Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Do I Look Familiar Pt. 3

How scary, I mean sweet is this picture? A lovely Jewish family celebrating Hanukkah. UGH! That's me standing up holding the yarmulke beanie on my head. The woman with her arm around me is my grandmother who passed away 6 years ago.
For those new to my blog these "Do I Look Familiar?" posts are about my adoption and my slow and hesitant search for my birth family.
My adopted parents told me many different stories regarding my history. The stories changed through the years until I eventually found out the truth that they didn't really know any of my history. I picked this picture today because I wanted to talk about religion, just a little, nothing controversial, just my thoughts.
My adoptive mom (a-mom for short) first told me that my birth mother was Jewish and so I was "automatically Jewish". This of course was not true. Later, my a-mom told me that because she was Jewish, that meant I was "automatically Jewish". I am sure she really wanted to believe this, but again, this was not true.
I found out a few years ago what the true story was. I was not born Jewish and no one had any idea what religion I was. Actually, they might know but claim not to. Because of this, I had to be converted when I was a baby. An aunt told me that my great-grandfather took me all by himself to his Temple and had me converted. He was in his 80's when I was born so it must have been an interesting trip for me.
I've always thought of myself as being a sort of black sheep in the family (My cousin M might disagree, as he thinks he is). I felt that I was different from my family and just never fit in. The Jewish thing is just one reason. No matter how much I tried to feel connected with my Jewish heritage, I never really did. Well, I did for a long time feel a connection to Jews in history. The persecution for example, I was also persecuted for being Jewish. Of course there were other reasons I was picked on, mostly because I was shy and people thought I was stuck-up. And, the Jewish kids were the worst offenders, I hated going to Hebrew School. I knew kids would be mean to me and I knew the teachers wouldn't do anything about it.
I went through a time when my grandmother(pictured) was dying and I thought I felt a connection to her and to Judaism. I even tried to incorporate some traditions in my daily family life. I joined the Jewish Temple, the only one in the area, so E could go to Sunday school and my hus and I could meet some adults. My hus is not Jewish but since he is the best nicest guy in the world he hesitantly agreed.
BAD IDEA! It was horrible, not right away, but a few months into our membership. I found the other couples cold and unfriendly. I started to feel the same dread when I would bring E to Sunday school. Finally I realized, WTF am I doing? How can I feel connected to a religion where most of the people I meet are mean!? After that experience along with a lifetime of feeling like I am mistreated and don't fit in, I gave up on being Jewish, period.
The point, of which I am writing this long winded post is that I just wonder what religion I was born. Right now I consider myself non-religious, maybe atheist, maybe not. Why can't just being a good person be enough? I think it is. I would love to find out I am Irish Catholic or something opposite of Jewish, just to horrify my family!
The ironic thing is that the best friends I have ever had were met in public school and they were Jewish! But not the "I go to Temple every week" Jew, Jews like me, just good people.

As an update to my actual search. I sent in my registration to the state of New York where I was born and they sent it back saying they can't help me because I was not adopted in NY. I also sent in my registration to ISRR and it's been weeks and I haven't heard other that that they got my paperwork. So it's not looking good. My next step will be to hire a lawyer and try to get my files opened. I will keep you all posted when I do this.


Alissa said...

Well, I'm not exactly sure that you're "born" a religion. I mean, I realize you can be born Jewish--that's a heritage thing, right? But the other religions you believe or you don't, and you belong to the one that works best for you.

I think it's awful that they lied to you, but I'm sure they thought they were doing the right thing at the time.

Good luck with your search. If you ever need anything from the great state of Kentucky let me know :-)


Suzy said...

I feel the same way about the Catholic Church, which I was dragged to by my mother. Meanwhile my dad was Presbyterian and never went.

The day I turned my back on the Catholic Church was when I went to confession and told the priest I thought my mother was having an affair because I'd found some of her letters to this man in France.

The Priest said I was a horrible person for going through her things. I was 15 years old.

Even I knew at that age that that was not an appropriate answer.

Gina said...

It is sort of automtic, isn't it, to identify most closely with the religion of our parents?

I hope you find the information you are looking for.

Lainey-Paney said...

I always thought of "being Jewish" as more than a religion---more like a faith & a culture all rolled into one.

Shelly Overlook said...

I was going to say what Alissa said. I don't think it matters what religion you are "born" but what matters is what religion you find that brings you peace and comfort and solace and a sense of belonging. The religion that feels like "home", if there is such a thing for you.

Family Adventure said...

You must have felt like your identity was snatched away from you when you discovered that so many of the things you took for fact were not true. I understand your need to find out where you came from, but I'm sure you are preparing yourself for possibly not ever knowing for sure.
In terms of religion, we have to find our own way, I think. It may be judaism that's right for you, or Catholicism or nothing at all. Focusing on being a good person, though, can't be wrong whatever you decide.
Best of luck with your search! I hope you find your answers.
- Heidi

Anne said...

I've given up on religion but I still believe in God. (I gave up religion a few years ago when my family started to implode and we discovered my son had a life threatening heart condition blah blah blah). Good luck with your search. I think its important to know who you are and where you come from. Its fundamental really and I can understand completely why its so important to you.

Andie D. said...

I'm going to comb through my contacts and see who can help you with your search.

You have a RIGHT to know who you are!

surcie said...

I hope your search is fruitful, Heidi.

BTW, I know someone who is a right-winged, evangelical Christian in the most stereotypical way. She recently found her birth mother and learned that both sides of her birth parents' families are practicing Jews.

Ava said...

Good for people to know.