Illegal Adoption Ring of Israeli Babies Exposed

Tal Tereza. Photo: Yuval Chen Ynet

Here is my loose translation of Part II of Ariela Sternbach and Yehuda Shochat‘s reporting in Ynet on a widespread adoption ring, in which American haredi askanim prey on young Israeli women and girls with unwanted pregnancies.

9 years ago, Tal Terezi’s daughter was kidnapped and transferred to an adoptive family. 

The authors have received dozens of messages about the baby trade on an enormous scale, and illustrates a serious dysfunction among Israeli authorities. Every case involves young haredi girls with unwanted pregnancies, who were sent to the US, and whose babies were taken moments after the birth. 
The “traders” operate like a chain with agents including American host families who provide homes for the pregnant women flown from Israel, doctors, channels for transferring money, and adoptive families who receive the babies one way or another after birth. In some cases the mothers cooperate and receive a fee. In a few cases force or trickery were involved.
Tal’s case is unusual because she knows where her daughter is. During the investigation we reached the adoptive father, and other links in the chain. But because of the time that has passed, Tal is worried about contacting her daughter, who may not know she was adopted.
Tal was married off at 16, divorced quickly, left home and got pregnant. The man broke off the relationship. She contacted the Efrat organization that helps prevent abortion by providing services to pregnant women. An Efrat volunteer “Rina” was assigned to accompany her. At four months of pregnancy, Rina arranged a meeting with a haredi askan (operative) from Brooklyn named Moshe, who offered Tal a trip to the US to work, saying, “If you have a place to go back to in Israel, you can bring the child back–all is well and good. It not, you have the option of putting her up for adoption.”
Before traveling, she was asked to go to a Beit Din (religious court) in Jerusalem, where she was asked intrusive questions about her parents’ background, and they insisted on knowing the baby’s paternity. Then she lived in Lakewood while doing light housework for a family, who provided clothes. Once, when Tal brought in the mail, she noticed a check from Moshe for $10,000 to the family in exchange for hosting.
After three months, the hostess brought her to the hospital and waited with her. The birth was short but Tal had medical complications and needed units of blood. 
“No one said anything about adoption, just that they will help me with whatever decision I make. The hostess returned home and I stayed with my daughter.”
Rina claims not to remember, but she admits to being a volunteer in Efrat. She doesn’t give a straight answer to the reporters’ questions. 
The Efrat organization acknowledges that Rina is a volunteer. The reporters found no involvement of Efrat in any of these cases.
Just before being released, two haredim came to visit Tal. They spoke in English and asked to see the baby. She thought they might have been sent by the community to see how she was. 
The askan Moshe came with a few others and began intensive pressure to give over the child for adoption. They dressed the baby in beautiful clothes, and began a psychological war of attrition.
Tal: They said I cost them a lot of money, and I don’t have a way to raise the child, and that I have to leave her and return to Israel without it. I started to cry. I was so weak. They suddenly said, “You’ll raise the child in a neighborhood with drug dealers and prostitutes, you don’t have money to return, and we can’t pay for it because you cost us too much.” I said I’m not ready to hear, and the girl is returning with us.”
Tal left the ward and signed release papers, while one of the men pushed her in the wheelchair. Moshe held the baby in the carseat. Tal got into the car and saw Moshe put the carseat with the baby into another car. It happened in seconds. Tal: The next day a lawyer came and said she was having me sign an English document, saying that I have 45 days to prove that I am able to raise the child, and then I can get her back. I signed, and then they put me on a plane to Israel, even though the doctor had forbidden me from traveling.
Reporter: Maybe you signed adoption papers?
Tal: No. They said it was a document saying I need 45 days to bring proof that I can raise the child.
She sent messages, tried to call the askan involved, for nothing. Just before the 45 days were up, Tal filed a police complaint.
“I was sure that Israel would do all it could to return the baby to me.” After a few months she heard the case was turned over to the American authorities. The justice ministry decided to close the case and have not said way.

Noa Haríf lives in the US a few years and got pregnant. A haredi askan named Moshe approached her. 
Noa: I went to a local hospital for tests, and in the afternoon I got a call from Moshe. He said he helps Jewish women in trouble and asked to meet. Moshe asked whether the father was Jewish. I didn’t answer. They offered to help with everything and stand by whatever decision I made. 
Moshe gave her $2000 for rent, and offered to help. He was suspiciously friendly. He called all the time. But I didn’t really cooperate because I was suspicious. 
He arranged another meeting with Noa and started to pressure her, saying that she has no one, her parents are traditional and won’t accept the pregnancy, and offered her lodging with a family that he would choose, and “if you don’t want to raise the child yourself, you can do a big mitzvah.”
Noa responded with shock, and said she had no intention of putting up the baby for adoption. Moshe changed tactics and stopped calling, and asked her to return the money. Then a family from Brooklyn called her. Noa was curious and offered to meet them. They offered $100 just for the meeting.The woman cried hysterically, said she had no children and appealed to Noa’s conscience. She gave her $100 and said there was a lot more where that came from. “Naturally I did not meet them again.” 
The reporters have received similar accounts from relatives, and from a woman who hosted a young pregnant woman in exchange for funds for expenses, received from a haredi askan. The mothers from whom the babies are taken receive money, but also the host families, and others in the chain. The sums add up to millions of dollars.
Tal is now married and the mother of three. She managed to contact the family that hosted her and begged them to send her pictures of the child. She did receive a few, as well as a drawing that the girl supposedly drew. It was of a loving mother and daughter. 
We reached the couple that allegedly received Tal’s daughter. The father was surprised by the call and the allegations. It could be that he acted appropriately, or at least thought that he was adopting a child by an acceptable process. “Tell her that everything is okay,” he said. “We’ll send her an email update.”
Did you know that the baby was taken against her will?
Adoptive father: I don’t know, and don’t understand what you are trying to tell me.
Did you pay for the girl?
Adoptive father: I don’t know anything about money. I don’t want to talk about it because it’s personal, and I don’t know who you are. Tal should send me an email, even in Hebrew, and I’ll translate.”
Tal wants to send one message. “I want my daughter. I want to hug her, and raise her with my children. Maybe now it’s less in her interest, because she’s used to her new family, but I want to meet her, to know her, to be in touch with her. I’m her mother.”
Shusheim from the Efrat organization welcomes an investigation by the police.
The police say they took a lot of testimony, approached the US authorities for help, and the justice ministry closed the file in 2010.


  1. This reminds me of what the Catholic Church did in numerous countries for decades, whereby they forcibly adopted out babies born to unwed mothers. Only the examples cited in this article are more concentrated and underground. I suppose it’s easy for the Haredim to engage in such operations as they exist separately from mainstream society anyway.

  2. I saw the headlines in the local press, so I see the story in the context of the 15 000 illegal abortions in Israel. While I disapprove of what has happened , I still prefer people making money this way , than making money out of illegal abortions

  3. When those children grow up there will be much to apologize about, just as with the scandals in Australia and Ireland. Sadly it will be allowed to continue for quite a while. If you want to raise another’s child you need to have their permission. I adopted myself. I don’t know how a parent can lie to their child about their origins and feel comfortable with people behaving this way to take a child away from a mother and father. It’s human traficking. Particularly troubling is the flying women to a diffent country to give birth. How can it be legal? In the US there seems to a network of bringing women to other states to have the baby in secret, so the birth fathers registering in the state they live in doesn’t matter, it’s the birth state registry that matters. Also some states turn their back on fraud, Utah is particularly awful. I think women need to be told what a proper adoption should look like.i wonder if the mother’s parents were in on the scheme as well. Insisting that adoption would be the result. Israel probably couldn’t do anything since the baby was born in the US and they had a paper signed. If the baby had been born in Israel then maybe Israel would also have to approve and oversee the adoption process. It’s very much wronging a widow and orphan, God is not happy with that. Not to mention the lying, stealing.. It is more than just wronging the birth mom, its wronging the birth father and most of all the child. It’s causing countless people in the chain to sin. Not only is there pressure on the unwed mother in society there is huge pressure to have children, many children on the prospective adoptive parents. Can’t the stigma of unwed mothers and pressure for large families end?

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