The Israeli Girl Who Joined Our Family

Adi with Mike, summer 2000

Adi with Mike, summer 2000

Our fifth child joined the family in June 2000. She is now thirty-four years old.

Before your head spins on math that doesn’t add up, let me explain. Adi arrived as a petite but fully grown twenty year old. My husband, Mike, likes to say that we got our fifth child the easy way.

Adi was part of a group of young Israelis sent by the Jewish Agency for Israel to bring a taste of Israel to Jewish summer camps. Adi was assigned to work at the Sabes JCC Camp Olami. We volunteered to house Adi for a few weeks, as we had done before with other Israeli camp Counselors.

In those years, when I was working hard to learn Hebrew, I wanted someone to speak Hebrew with me. That simple search for a Hebrew conversational partner resulted in wonderful experiences for our whole family with a number of delightful Israeli young people.

Right from the start, the connection we felt with Adi was different, stronger. After three weeks with us it was time for her to move to another local family, but she did not want to leave. And we would not let her leave. She stayed with us the entire summer, extending her stay to attend our son Brett’s late August bar mitzvah.

Our four kids simply adored her. At times having a stunningly beautiful Israeli houseguest could be played to your advantage. Our son Danny, working as a junior counselor at Herzl Camp, and hungrily eyeing a friend’s impressive stash of snacks, offered to trade Adi’s phone number for some nosh. Adi’s outraged response lives on in Abrams family lore: “Danny! You tried to sell me for PRINGLES??”

Adi promptly coined a nickname for Mike: “hatich”- Hebrew slang for “hot guy” or “stud”, a nickname any middle-aged guy will carry with ironic pride. That led to the best birthday gift I ever bought him — a vanity license plate: “HATICH”.

The application process at the DMV was hilarious. If you want to use a foreign word on your vanity plate you must first translate it. After the clerk stopped laughing, she needed to check to make sure that the word was not already taken. As if someone in Minnesota had beaten me to it! The clerk quickly verified that HATICH was ours for the taking, and it has been Mike’s brand ever since. If you see a car bearing the HATICH plate, now you know the story behind it.

Adi returned the next summer, in 2001, worked at Camp Olami, and lived with us again. A year later Mike and I were in Israel and met her huge, warm, beautiful extended family. To say we were embraced at once does not fully capture the feeling. We were reunited with family we simply hadn’t met yet. Adi’s siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins — her family became ours.

At the henna ceremony, two days before Adi and Shachar's wedding.

At the henna ceremony, two days before Adi and Shachar’s wedding in 2009.

We share a special bond with her wonderful parents, Effie and Rachaeli, over the daughter they raised so well. It takes a particular generosity of spirit to share the chuppah at your child’s wedding, but that is what they did. When Adi and Shachar were married in 2009, Mike and I stood under the chuppah too. And our four children, Leigh, Danny, Brett, and Howie, as well as Brett’s fiancée Deanna, were all there. We always said that when Adi got married we’d ALL be there, and we were. It was one of the best days of my life.

Over the intervening years our relationship has only grown deeper and stronger. Regular visits—ours and hers—enable us to see each other about twice a year. FaceTime, Skype, and Whatsapp allow us to be in nearly daily contact.

Adi and her family danced with us at Brett and Deanna’s wedding in 2010, and at Leigh and David’s wedding in 2011. The only thing that prevented them from attending Danny and Laura’s wedding last summer was that it took place shortly after Adi gave birth to her first child. Her sister, Moran, also had a baby last summer, as did Leigh and Deanna. It’s only a matter of time before the four little friends meet.

Why am I sharing this story with the TCJewfolk audience? Because summer camp season is underway. I assume that young Israelis are here to work at camps, and perhaps others will be here as part of various exchange programs. I hope this story will inspire you to open your home, open your heart, and take a chance. This year, next year, sometime. Whether it’s God’s hand or fate….there may be someone very special that is destined to be part of your family too.

We met up with Adi, Shachar and extended family in Vegas in 2012.

We met up with Adi, Shachar and family in Vegas in 2012.


Adi LOVES the snow!

Adi LOVES the snow!