When my husband read an early draft of this essay, he asked, "Why doesn't her partner have to support our daughter? After all, they agreed to raise children as Jews." What does it mean to raise a Jewish child?Go To Parenting
A few weeks ago I was scheduled to meet two boys who, if all went well, would become my sons. The boys are currently in foster care but are available for adoption.
I thought I was one short step away from creating my family.
My adoption agency which works with Child Protective Services started talking to me about the boys about 2 months ago. The Adoption Coordinator and the social worker in charge of their case told me only that they are brothers, 1 ½ and 2 ½ years old, full African American and healthy. That’s what they said. In four separate conversations, that’s what they said. Every time I asked a question, that’s all they said.
Two Fridays ago, I called the Foster Mother before Shabbat so I could arrange to meet them. She started the conversation by saying that in 10 years of fostering, these children are the most challenging kids she has ever cared for. Both have severe special needs: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Attachment Disorder. The boys have already been through two disrupted adoptions. In both cases, the perspective adoptive parents were not informed of children’s medical conditions until they were actually living in their homes and, in both cases, the parents relinquished the boys back into foster care.
The Foster Mother did not want to see this happen again so was brutally honest with me. By the time I hung up the phone I was stunned and angry and so sad – for the boys and for myself. I decided that their needs were completely beyond what I could provide. The following Monday, I turned down the referral and severed my relationship with the agency.
I do not know where I am going from here.
There are three options open to me:
For now I will only say that I am not ready to give up. At least not yet.
Since moving back to Atlanta, my husband and I have been running around like madmen buying furniture, reconnecting with old friends, traveling to see family, settling into our jobs and new house and preparing for the kid-to-be.
Hectic is the theme of our life right now. Between CPR classes, baby showers, doctor appointments and pediatrician interviews, this tiny little baby in my belly has already squarely established himself as center of our attention. But we’re okay with that… he’s just so darn cute.
This morning was no different as it was our first meeting with a rabbi of a local synagogue to discuss joining the temple and his views on intermarriage and conversion. We’ve attended services at this synagogue a few times and both felt very comfortable, not an easy task for a family quite like ours.
After the usual formalities, our discussions varied from homosexuality and Hebrew school philosophies to Israeli politics and what makes someone Jewish. It was not exactly what I expected, but I enjoyed the conversation immensely. He shared personal stories of his own interfaith family (he is married to a Jew-by-choice) and inquired about our experience. His views on intermarriage and conversion meshed well with our own and his questions for us even made us stop and think about issues we’ve never considered… Again, not an easy task when it comes to two people who have had nearly 10 years to discuss everything under the sun (and believe me we both are known to be quite the talkers).
The rabbi, of course, asked me why I haven’t considered conversion and listened without judgment or interruption as I explained my personal decision not to convert. Yes, my conversion would make everything easier and on the practical level makes complete sense. I mean, I already live in a Jewish household, keep kosher, celebrate Jewish holidays, attend synagogue, know Hebrew and even lived in Israel for a year. Come on, it is all right there!
But I’m not looking for easy. I’m not looking for practicality when it comes to my spiritual needs. I’m looking for a relationship with G-d. My own faith fulfills that need and until it doesn’t and until I find I am fulfilled by Judaism, I have no plans to convert. He accepted my reasoning under the caveat that the discussion, not only for conversion purposes, but for the overall role of religion and spirituality in our lives between us as a couple, our families, our community and internally never be over. As a true believer in the art of good communication and continued personally growth, I fully agreed. I don’t expect us to know the answers to every hurdle we may face as a family and I want someone in our religious community I can trust to help us navigate the path ahead.
I hope we have found a home temple where we both feel comfortable, where my husband and our children can grow in their Judaism, where we can find a community of acceptance and support and leaders who guide us to better ourselves as a family.
Having a baby has flipped our world upside down in hundreds of ways already and I can’t wait to see what this little guy has in store for us next. He is making us better and opening our eyes to our greater potential every single day.
Before leaving us with a firm handshake, another date to discuss a mohel, a few booklets and a membership packet, the rabbi said he hoped he’d see us in services very soon. I think he just may.
According to the Talmud, when the Israelites lived in the wilderness the miracle of manna (bread) was given every morning at dawn and every morning a dew rose and encased the manna, protecting it until it could be harvested. Without this protection the Israelites would have starved.
I always assumed that miracles were large, cinematic and powerful – creation, falling Pharaohs, splitting seas and the like. But the thought that miracles must be nurtured immediately resonated with me. It reminded me of adoption.
Adoption is all about nurturing hope, protecting it even when it seems entirely unreasonable. Sometimes adoption feels like waiting in a train station where occasionally there is a shout “all aboard the baby train, platform 3!” Gathering my heart and a stomach full of butterflies (the best and only appropriate luggage for this type of journey), I run to meet my destiny but every time, thus far, only emptiness waits at the top of the stairs when I arrive.
In my last blog post I said I had just finished my home study which is true but not accurate. This is my second home study. The first adoption, an international program, is “on-hold” as the adoption agency would term it – I call it closed because I don’t believe it will ever bring me a child. After a year, I accepted the inevitable, cried my tears, and moved on.
So I started over with a domestic adoption program and today….they called me. I was between meetings at the time and so had to speak in hushed tones in a hallway but it was THE CALL. I will soon meet two boys, brothers, available for adoption. Maybe as soon as this week-end.
Talking to the amazingly calm social worker (I was anything but calm!), I realized how much has gone into protecting the miracle of this moment: all the ordinary days, making yet another call to the agency, reading one more book on adoption, buying a crib, storing sippy cups in a drawer and just continuing to imagine a child calling me “Mommy.” But today… at least for today… I can see the miracle
Fifteen years ago, when I smashed the glass at my wedding, signaling my signing up to raise my kids as Jews and create Jewish household, I dismissed a bar/
Saturday, we went to our first bat mitzvah. It was the very first coming of age celebration I had ever been to, in my entire life. I went with my oldest son, Mac, who will be 13 in 2 years. In November, we will get the date for his bar mitzvah. The day that I said would never come is now bearing down on us with all the intensity of a hurricane.
Upon entering we were given a program that listed all the people participating. When I saw the list, my heart began to beat a bit faster. Oh no, I have to find friends and family who can read Hebrew to participate. Where in the world am I going to come up with 7 people to do the aliyot? These Special Seven have to be able to recite the aliyot in Hebrew, so that rules out… umm… most everyone we know. Will I be able to find 7 adults that are able and willing to participate?
But, even more daunting than the service is the party that follows. To listen to the other mothers talk about addressing 180 invitations, planning brunches and dinners for out of town guests, interviewing DJ’s, worrying about center-pieces, sends me running for my happy place. Not even mentioning the expense associated with this type of event. Words like mini-wedding make my stomach turn.
The party we attended was lovely. They did a very nice job. It was tasteful, not over the top, the kids had fun and it was a really great party (I took copious notes). What did my kid do? Walk out. It was too stimulating for him. Not only do I have my own fears about planning and paying for this type of event, I am also beside myself about how he is going to handle it. He has yet to have a birthday party that didn’t involve at least one tantrum.
As we were leaving, I asked him, do you want a party like that? “NO! I want to go on a trip, just like Dad did,” was his response. I let out a small sigh of relief, you might have heard it. It seems I might be able to avoid the whole “big party” part with Mac, but there will still be out of town guests to entertain and other things to worry about. Also, Mac is the last one in his class to have a bar mitzvah. As he goes to more and more of these events, he may change his mind. I guess we have two years to watch it unfold.
My baby is not a baby, or toddler, or preschooler, or elementary school kid anymore, he is almost a man in the eyes of Jewish law. The time/space continuum did its thing and now I have to deal with the one thing that I feared the most when I made the decision to raise my children as Jews. I have procrastinated and now I only have two years to figure out how to stop time.
I am another one of the fab parenting bloggers. I am actually a parent in waiting… due in 3 days! (Will baby be on time? That’s a different story.)
I am Jewish and grew up mostly culturally Jewish. We had three sets of dishes in the house, milk, meat and treif. We went to my grandparents’ for Shabbos (by car) and the synagogue was reserved for High Holidays.
My husband is not Jewish. He grew up… well, kind of non-denominational. Technically Catholic, his parents forced Sunday school on him in his early years but then they weren’t committed to any religion.
After much research and discussion, my husband and I have decided to raise our little guy as a Jew. Add to this journey, that I have been growing more observant, in that I have been actually keeping Shabbat (no driving, no electricity). My husband has agreed to follow suit once the little one is here (to avoid confusion).
How will this all work out? Don’t know. But I do have a lot of questions!
P.S. You can read some of my articles describing my spiritual journey on InterfaithFamily.com
Well, hello! I wanted to take a couple quick minutes to introduce myself as one of the Parenting bloggers. First, I suppose, I should cover the basics. I’m a non-Jew (Christian, United Methodist) married to a Jewish man (Bryan). We actually blogged here together on the Weddings blog a few years ago. We have three boys; for now I’ll call them Bubba, Bear, and Baby. (English major nerd alert; I like alliteration.)
Here’s where it gets complicated… Baby is Jewish, Bubba and Bear are not. How is this, you ask? Well, Bubba and Bear are my stepsons. (Believe me, I’d love to claim them fully as my own because they are truly that wonderful!) Their mother is not Jewish, and she and Bryan decided that they would expose the boys to both religions and let them decide when they were old enough. How we came to the decision (okay, really, how I came to the decision, and yes, it really was my decision) for Baby to be Jewish really could be a post by itself; in fact, I think it will be!
To make our lives even more fun, we have a large extended family. My side is Christian: United Methodist and Catholic. Bryan’s parents are divorced and both remarried. His dad’s side is Jewish (his step-mom converted from United Methodist before she and my FIL married). His mom converted to Judaism before marrying my FIL, but was then re-baptized before she married Bryan’s step-dad. Did you follow all that? And that’s the “simplified” version.
So, you can see I have LOTS of interfaith learning experiences coming my way. In fact, I imagine I’ll gain more wisdom from my Parenting co-bloggers (is that a word?) and our readers than I impart. I hope to at least make it an even trade. So, with that, what’s on your mind?