Sitting in the living room of their Center City home on a recent Sunday afternoon, Ira and Eva Greenberg, with children Danny, 3, and Eliza, 10 weeks, are the picture of a happy, young family. But their journey to have children was anything but idyllic.
“Family is the most important thing to both of us,” said Eva, so they began trying to have a baby not long after getting married in 2008.
Months later, after a series of tests, “doctors diagnosed us with ‘unexplained infertility,’ ” said Eva, 36, a private practice clinical psychologist. “They advised us that the only way to get pregnant was with medical interventions.”
The following year was an emotional roller coaster filled with extensive testing, several attempts at intrauterine insemination, injections and medications with side effects such as moodiness, stress and cramping before they finally had a successful pregnancy via in vitro fertilization, commonly known as IVF.
“We feel fortunate and lucky,” said Ira, 34, who runs a lighting business in Montgomeryville.
So fortunate, in fact, that the two were inspired to give back by establishing a fund to provide need-based financial aid, counseling and support for Jewish couples seeking IVF. They created “The Fertility Fund: A Gift From the Heart,” offered through Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia, in 2012, prior to conceiving their second child.
Now in its second year, the Greenbergs are offering to match additional funds by challenging potential donors to join them in their cause. They declined to disclose the amount of the fund.
Though it has yet to be used toward a successful pregnancy, several couples have been assessed and JFCS staff members said the agency has paid part of the bill for one client undergoing treatment.
“Part of what makes our children’s presence in our lives so extraordinarily special is the long journey we faced in realizing our dream,” said Ira, adding that the fund’s tagline was inspired by the translation of their son’s Hebrew name — Matan Lev.
“We have a strong urge to help others in the Jewish community going through IVF,” he continued. “Our aim was to establish a fund that will someday perpetuate itself.”
Besides financial assistance, the Greenbergs seek to build awareness in the community.
“IVF is a phenomenon that impacts a lot more people than one might realize,” Ira said. “It is a long, difficult, expensive process, with no guarantee for success.”
A typical IVF cycle is a two-month-long regimen involving self-administered hormone injections plus weekly and then daily visits to the doctor for monitoring. The procedure and medications can cost anywhere from $11,000 to $16,000 per cycle. And not all health insurance companies cover IVF, which was the case for the Greenbergs.
Danny was conceived on the second round of IVF; with Eliza, it took three cycles.
“We always said to each other during the process, ‘Thank goodness we have the means to go through each IVF cycle,’ ” recalled Eva. “For many people, IVF is simply out of reach.”
Dr. Michael Glassner, a reproductive endocrinologist/fertility specialist and founding director of Main Line Fertility Center in Bryn Mawr, said he finds it heartbreaking when a couple’s financial means prevent them from one of life’s greatest joys. So when Glassner received a flyer about The Fertility Fund, he reached out to JFCS to offer free medical assessments of potential candidates “to assess the likelihood of success to help the foundation best utilize their funds,” he explained. Additionally, Glassner will discount the cost if a couple undergoes IVF at his center.
“It is my personal dedication,” said the physician, 54, whose practice has also provided discounted and free IVF in the past for those in financial need.
Glassner has been in practice for 25 years and says IVF success rates continue to climb. Today, he said, chances for someone to conceive through IVF can be as high as 60 to 70 percent, though it may require multiple cycles. The procedure has resulted in tens of thousands of births at his practice.
Though infertility has an array of medical causes, Glassner attributes much of its prevalence to people waiting longer to have children.
A father of five, ranging from 15 months to 26 years old, Glassner said for those struggling with infertility, “It is a very personal, very painful journey.”
Pia Eisenberg, JFCS vice president of institutional advancement, said she knows of no other fund of this nature in the Jewish or secular community.
“The JFCS professional staff and board have marveled at the Greenbergs’ generosity and strong desire to help others who are experiencing a similar journey toward parenthood,” she said in an email.
Ira and Eva said they have strong cultural Jewish identities and each spent time in Israel on numerous occasions. This partnership marks their first formal affiliation with a Jewish organization.
Although the couple considered several charities, trusts and foundations, they said they ultimately chose JFCS because they found it “a perfect match” with their values and goals.
For more information on applying or to donate, visit: www.jfcsphilly.org/thefertilityfund  or call 866-JFCS-NOW.
In Vitro Fertilization
Though it is technically possible to perform IVF without fertility drugs, women often use them to stimulate ovulation so that doctors can collect many eggs and improve the chance for successful fertilization. The resulting zygotes are cultured in fluid in laboratory dishes for a few days before being transferred back into the woman’s body.
The first successful in vitro birth occurred in England in 1978. Robert Edwards, the physiologist who developed the treatment, was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2010.