Posted by Rebecca Cohen
Imagine that you are in your sixties and have been living the life of an observant Jew but are unsure of your religious heritage. A few months ago, I received an email from a woman who was adopted through JF&CS in the 1950s. We often receive inquiries from adult adoptees asking for information regarding their adoption and birth parents but this request was different. This woman was writing to find out if she was Jewish by birth. She said that while she had been adopted by a Jewish couple, she had questioned whether her birth parents were Jewish and had also been questioned by a rabbi.
At JF&CS Adoption Resources we keep all our files, even those dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. We were able to retrieve this woman’s adoption record from our archives. I read each document carefully, looking for mention of her birth parents’ religious background. What I found was very moving; her birth parents had converted to Judaism years before her birth and had specifically requested that she be placed with a Jewish family and raised as a Jew.
I shared this information with her and sent her redacted copies of some of the documents in her file. She told me that the day the packet of information arrived to her house she ripped it open and read each page over and over again. The news reaffirmed this woman’s religious background and gave her a connection to her birth parents by learning of their desire that she be raised as a Jew.
She called the next day to thank me for helping put a missing piece of her story into place. She had already shared this information with her husband and children and was looking forward to talking to her rabbi soon. We at JF&CS Adoption Resources are not only privileged to work with birth and adoptive parents but to also assist adult adoptees with information about and sometimes reunification with their birth parents. It feels very rewarding to know that I helped this woman find information that so many of us take for granted.
Becca joined JF&CS in the summer of 2012 as the Department Assistant for Basic Needs and has been in the role of Program Manager for Adoption Resources since February 2015. She graduated from UMass Amherst with an undergraduate degree in sociology and education and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in clinical social work from Simmons College. Outside of work and school, Becca volunteers as a Big Sister with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys crafting and gardening.