The Jewish Report Editorial

Jonathan Kaplan - Interview with the editor

  • Vanessa
Jonathan Kaplan, former 2010 Achiever Award Winner for Arts, Science Culture and Sports, and world record holder for refereeing the most number of rugby test matches, is expecting a baby boy at the end of May, just a few months before he turns 50. Ordinary enough except that Kaplan, who is not married but in a relationship, is doing this on his own, using both an egg donor and a surrogate.
by VANESSA VALKIN | Apr 06, 2016

What has prompted you to have a baby now?

From about my mid-30s I was ready to have a child. And for one or another reason it never worked out in the conventional sense so I took a decision that you can’t wait until you find the perfect partner. Of course it’s unconventional and stranger things have happened to people but it was the perfect time for me.

My life before that was centred on travel and being able to leave at the drop of a hat [to referee rugby matches around the globe]. When my life normalised, it became more of a pressing thing that I really wanted to do.

How do you feel about what lies ahead?

I’m a guy. I don’t know about sterilisers and bottles and so I really have to rely on the goodwill of others and helpers. But I am excited about being with one of my creations and it is my creation. I am excited about the challenge of parenting and I’m probably almost as excited about the unknown as well, and the fact that I know so little and that I’m going into so green, but with my eyes wide open.

What has been the reaction of people around you?

I have received so many wishes of goodwill and people coming out of the woodwork and wanting to help… I’m not the first person to do it and I have already had a lot of people contacting me and asking how I went about it - a variety of people with different issues but all of them wanting a similar result. And it’s quite uplifting that I have inspired people that they have options.

What has been the process to get to this point?

It’s been quite a long process. I used an egg donor programme called Nurture. I obviously had to go through psychological tests to check that I was emotionally capable. This wasn’t a snap decision. I have been toying with this for a long time and it did take much longer than I thought.


Finding the right surrogate and feeling confident that I would be ready and the legal formalities, and I had failure along the way for a lot of reasons. The surrogate had an ectopic pregnancy [where the foetus develops outside the womb, often in the fallopian tubes] and sometimes there was a failure in the lab [where the egg and sperm are joined].

Most men would wait till they met the right person and then have a baby, especially since men have less of a biological clock ticking. What does your decision say about your belief in relationships and marriage?

I have seen successful marriages and I would be happy to get married. For me, the decision is about being in the right space in your life and if you are in the wrong space in our life, you won’t make a good decision. You have to ask yourself: are you in touch with your dreams and your goals and what kind of person are you looking for?


There is no consensus from a halachic standpoint about using an egg donor and surrogate as it is a relatively new phenomenon. Certain rabbinic views are that one should use a Jewish egg donor (who should be single and unrelated to either spouse) so that the baby is Jewish, while others believe that it is safer to use a non-Jewish egg or surrogate mother due to concerns about the possibility of a future marriage between genetic siblings. What are your views on your baby’s religion?

The baby will be a Reform Jew as that is the community that is prepared to accept him. If he wants to belong to a different club, then we can discuss that later. He is going to be having a conversion to Judaism of sorts. The egg is not Jewish and nor is the surrogate. Rabbi Greg Alexander has really helped me. I am an Orthodox Jew and from that perspective it is quite difficult to align yourself with your religion when it wants to reject you because you don’t have this badge or that sticker… but the Orthodox approach is quite understandable.

I believe your baby is due at the end of May just when you will be running the Comrades Marathon. Tell us about your love of running.

I started running in my first year in the army and that was the first time I attempted anything over five kilometres and I loved it. I did about 50 marathons in a short pace of time and I achieved my goals of doing a few Comrades and a few Two Oceans. I then had a career threatening injury in 1998 and I had to try and save my refereeing career. The surgeons told me that I wouldn’t run on the road again. I began running again in 2010-11. I love the feeling of running and the camaraderie that is attached to the sport. My target is 100 marathons and I am well on my way. This will be my eighth Comrades and by that point it will be my 77th marathon.


  1. 3 Anon 06 Apr
    This should have been in a previous edition. It sounds like an April fool joke.
  2. 2 nat cheiman 07 Apr
    One of the best rugby refs in the world, if not THE VERY BEST of all time.
  3. 1 dr colin moore 07 Dec

    i am visiting from france & with my wife, bumped into jonathan at brunch in green point 2 days ago.  i always held him in high regard for his work on the field and we spoke briefly.
    i welcome the opportunity to meet with him again to share ideas about children, human performance and break bread.
    i am currently in the boland doing wellness workshops however will be back on the 17th of december
    i hope that we may be able to share a moment
    the best
    dr colin moore 


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