5 Months as a Newfound Jew

Who are you? Where do you come from? What’s your ethnicity? These are questions I’ve heard and pondered for the last thirty-something years. Some of the questions were answered for me recently. Turns out, I have Jewish roots…

Adopted as an infant in the late 1970’s, my history has always been somewhat of a mystery. Info on my birth family is very limited, and my search efforts were mostly failed efforts. But the desire to know never went away. And the questions from strangers and friends about my background never stopped. Fast forward to December 2015. After reading about the success of many adoptees that used DNA testing to solve their own mysteries, I decided I wanted to try it too. At the very least, I figured I might get more answers than I currently had, and could finally solve my ethnicity conundrum. So, I asked my husband for a DNA kit as my Christmas present. Best. Present. Ever.

After waiting several weeks for the test results, the answers arrived at last. Contrary to the predictions and assumptions of strangers, I was not Lebanese, Native American, nor Hispanic. In fact, the results revealed that I’m nearly half European Jewish; or as I later learned, Ashkenazi. What an amazing surprise that was! No one had ever guessed I might be Jewish. And thanks to my limited understanding about Jewish culture, I had always assumed being Jewish was about Judaism, and not an ethnicity. The rest of me turned out to be a mixture of other European ancestry, mostly from Eastern Europe and Great Britain. I was so ecstatic about my newfound Jewish heritage, that I immediately wanted to learn from and connect with as many Jews as possible. Thank goodness for Google.

My present Jewish expertise was limited to having a half-Jewish friend in the 1980’s, eating kosher pickles, and viewing whatever Jewish stereotypes were portrayed on TV and in movies. During my frantic research phase, I stumbled upon TC Jewfolk, which led me to Libby. I connected with Libby about my situation, and she graciously agreed to meet with me. Since I had no idea what direction to move in, or steps I wanted to take, Libby suggested I try attending a Jewish event. Lucky for me, Passover was approaching. (My awareness of Passover included that it was noted on calendars, and always seemed to be around Easter time).

Attending a celebration that involved a focus on food and wine sounded like fun to me. With details worked out, and bottles of wine and grape juice in hand, I arrived at a home ready for my very first Passover Seder. I was a bit nervous, but nonetheless, excited. After being welcomed by many friendly Jews and a few Judahs, it didn’t seem to matter anymore that I was in a complete stranger’s home, surrounded by strangers. I was there to learn, celebrate, and eat.

My first Passover Seder was a success. The fabulous hosts provided me with a Passover guidebook, so I was able to follow along and understand what was happening during the evening. Everyone was willing to answer any questions I had without judgment.  I learned about the Exodus, heard rousing renditions of Hebrew songs, sampled delicious food, and enjoyed meeting a wonderful group of families. I even became knowledgeable about the secret of matzah; its true there can be too much of a good thing. Overall, it was a positive experience for me, and I am so grateful to have been included in their celebration. I truly felt like a part of the “tribe” that night.

I’m really looking forward to continuing my Jewish journey, and wherever it may lead me.