Conversations with my Rabbi / Lori Mendel
#1 March 1, 2020
My parents came from Ukraine to New York when they were young. I was born in New York, but when I was five years old, we moved to California and my parents decided to spare me the burden of being Jewish. I was twenty when I discovered my family was Jewish! Because of this I have had many questions. Coming to Israel thirty years ago made more questions for me. I turned to Rabbi Ayala Samuels and she proposed we meet from time to time to discuss these questions. It has been an ongoing investigative conversation!
My granddaughter Adrienne, who is from California, also wanted to know about her Jewish heritage. She is the daughter of my younger step-son, a PhD who has brought five drugs to market, the granddaughter of his father, a professor of Psychiatry at USC Medical School, who came to the US as a refugee from Germany by way of the Children’s’ Transport in 1939, and who was my second husband. Got that? Adrienne’s mother, an MD who is a family physician for Kaiser, an HMO, came from China as an immigrant with her parents.
Adrienne tried to come on the Birthright program but was refused because her father’s mother was not Jewish. Got that?
I told Rabbi Ayala that Adrienne was coming anyway and I would take her around the country. Rabbi Ayala said, “Come for Shabbat Dinner.” How nice! We did …and had a lovely and lively evening with her family and mine. Lots of heated discussion!
Adrienne and I traveled the country from Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov in the north, where I have a long-time friend, to a climb up Masada, and a dip in the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, and of course, TLV. I was curious how she would respond to all this and how people would respond to her. All went well…she enjoyed my friends gathered at the Kadma Winery, and every bite of local food. One incident: When we were in the taxi from Beit Shan train station to the kibbutz, the driver asked me in Hebrew if she was my “metapelat.” A likely mistake, but I told him she was my granddaughter.