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Monday, October 15, 2007

I Have a Jewish Family

Tonight I spoke with my long-lost Jewish sister.


Here's the story:

My Mom grew up in southern Minnesota, on a farm. I'm not sure how it happened, but she became a nanny for a Jewish family in St. Paul when she was young, and lived with them for a few years. I grew up hearing about her "Jewish mother", and while she was always very devoted to the Blessed Virgin, she was not the Jewish Mother she referenced.

I remember one summer day, Mom was very excited because we were in St. Paul, and we were going to visit her Jewish Mother, Mom's second home. I still remember B., her welcome to us, her sincere joy at seeing my mother, all grown up with two of her own. I remember B.'s curly brown hair, her smile, and her ability to make her house ours for awhile.

For as long as I can remember, Mom has spoken of her Jewish family, and has, as a result, shown my brother and I nothing but the highest regard for those who follow Judaism. As we were growing up, whenever she read from the Old Testament, we knew she was speaking of her "other family" and their beliefs, which we share. Yet she reminded us there was a difference, and explained the difference in simple terms that we would understand. So I guess it's not surprising that I've always had a special affection for those who follow the Jewish faith...they've always been family to me.

Respect. That was key. And if that family was respected by Mom...well, that was good enough for us. (Take note, learn respect from that which you show respect).

This last weekend, my brother and I took Mom out to celebrate her birthday, and as one would expect, we all discussed our lives. I mentioned that because of my Old Testament class and some other things I've read, I'd like to attend a Synogogue and see what the Jewish service is like. Mom mentioned that she exchanges "Christmas Cards" with one of the girls from her Jewish family, and would mention to her that I want to attend Synagogue. She said I should call her and meet up.

I was's been years since I've heard of them, so to hear Mom bring them up...well, I was a bit cautious. Was Mom in close contact or would her request for her now grown-up charge to babysit her own grown-up daughter be...well, weird? But Mom was insistent...she wanted to put us in contact with each other. She seemed quite joyful at the prospect.

Tonight Mom called. She spoke with S. and told me I should call her. I found out that her "Jewish Mother" passed away suddenly only a few years ago, but the daughter told her I should call, she might be able to attend Synagogue with me.

After cross-examining my mother to be sure this wasn't an intrustion, a "mother-thing" (you know how mothers are, especially "Jewish mothers"), I discerned this was the real ex-nanny, adopted into a family informally, bringing in her own daughter by proxy. And vice versa. OK.

So I called S., and can I say...she's my sister. Our conversation just FLOWED.

All we had to do was talk about Mom (I was DYING to know what she was like when she was younger), which morphed into discussing religion, and in the end, S. said that although she doesn't attend very often, she'd love to meet me there and then go out for coffee or whatever. She was raised as a Conservative Jew, and sees herself now as a Reformed Jew...and the customs are different. According to S. many of the Jewish people no longer observe kosher or other laws, the Rabbis are women, etc. She feels the Conservative and Orthodox Jews are chauvenistic.

Fun fact: S. married a divorced Lutheran with a couple children who were born Catholic. So they determined to raise them Catholic, and both, although neither has converted and have very different beliefs, have done their best to make sure those children were raised according to their birthright; Catholic. It was a fascinating conversation. And thank God that they are so willing to try to do what is right for the children, according to how they were baptized as opposed to the belief of they, the custodial parents. Even if it's not perfect, I think we can all agree that this is parental sacrifice (and maybe a some relativism, but God can still act within that).

Anyway, while I want to attend a Synagogue that is most faithful to the Old Testament, and then, secondly the Conservative faith, I am also willing to attend the Reform Synagogue with my "sister" who hasn't been there in years. There's something about family, even pseudo-family, that helps us to go in directions we never anticipated.

Please pray for B., my Jewish "co-madre", God rest her soul and the soul of her husband, and for their daughter, S. whom I finally "met" tonight, a Reform Jew with Catholic children. I didn't grow up with them, but if Mom calls them family...they are family. I only wish I had met them before this.

God is so good, isn't he?

Oh, and this gets better. In tonight's conversation with my Mom, S. found out that she used to work for my cousin, who was the CEO at her last job. And they are currently neighbors and good friends. S. is going to call my cousin and discuss our familial relationship. LOL!

Small world.


Hidden One said...

*"It's a small world after all...

Yeah. Cool.

uncle jim said...

a second chance

UltraCrepidarian said...

That's beautiful. I'd totally LOVE to do that. There are some nice old Synagogues here in Toronto. I've always meant to go visit some time. I would like to go with someone who can explain things for me, so I have some idea what's going on.


Paul said...

My wife is a convert from kosher Judasim, I wanted to email you with her conversion story, but you can download it for free at

uncle jim said...

for what it's worth, here is a site i visit half a dozen times a year, i think.

it might help with you OT studies, also

Anonymous said...

Adoro - this is wonderful! I also have an affinity for the Jews. A lot of that had to do with my parents and WWII (they lived in Europe).

I am looking forward to reading a full report on your trip to the synogogue!

Angela M.

Anonymous said...

Angela ~ I won't be going any time soon as I just don't have the time. But eventually. I do wish she was conservative or orthodox, but just the same, I'll learn about the Reform Synagogue and we'll see how it goes.

~ Adoro

Ray from MN said...

That's great, Adoro. To get a new sister when you are an adult!


Rumor has it that in Poland I have/had Jewish relations. I've found two of the four families so far but they were Catholic. So at least I know which names to watch out for. But they are both very rare.

Melody said...

Thanks for sharing this story. Just goes to show how we are all connected; in ways we may not be aware of.
I had the experience of visiting a synagogue and attending a service there as part of a class. It was a combined Reform/Conservative congregation, because they were too few in number to support two synagogues. The thing which impressed me most was how much they reverenced the Scriptures; not only their importance as the spoken Word of God, but also in their written form on scrolls. This congregation had on display scrolls which were hundreds of years old; brought from the old countries by their ancestors.

Anonymous said...

Hi Adoro,

Where I live in CT, there is a large Jewish population and I grew up right in the middle of it. Their history and culture always fascinated me. I am also so impressed by the devotion the Orthodox and Hasidic sects have. Every Sabbath I see large families walking to temple as the rush hour traffic zooms past them. And then again they return to temple every Sat. morning.

I don't believe it is a coincidence that you now have contact with this family. They may call on you in the future for advice or assistance in educating their children according to Church teaching. You may be the answer to a prayer sent up to heaven by someone in those childrens' lives! Judy M.