Imeinu Doulas: Providing spiritual support to prospective, new Jewish mothers

Imeinu Doulas began modestly with a team of Jewish doulas, companions who are trained to care for and offer support to women in childbirth.

Pregnant woman (Illustrative) (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Pregnant woman (Illustrative)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
Whether she is deeply religious, secular or somewhere in between, when a Jewish woman gives birth, tending to her needs as a spiritual being, and not just as a physical being, enhances her experience. This is the concept behind Imeinu Doulas, which began in 2008 in the San Francisco area and has since expanded to include other parts of the US and Israel.
Imeinu Doulas began modestly with a team of Jewish doulas, companions who are trained to care for and offer support to women in childbirth. Since then, “Imeinu evolved into a professional development entity for networking, mentoring, increasing business visibility and exchange of ideas,” among birth workers and “wellness professionals serving women and families during the childbearing years and all stages of life,” explained Imeinu Doula founder Naama Rue.
Today, the Imeinu Collective has 70 members, all of whom are personally screened by Rue to ensure they are “aligned with our mission,” she noted. The collective provides professional development activities for its members and helps promote the practices of individual members directly to prospective clients.
Imeinu members have sponsored public education events such as panel presentations by maternal and infant health experts and childbirth preparation classes for expectant mothers and their partners.
Weaving Jewish content into their public programs, Imeinu has offered tours of local mikvaot (ritual baths), group visits to Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, Rosh Hodesh (New Moon) programs and gatherings on the yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the death, of the matriarch Rachel.
Birth Torah series
“Even among religious women, training as a doula, midwife, nurse or birthworker has a medical focus, with little attention to the important spiritual rite of passage that childbirth is,” Rue explained.
To help close that gap, Imeinu member Ariela Sharon Yomtovian created Birth Torah, a series of four weekly classes scheduled to begin on January 13. Classes will focus on conception and fertility, pregnancy, birth and postpartum issues. Each class, taught by a different expert, is designed to connect “science with Jewish law and Jewish birth traditions,” Yomtovian explained.
“The series is designed to uncover the many Jewish traditions around birth. Thank God, Judaism has so much to offer in this area, and we are excited to bring all of that information to life, making it more accessible to Jewish women around the world. Through the wisdom that our faith has to offer, we can create a more meaningful and fulfilling birth journey,” Yomtovian said about her vision for this series.
Describing a client who was anxious about how COVID-19 and the general chaos in the world might impact her unborn child, Yomtovian explained how being grounded in Jewish tradition can help pregnant women cope.
“Rather than focus on what she could not control, I encouraged her to consider what she could control. Together we made a list of ways she could positively impact her baby: saying Tehillim [Psalms], learning Torah, giving tzedakah [charity] and more. This helped her see the power she had to influence her baby. At our next meeting, she seemed to be much calmer and more empowered in her role as a mom.”
Rue added, “Jewish childbirth labor assistants and pregnant families have been coming to Imeinu for years, requesting tools to support and ground the Jewish life cycle at the critical juncture of growing their families. Until now, Imeinu was able to refer them to a book, a paper, or a talk here or there. With Ariela’s guiding vision for this Birth Torah series, we have engaged some top professional Jewish midwives and doulas who have an orientation toward empowering their clients with information and agency.”
The series was initially created for birthworkers, but has generated interest among prospective Jewish mothers and others who have already registered. With a commitment to inclusiveness, Rue reported, “The religious content of the Birth Torah classes will be drawn from Jewish tradition, and will be delivered in a manner meant to be understood by persons of any level of Jewish literacy or observance. Birth Torah educators will explain less-known terms.
“Imeinu’s intention is not to preach, but to make accessible our spiritual inheritance, including an introductory level of relevant Jewish law. We are here to provide information, and it is up to the students to determine if and how they wish to integrate what they learn into their practice.
“While religious couples have sought out Imeinu Doulas to support their birth, with the expectation of having an advocate by their side who has an awareness of their cultural and religious needs, secular Jewish parents have sought out Imeinu Doulas because they were seeking a Jewish presence to spiritually enhance the birth experience and to provide an anchor of Jewish rootedness as they welcome their baby into the world,” Rue elaborated.
Yomtovian added, “This series will provide birthworkers serving Jewish clients with a spiritual framework for their practices. The series aims to give the birthworkers tangible tools with which they can assist their clients from conception through the postpartum period. Some examples include prayers to be recited or stones to be worn when attempting to conceive. We will look at pregnancy through a Jewish lens and provide rituals for mom to do in the different trimesters of pregnancy. We will discuss the hormones of childbirth through a spiritual lens and highlight rituals that can be done during the postpartum period.”
For example, in the session on fertility and conception, herbalist, holistic fertility consultant, women’s health educator J. Rivkah Asoulin will present traditional Jewish prayers for fertility and other fertility customs. Asoulin, a certified kallah teacher, or instructor of prospective and new brides, will also share biblical stories of infertility experienced by three of the Jewish matriarchs.
In the second session, certified professional midwife, doula trainer and herbalist Chana Luba Ertel will share Jewish rituals and folk stories related to pregnancy.
In the third session, midwife, owner and director of Equilibrio: School of Birth and Bodywork and Spinning Babies® trainer, teacher and developer Rachel Shapiro Davies will address Jewish stories, rituals and laws related to childbirth.
The final session, led by doula, masseuse, and editor of Second Labor: Mothers Share Post-Birth Stories, Chaya Kasse Valier will cover passage into motherhood as a rite, with its attendant laws and rituals.
“Women are a channel between the spiritual and physical. We learn that the redemption will come in the merit of the women. Giving birth, being a bridge for the spiritual and physical, is one way women embody our service. Every birth is another opportunity for a mother to engage in this sacred mission and to develop our inner strength. The way she experiences and navigates her childbirth is unique each time. Every surge, every birth, brings us closer to our Creator,” Rue reflected.
“Doulas typically support the birthing mother physically, emotionally and with information, but Imeinu also provides spiritual support. Birth Torah infuses Jewish knowledge and rituals into the birth journey, empowering women as they fulfill the sacred mission of birth, and it provides Jewish doulas with even more tools to bring into the birthing room. Through Birth Torah, we hope to move from fear-based birthing experiences to faith-based birthing experiences,” Yomtovian concluded.
More information about Birth Torah and other public learning opportunities is available at