Cold-Calling a Distant Relative Who Doesn't Know the Family Was Jewish #general


Meron Lavie
 

Hi all,

Occasionally, I manage to locate a distant relative, whose family obviously at some
time in the past left Judaism. Until yesterday, it had always gone well. For
example, one person I called laughed hysterically when I told him. He related that
his grandmother and her sister always spoke some language between them which they
claimed was German, but he had already guessed it was probably Yiddish.

Yesterday was different. I tried calling a man who is my 3rd cousin twice removed.
I know his father's headstone has a cross on it, so I already knew the family had
left Judaism. So I called. His wife answered the phone. She said her husband wasn't
in,and that he wasn't interested much in talking about family - but that she
was very interested, and would be glad to help.

We exchanged a few pleasantries and made sure I was right about the connection,
that the details of the family members going back a couple of generations added up,
and I also pointed out that her daughter's public tree and her DNA matched with
mine. Then she asked me what I knew about the family history. I mentioned that the
family came >from a small town in Ukraine. She sounded surprised, but told me to go
on. So I asked her what she knew about the family's religious background. She asked
"what do you mean". So I said that the family was originally Jewish. Well, she
immediately changed her tone, and said "I'm sorry, but the details don't
match my husband's family. I have to go. Bye".

Anyone else encounter this? Maybe I shouldn't have brought up religion, and
simply tried to get as much info as possible?

I'd appreciate hearing others' stories and advice.

TIA,
Lavie


Angie Elfassi
 

Hi,

In reply to this story, and my story is not about people denying their Jewish
ancestry, but I have been told, and found, that it is better to first write a
letter before making a phone call. I phoned a 2nd cousin once removed, who had been
adopted at birth. I was very excited when I found her and I phoned her and she
denied that she was the adopted child of .... (intentionally left blank). But her
older brother (also adopted at birth) had given me sufficient information to know
that I'd found the correct person.

So, again, better to write or email first!

Regards
Angie Elfassi
Israel

I tried calling a man who is my 3rd cousin twice removed. I know his father's
headstone has a cross on it, so I already knew the family had left Judaism...I
mentioned that the family came >from a small town in Ukraine. She sounded surprised,
but told me to go on. So I asked her what she knew about the family's religious
background. She asked "what do you mean". So I said that the family was originally
Jewish. Well, she immediately changed her tone, and said "I'm sorry, but the
details don't match my husband's family. I have to go. Bye".
Anyone else encounter this? Maybe I shouldn't have brought up religion, and
simply tried to get as much info as possible?


MERYL RIZZOTTI
 

Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes children who are adopted are not
told that they were adopted. I have a relative who adopted two children and never
told them they were adopted. The son suddenly passed away in his forties >from a
heart attack. However, his younger sister suspected she was adopted and became
concerned that she would suffer the same unfortunate fate but was afraid/reluctant
to ask her mother. It was an open secret but no one talked about it and many years
later, as an adult, I was warned by another cousin, closer in age to the adoptive
mother, that anyone who brought the subject of adoption up to that relative would
be cut out of her life. About a year or so ago the cousin called me asked me if
she was adopted. She had found her brother's original birth certificate in her
father's belongings after he (the father) passed away (her parents had divorced)
but there were no records for her. The adoptive brother's birth parents had no
Jewish ancestry. After some hemming and hawing and without admitting that I knew
I claimed that I couldn't say for sure but offered to help her try to find the
information as she has health issues and felt she should know the truth. I
suggested she take a DNA test and I researched all baby girls born on her
birthday in LA. I found 3 matches. One was her adoptive name, The adoptive mother
had told her that originally she was going to name her a name that had an unusual
spelling but the grandfather was not pleased with that name so she gave her a
different name. One of the other record matches was that unusual first name. Her
birth mother had given her a first name and an initial. The third record was a
different record number. I then found a woman with the surname on that birth
record and there was also a family tree on Ancestry. Unfortunately, the owner of
the tree did not want to confront the woman we suspected was her birth mother
even though I pointed out the birth mother had named her and most likely she
might want to reconnect to the baby she gave up for adoption. The DNA test did
not provide any answers and the owner of the tree claimed that she was not a
DNA match to a known child of that possible birth mother and thus refused to
approach the woman we suspected was her birth mother nor give us the name of the
child she had later given birth to. The woman we had suspected to be the birth
mother was not Jewish and my cousin's DNA test indicated she was not as Jewish
as she thought she was. Obviously, her birth father was Jewish. I now feel that
the reason the owner of the tree did not want to help with the connection was
due to the fact that my cousin was raised Jewish and has a very strong Jewish
identity. The potential birth mother had subsequently married a couple of times
but not to Jewish men. I feel the owner of the tree was not comfortable with the
possibility that there might be a Jew in the family tree. So, at this point it
is doubtful that she will ever know who her birth parents were which is very sad.

Meryl Rizzotti
Los Angeles,Ca


C Chaykin
 

To Angie as well as the person who whose family came >from Ukraine (sorry I lost
track of your original submission):

How sad that you lost your chance to get more information about your family >from
these newly-found cousins.

Also, hindsight is 20-20, but perhaps news about hidden Jewish ancestry should
be shared, preferentially, with person whose ancestors converted. It would then
be up to them whether to tell their spouse and family about their newfound
Jewish ancestry.

Carol Chaykin

From: Angie Elfassi <aelfassi51@yahoo.com>
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2018

In reply to this story, and my story is not about people denying their Jewish
ancestry, but I have been told, and found, that it is better to first write a
letter before making a phone call. I phoned a 2nd cousin once removed, who had
been adopted at birth. I was very excited when I found her and I phoned her
and she denied that she was the adopted child of .... (intentionally left
blank). But her older brother (also adopted at birth) had given me sufficient
information to know that I'd found the correct person.

So, again, better to write or email first!
I tried calling a man who is my 3rd cousin twice removed. I know his father's
headstone has a cross on it, so I already knew the family had left Judaism...
I mentioned that the family came >from a small town in Ukraine. She sounded
surprised, but told me to go on. So I asked her what she knew about the
family's religious background. She asked "what do you mean". So I said that
the family was originally Jewish. Well, she immediately changed her tone,
and said "I'm sorry, but the details don't match my husband's family. I have
to go. Bye".
Anyone else encounter this? Maybe I shouldn't have brought up religion, and
simply tried to get as much info as possible?


cecilia <myths@...>
 

On 3 Nov 2018 Meryl Rizzotti <mrizzotti@sbcglobal.net> wrote:

[...]
Unfortunately, the owner of
the tree did not want to confront the woman we suspected was her birth mother
even though I pointed out the birth mother had named her and most likely she
might want to reconnect to the baby she gave up for adoption. The DNA test did
not provide any answers and the owner of the tree claimed that she was not a
DNA match to a known child of that possible birth mother and thus refused to
approach the woman we suspected was her birth mother nor give us the name of the
child she had later given birth to. The woman we had suspected to be the birth
mother was not Jewish and my cousin's DNA test indicated she was not as Jewish
as she thought she was. Obviously, her birth father was Jewish. I now feel that
the reason the owner of the tree did not want to help with the connection was
due to the fact that my cousin was raised Jewish and has a very strong Jewish
identity. The potential birth mother had subsequently married a couple of times
but not to Jewish men. I feel the owner of the tree was not comfortable with the
possibility that there might be a Jew in the family tree. [...]
An owner of a tree is unlikely to feel qualified to act as a go-between for a
reuniting that may or may not go well.

In this particular case, the owner of the tree might also not have wanted to get
involved because your cousin was raised Jewish and has a very strong Jewish
Identity, but not for the reason you think.

At present your cousin is suspicious, but has no proof, that her birth mother
was not Jewish. If she had certainty of that, might it affect her, and others',
view of her Jewishness? She may think it won't be different >from her current
position, but she could be wrong. And if that caused problems, the owner of the
tree might feel responsible for those problems.

Cecilia Nyleve