about the same as the number before the Holocaust, that does not mean that the loss in number has been compensated. Without the Holocaust, we should have double the number of Jews that we see now.
11. Most Jews do not follow Halachah. From the ones who do, most hardly learn Torah. We could use still many more Jews who (can) put learning Torah central in their lives.
12. Jews are still an endangered People. We are not so numerous that we should reduce our numbers. Israel still needs more Jews. They will not come from aliyah. This has nothing to do with “an excuse for Jewish exceptionalism and … special privileges.”
Because the burden of raising large families invariably falls on women
13. Face it: some women simply love to have a large family. There’s nothing they would like to do instead. That society considers it a “second-class status” doesn’t mean it is. More children gives a sicker mother? Women are much more sick than men but live 10 years longer, on average. Sick might not be so bad.
14. “Glorifying mothers of nine children creates expectations that strip women of their reproductive autonomy” but expecting them to have small families does the same. When charedi couples date, they talk about how many children they want, health-permitting, with G-d’s help. Comes the professor and says: “But what about her choice?” She just chose! But of course, who find child rearing an inferior hobby, must be appalled.
Because very often, large families are unable to support themselves and pose a disproportionate burden on society
15. Children from extra-large families often need less “to thrive.” Being spoiled is not ideal. People who cannot have large families should be happy to support those that will. How selfish can one be only to pay for “their own” kids? In every job it’s considered virtuous to work harder than others but in child rearing? Something doesn’t add up here.
Because Allouche’s buoyant assertion that: “there’s no limit to our desire to populate our broken world with Jews who will work to heal it” is ultimately an empty slogan
16. The professor may not like more Jews in the world, but many Jews and Gentiles like that idea. To just call it an empty slogan does not help the discussion.
Because Judaism has always been about “quality” not “quantity”!
17. Frankly, with all due respect, it sounds a bit arrogant to advance the unfounded idea that children of smaller families are better than those of larger ones. As I mentioned above, it could be the reverse.
18. Parents of large families are heroes! We need to honor and support them, not attack them.