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May 18 2012

Is it Time for More?

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Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a visitor to our website, a woman in her mid-50s. Sarah* was baptized as a child and grew up “in the church,” but always felt an affinity to the Jewish People. She even recalls mentioning to her parents that she wished she were Jewish, which they dismissed despite her maternal grandparents’ very Jewish-sounding last name.

Later in life, she developed an interest in genealogy, and began to research her family tree. Slowly but surely, the evidence became incontrovertible: she was, in fact, a Jew all along. It turned out that her grandparents had barely escaped the Holocaust, and with her parents had conspired to hide their Jewish identity from her siblings and cousins.

What is most remarkable about this story is not merely her discovery, but that her desire to learn more about Judaism had in fact preceded it. Now it is truly a journey of self-discovery as well. Her Jewish soul was calling to her, and over time it became impossible to ignore.

This is a story of our ability, through Project Genesis, to reach and help people just by making our presence known. Our goal has always been to help people do more than simply read webpages, and our Ask the Rabbi service (now available both by chat and email) and your correspondence make that possible. It’s why we are here, our raison d’etre.

In just a week’s time, we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuos, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. But because Judaism teaches that the spiritual energies of each holiday return to the world each year at that time, it is by no means merely a commemoration, but a time uniquely appropriate for receiving the Torah, for increasing our knowledge and understanding.

So please take this as an invitation. The reason why we have these chat and e-mail services are so that people in distant locations, and people who are not ready to walk into a class, can make contact and get some guidance as to the next steps they might take. Rather than replying to this email, the best ways to reach us are via chat on Torah.org, or a question on JewishAnswers.org… or perhaps a comment, which you can tell us is not to be published!

Please be patient if I just opened the floodgates — but we’d love to hear from you!

Good Shabbos!

8 comments

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  1. Rochelle

    Thank you for “opening the floodgates”. Much of my journey to becoming more religiously observant was helped greatly by the vast array of educational materials on the Internet, and project genesis is indeed a major player in this regard. Thank you so much, and please continue providing material to us. Years ago, when the internet was first introduced, one of our community Rabbis said that “everything that was created was for the Jews” (perhaps I’m paraphrasing….), even the internet. He was so right…many trees valiantly gave of themselves as I printed out much material so I could share at the Shabbos table.

    Thank you, thank you, and Baruch Hashem there is much more to learn.

    Rochelle

  2. Dr.Billy Levin

    A baby girl was adopted into a gentile family and grew up in their home as a Christian and married a gentile and had two daughters. . She studied to become a nursery school teacher and when qualified went to teach as the principal of a Jewish nursery school.and became an expert in Jewish laws and customs
    The shul committee felt it was not fitting to have a gentile as principal and after many years considered to let her go.
    By now her one daughter was seriously dating a gentile man and the other a Jewish man with the obvious resentment of the Jewish family. However she was studying Hebrew at university.
    I was asked to give a lecture at the adoption society that had arranged the adoption of the mother so many years ago. She asked me to find out about the circumstances of her adoption. The adoption society doubted if they would still have records of so long ago as they only kept records for 50 years. To our surprise and joy , not only did they have the record which would have been destroyed in one months time, as 49 years and 11 months has been passed , but the mother was in fact Jewish.
    This solved the shul’s dilemma, the older girls problem with her future in laws, but not the younger girl’s problem with her gentile partner and spouse to be A tragedy occurred but with HASHEMS divine planning. The younger girls boy friend was involved in a major motor accident and was severely brain damaged. which sadly put an end to the romance.. The story end with a simcha as she later married a Jewish boy and both girls , being thus Jewish could marry Jewish boys with the Rabbi’s blessing.
    The gentile father died and I was asked to walk both girls under the chupa, in shul on the occasions of the marriage.
    DEVINE intervention?
    .

  3. iris ventrelli

    The story of your Sarah could be my story, the only difference is that I cannot find definitive proof of my roots.
    My father was not a jew and I went to a nun school as a child. But I always was more connected to my mother family. I was always aware that we were different from the normal italian families.
    At a certain point i started feeling attracted to Judaism. My research found that in the past of my mother family there are many indications that they were Jews, but no solid proof of it.
    Anyhow, now for years I study Torah and keep the traditions even if I am not connected to a specific Jewish community.
    I travel a lot and join with any Jewish community i find in the place I am at the moment.
    Thanks for your help!

  4. Wayne Talbot

    Shalom Rabbi Menken,
    Sarah’s story resonates with my own, though I am certain that I have no Jewish ancestors – at least going back nine generations. Raised as a Catholic, I ignored religion until I was about 55 and then started paying attention again. As I studied the Bible starting from Genesis, I came to realise that so much of orthodox Christian doctrine had an anti-Jewish bias, so I started studying Judaism, purchased a copy of Mishneh Torah, the Chumash, and the Tanakh. I studied Rabbi Goldson’s “Dawn to Destiny”, and Aryeh Kaplan’s “The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries”. I am currently reading Josef Deutsch’s “Let My …” series. Through all this, I have come to realise that my spiritual heritage has been hidden by the Christian Church, and now I want it back. I am halfway through writing a new book entitled “Reclaiming My Spiritual Heritage” where I examine many biblical passages that I believe Christianity has misinterpreted in its own favour.
    What is clear in my mind is that Israel is still the chosen people of G-d, and will play the dominant role in eschatology. The greatest heresy of the Church of Rome is Replacement Theology, the fruit of which has been 2000 years of anti-Semitism, even in this current day as espoused by the World Council of Churches, which has led to the Palestinian Kairos movement denying the Jewish right to the land promised to Abraham.
    I am sure that we have our theological differences, but I am actively working to promote reconciliation of Jew and Gentile, the spiritual seed of Abraham which has been grafted into the true vine, Israel.
    Thank you for spreading G-d’s Word, and I look forward to the day when we are all reconciled in Hashem.

  5. Evangelos Nitsopoulos

    From the time I was 16-years old, first time I holded in my hands Bible, story of Abraham , Issak and Jakob (Israel) those stories went deep in to my heart. I wished I was a Jew. And despide I was all my life a catholic,I defended always Jewish People,Nation, some times with risk to my self… I did not agree , never – to strange hostile spirit of catholics -towards Jewich People,I was always againts it. And then as I growed older, and studied more I understood and discover. Discover 2 – things.
    1- thing that Jewish Religion since was THE TRUE RELIGION at the time of Abraham Issak and Jakob and the Profets, that is
    THE TRUE RELIGION NOW. Secound thing I discover, is ,that all religions hostile to that THE ONLY TRUE RELIGION, they created wepon, – hell, – is their wepon, idea of hell, :if you dont belive our religion , you going to hell;, thretening you with everlasting torture if you dont follow them and dont belive them. To keep people hostige in their folder, with the vision of hell…
    I discover many other things too, but those two seems to me more important.
    Now Im an old man, but my desire to be o Jew is even stronger …

  6. Dennis

    This article felt familiar, my Mother had always admitted to “Jewish Ancestors” but had avoided discussing it in detail and it was not until she passed away and I inherited a family record that she had kept (along with an old pair of silver candlesticks, that I now light every Friday) that I discovered our heritage. My Great Grandfather’s family were Jewish and were manufacturing jewellers who opened a shop in London’s Bond Street. During the gold rush he and his brother came to Australia as gold buyers and stayed. The family became fairly assimilated and then when the Nazis came to power in Germany and the cousins who remained there disappeared, my Mother kept the history hidden. Living a long way from a Jewish community most of my learning comes from websites such as yours and I feel that I now have some small connection with that lost heritage.

  7. Libby

    I have been making my personal journey to discover my Jewish soul for five years now thanks to Torah.org. I am 60 years old now and now see life through different eyes. It is a journey that is a forever journey toward learning to be as righteous a person I am capable of being. It is a journey that brings G-d with me along each step. Grateful, I am, for the blessings in my life, and that I can start each day with study thanks to emails received each week parsha by Rabbi Siegel, Rabbi Dexler, Rabbi Zweig, Rabbi Lam, Rabbi Wein, Rabbi Reich, studies of Psalms by Rabbi Rubin, Rabbi Rosenfeld for ethics, and Leah Kohn for Jewish women. I take notes and reflect and internalize their words. I am so very grateful as my Jewish soul continues to reach out for more, more, more knowledge and Torah.org provides water for the empty well. Thank you so very much. Libby

  8. Thomas Pique

    Yes, you opened a floodgate for me. I have been tormented for years; that I may never know. G-d kept pulling and pushing me out of the church, out of messianic and into the Synagogue. There is no tug-of-war there between G-d and Paul and whoever. It’s one clearly understandable message. One G-d, one message.

    Unfortunately, my mother had passed by that time and the only surviving sibling offers no information about it. Perhaps, like Sarah and many others, they turned away because of the horrible treatment by the Nazis and cold treatment by others.

    My Grandmother on my mother’s side was named Emma Keifer. Are there any Jewish genealogy sites that can help?

    If not, I’m contented to live my life practicing Judaism and learning Hebrew songs and prayers.

    Your web site is a blessing to me. G-d has changed my life and my marriage and you have been an instrument which He has used. Thank you!

    Tommy

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