Ba’al Tshuva Ji-Hoea

June 12, 2006 at 10:33 am 3 comments

I was born to a goy. Probably a Christian woman, but I can't be too sure. I wear her face, I am sure, but otherwise, we are worlds apart. At 8 months, I was adopted by two Jews, who were mature, but in search of themselves and balance within their spirituality. One became my father and the other, my mother.

My father was born in a refugee camp after the Holocaust in Austria. He was named Ami'Chai at birth – which means, "My People Are Alive." His birth was a new hope that life would go on for two shaken people with nothing left but their identity. While their remaining family and new found friends left the refugee camp for Eretz Yisroel, Ami and his family came to Ellis Island – where he would be renamed "Alex" by the officer who let them in.

I was named Ji-Hoea at birth and was renamed Julia – by the man who's own name had been tampered with as well.

Alex was raised in a family of a Kohen. His own father, Daveed, had been the son of the shetel Rebbe before the fire. He had lost his first wife and three children in this hell which he later never spoke of. Ami … rather, Alex… was his new hope. So, when the local Hasidic Yeshiva volunteered to take Alex in as a charity case – he declined, and insisited on paying. They slept on the floor for 3 years in a shared apartment in what is today, Spanish Harlem – so that they could pay for his schooling. Public school would be an injustice for a frum boy of the Kohen bloodline.

Bloodline. Daveed and Manya would look at that little boy who they were giving the world to. His identity was clear. Jewish by bloodline. This sense of pride from something they thought they could see. A Jewish soul is one to be treated differently. One that craves the Shabbos, nurishes from Kashruit, and soothes from Torah.

Is a soul found in a bloodline? Is it there at birth? And does it alter in the Mikvah?

When Alex left Yeshiva and started university, his parents were so filled with naches that it's incredible they did not explode. They had given this boy everything they dreamed and he was ready. But, they were not prepared when the now mature Ben Daveed came home on Winter break and had trimmed his payos and tucked them behind his ears and traded his tailored pants and jacket for bell-bottom jeans and a flannel shirt. Still, they were certain it would work out. Afterall, he cannot change who he is – the Jewish blood that runs through his body. The Jewish soul that would bring him back.

Ben Daveed met Judy and they moved to Washington together where he was writing his PhD dissertation and taking the Bar exam. Before the wedding! Gasp! Manya had fainting spells from the horror of the situation, while Daveed reassured her – his soul and his blood would bring him back.

Alex and Judy married – in a frum wedding – to which Judy's family ("secular" Jews) laughed at the "silliness" they were witnessing. Judy became Alex's world and together they welcomed the birth of their daughter, Sara Rachael. A strong Jewish name, Jewish blood, Jewish soul. Sara fast became Manya and Daveed's reason to carry on. Their little princess would sing to them songs in Yiddish and wish Bubbe and Zadde a "Gut Shabbos!"

Three years later something wrong was happening. Judy, broken by miscarriage and infertility felt rejected and dismissed by Hashem. She reverted back to her secular culture for answers more concrete than the frum world was giving her. It was then that she read an article about a woman who's life was saved from the dispair of infertility by a tiny oriential baby that was orphaned. It was the answer Judy wanted and Alex wanted to save his family by pleasing his queen.

Alex wanted a son – but he insisted that they only pay for a girl – for how would he explain that a Kohen has a Bar Ba'al Tshuva?!

When I arrived, Bubbe and Zadde had not been pre-warned. "We spoke to the Rav, Emah. It's ok – she will be a Ba'al Tshuva," he told them. And so the tiny flat-faced baby, to which Judy had grown attached and to whom she felt had already healed her infertile wounds, was dunked in the mikvah and emerged a Ba'al Tshuva.

And as Alex stood outside waiting for his queen and their flat-faced band-aide to be done …  he was wondering what happened to Ami'Chai.

Entry filed under: Adoption, Judaism.

Chinky Eyes Jewish Journal

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Grace  |  November 15, 2006 at 11:05 am

    You are a fabulous writer.

    If I had your talent, I could tell you a similar story.

  • 2. Amanda  |  February 22, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Same thing grace said. I was adopted at age 13. I was put in foster care at age 11 1/2. Your story is very inspiring. When and if I write a book about my life story I will be sure to tell you about it. I’m only 14 but I want to write it and my teachers are all encouraging me too. Keep it up!

  • 3. Margie  |  May 15, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Deep bow to you, Julia. I have never read anything that told a human history with more clarity.


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Julia’s Jam

It’s just not that black & white. Not because I am taking a stand against. Just because, the issues I face are somewhere in the grey area and to weed through them, I blog. I blog. ~

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