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Friday, April 22

Family Identity Crisis, Part Two

When I was in Miami a few weeks ago, my sister, father and I were discussing some aspect of our family history, and there was some degree of confusion. So the next morning my dad sent us an email that detailed our history about five generations back. That afternoon, I said to him, ‘Dad, all these names sound very Jewish to me. Are you sure we don’t have Jewish great-grandparents?’

He kind of laughed it off, but then a few days ago, he carbon copied this email to me:
Do you have any light to shed on the Jewishness of the name [omitted]?
Your name came up when I googled "[omitted name] Jewish". My grandmother's maiden name is [omitted] and my older children thought we might have Jewish ancestors (with family names like [three omitted names]). I kind of laughed at my kids (a doctor and a lawyer) but then I saw the name on the list of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto on a PBS TV show.
In the 1840s my great grandfather came to the US. He came alone at 7 or 8 and was meeting his brothers. Putting a little boy on a ship alone makes more sense, if one considers escaping Jewish persecution.
Since most of my good friends are Jewish (which is a hard thing to do when you live in central Iowa), it would please me to think I might be Jewish. However, my brother and sister would be mortified. (In 1966, when I wanted to put in an application to go to Roosevelt University in Chicago, my sister told me I "wouldn't want to go there because it was a Jewish school." I already knew and liked many Jews and it struck me as an odd thing to say. My brother, the Republican that he is, has little snippy things that he says about Jews).
I thought it was weird that my father had a Jewish friend with my grandmother’s maiden name, and talking to him, found out that he did not. He found this person on the internet and then tracked down their email address. The response to what must have been a vaguely troubling email was, to me, priceless:
I'm afraid I may be the worst of all Jews for a liberal Christian who is looking for Jewish forbears. I'm a very rightwing Jew who would probably get on with your relatives who (with good reason) distrust Jewish liberals. [omitted name] is in fact a very widely shared family name. I've discovered Catholics who have the same name.
So the matter is unresolved. My father emailed me last night to say that this is not really a crisis for him, but simply interesting.

4 Comments:

4/22/2005
Blogger Erik writes:

This is a non sequitur, but my sister was in a high school band called One Third Jew, it was a girl group trio—two gentiles and a Jew. They were kind of an Exposé meets The Runaways.

 


4/23/2005
Blogger robotomy writes:

So, I'm wondering if, in the event the band ever reunites, the name should be updated to Two-Thirds Jew? Mysteries...

 


4/23/2005
Anonymous Anonymous writes:

I think your father is actually JEWNATARIAN -- an Unitarian that believes in god but not that Christ is the savior blah blah blah.
Papa Mark

 


4/27/2005
Blogger nycbabylon writes:

I'm a Catholic Jew. Does this mean we can get it on?

 


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