I was recently doing a little online genealogy research and discovered a MAJOR family secret! Apparently I’m Jewish!!!!
I can hear you now, “How could you not know you were Jewish before now?”
Well …. that’s a little complicated and since anyone that would have known is long since passed from this world I can only fill in the blanks where I can with spotty internet searches. But let me try to give a shortened version of my family mystery.
My maternal grandmother was Romanian. Whether or not she was born here or there is still up for debate, because the record keeping in the early 1900s were pretty shady apparently. There is evidence that she was born there and paperwork that says she was born here. So … yea. Moving on.
All my life, I had heard that my grandmother was Romanian Orthodox until converting to Mormonism when she married my grandfather. But she looked Jewish. People asked her all the time if she was Jewish, even our own family would ask and she would vehemently deny it. To the point that it was almost like, “I think thou dost protest too much” sort of denial. Or …. maybe she really didn’t know. I’m getting to that part.
The Mormons are famous for having some of the best genealogy records in the world. So after my heritage.com search hit dead ends, I searched the LDS file base and there are NO records of my Romanian family before my great-grandmother. So I did a surname search and my grandmother’s maiden name came up on a Jewish heritage website. My heart stopped.
While I wasn’t able to directly link my family tree to anyone on the website, the surname is ALL OVER records of people that died in the Romanian death camps. Only 5 children with this surname survived the Romanian genocide of the Jews. I got chills as I read through the records and found myself crying reading the handwritten records that were now on micro film.
I also found out that a lot of Romanian Jews “converted” to Romanian Orthodoxy to try to survive the Holocaust. Perhaps that’s what happened and why my great-grandmother was 1. so adamant she was Orthodox and 2. so afraid. She lived in a time when being Jewish was a death sentence in her home country or in the very least experienced extreme antisemitism.
Why would my grandmother either hide it or not know about it, here in America? She might not have known. It’s very possible her mother never told her, to try to protect her. Remember, that generation lived in a very different time, much more secretive and they had much more shame attached to things that now, we take in stride. Who knows, really. I’ll never know the full story. Because the Romanian government tried to cover up their horrendous crimes against humanity and destroyed many records. Which in this case, the lack of any records of my family, could be seen as evidence. They mostly destroyed the records of Jewish families, trying to erase them from history.
No one in my extended family knows this yet …. I don’t really talk to them so to call them up out of the blue and be like, “Mazel tov! Turns out we’re Jewish!” would be weird. I also don’t know how they would react. They’re super Mormon and …. I just don’t know them well enough to even hazard a guess as to how they would react. As far as their Mormon genealogy records go … let’s just say I don’t totally trust them. I suspect some of it may have been conveniently “filled in” to someone’s liking when the truth wasn’t what they wanted it to be.
One of my closest friends is Jewish and I told her right away. She asked me how I felt about it and my response was, “I’m stoked!” What is there not to be excited about? Jews have some pretty awesome people in their history and they recognize gay marriage!! Seems like a win/win to me.
In all seriousness, I’ve become a little obsessed trying to learn as much as I can about it, including trying to learn Hebrew.
My friend also laughed as she told me that Remi was now a shiksa! ( Shiksa usually refers to an attractive (stereotypically blonde) gentile woman or girl who might be a temptation to Jewish men or boys, e.g., for dating, intermarriage, etc.) Which I find hilarious and now joke that I am now a married bi-racial Jewish lesbian feminist. Awesome! I feel like I need a bumper sticker or something.
BTW check out this story WWG sent me: Gay Weddings More Fair