Special, Not Different
I knew I was an adopted child for as long as I can remember. I wore this as a badge of honor as my parents reinforced in me that I was special, not different. Being an adopted child in the 1970s was not nearly as common as it is today. For me, though, it was as natural as watching the sunset.
I grew up on the North Shore of Long Island. I had an awesome childhood, which was filled with all the wonderful things that a child could wish for. I had two loving parents, lots of friends, attended the local public schools, played Little League baseball and, when I was eight years old, enrolled in Hebrew School at our local synagogue. Okay, so maybe my childhood wasn’t perfect. All kidding aside, Judaism was a big part of my upbringing, which included being a bar mitzvah, celebrating the holidays, attending a Jewish sleepaway camp and joining USY during my high-school years.
I am unquestionably Jewish and the thought never crossed my mind that, as an adopted child, perhaps my bloodlines were not Jewish. After all, religion and culture are more about nurture than nature. When I was 16, I had the courage to ask my parents if my biological parents were Jewish. When they told me no, it didn’t totally surprise me. At the same point, it didn’t change how I felt about being Jewish.
Fast-forward to adulthood: I married a Jewish woman and raised two Jewish children – both becoming a bar mitzvah as well. During these years, I was always curious about my biological parents but, for a variety of reasons, I stubbornly chose not to pursue this. This past spring, after consulting with some friends who are also adopted children, along with repeated solicitations from AncestryDNA, I had a reversal of thought and decided to take the test to see if I can learn more about genealogy. This included searching for my biological parents. In May, all my curiosities became reality as I learned that my biological parents were Roman Catholic Italian and Lutheran Swiss-German. After speaking with them separately via phone, they both knew that I was adopted by a Jewish family and were thrilled to hear that I had a happy childhood and was living a quality life.
I continue to develop relationships with both of them and their families. This has been a truly amazing and surreal experience. I am glad to have finally done this as I have learned a little bit more about myself. My mom and dad have both passed away within the last ten years. Their legacy will always remain with me as they were the ones responsible for me being the person who I am. They taught me all the essential skills you need to succeed in life, and it’s because of them that Judaism is still a major part of my life.