The fact that there are so few Jews in the world is shameful and disgraceful
I’m writing this on our annual family camping vacation, the purpose of which is ostensibly for our children to retreat from the vagaries of civilization and become acquainted with the pleasures of nature.
But our outings actually boast far more humble origins. They were initiated by what has become the last of society’s acceptable prejudices: a deep hostility toward families with many children. We have seven, thank God, and long ago discovered that few hotels were prepared to accommodate so many children, even if we took three or four rooms.
Pets they could handle. Kids, they would not. So we learned to stuff the kids into a recreational vehicle, where the only offense they could cause was to each other.
As the father of a large family I find myself apologizing wherever I go, as if I have committed a crime. The frequent and loaded stares from scornful onlookers imply that the famine in Africa was caused by my selfish insistence on overpopulating the earth.
Whenever I have broached this issue with other American families who dare to exceed the two-kids-a-cat-and-a-parakeet national average, they too relate their experiences of suspicious gazes and raised eyebrows. At best one encounters puzzlement, at worst a look of condescension and pity as passersby try and fathom why we would ruin our lives by having too many children.
Once we were visited in Oxford by an Orthodox woman with 10 children. As the weekend wore on she became increasingly offended by the offensive reaction of the Oxford women students to hearing that all the children were hers.
Her cheeks wet, she told me that the Lubavitcher rebbe had once written to her saying that she need never feel ashamed for mothering so many offspring. Hearing this I felt sad; not for her, but for a world where loving children cast one in infamy.
Just last week I received an email from a non-Jewish mother of six, who wrote: “I find it troubling to worry about getting pregnant again, not because I don’t want to be blessed further, but because I don’t want to face the criticism of friends and family. It is very hurtful to share news I find wonderful with friends and get the response, ‘Oh no! That is awful.’ Why do people not see children as a blessing?”