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Inter-Racial Adoptions Bring New Meaning to Motherhood

A child is a gift from God. Ask any mother who adopts a child and she will tell you so. They may not share the same skin color, race, or blood, and they may come from opposite sides of the world, but they are bashert, a Hebrew word that means two people who are meant to be together. Even when they speak different languages, love is universal. A mother’s love for her baby grows in her heart like a womb, and they give each other life.

In recognition of National Adoption Month in November, which is set aside to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care, I salute those mothers who give so much of themselves to babies and children who don’t have a family to call their own. Their grueling adoption process usually involves years of waiting, thousands of dollars, and endless paperwork and bureaucracy, not to mention a roller coaster of emotions that give new meaning to labor pains and delivery.

In the early 1990s, the National Jewish Population Survey of the Council of Jewish Federations identified 65,000 adopted Jewish children under age 18 in the United States, representing more than three percent of all Jewish children in this country. One quarter of these children were born abroad. Today, more American families adopt from China than any other foreign country. Although there’s no statistics on how many of those families are Jewish, an increasing number of Jewish singles and married couples opt to cross racial and cultural boundaries to grow their families.

Since the Chinese government opened the country’s doors to foreign adoption in the 1990s, most of the adoptees are daughters because of China’s restrictions on family sizes and prejudices against girls. In the last few years, however, new regulations have made it more difficult to adopt from China, so families also explore Russia, Vietnam, Thialand, India, and the Philippines.

Each adoption story is unique, and National Adoption Month gives parents a great opportunity to teach their children, either adopted or biological, how families come together in different ways.

In honor of Jewish Book Month, which falls during the month proceeding Hanukkah, here’s a PJ Library book that opens the door to discussion of adoption:

Rebecca’s Journey Home, by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman
After reading this heartwarming story about a family who adopts a baby girl in Vietnam, don’t be surprised if your child asks you to bring home a new bundle of joy for Hanukkah this year. This PJ Library book is recommended for adopted (or not) elementary school age children and contains easy-to-understand text and whimsical, watercolor illustrations on every page that depict the Steins celebrating their Jewish heritage and blending a new culture into their family.

Mr. and Mrs. Stein already have two biological sons Jacob and Gabriel, but they want to grow their happy family with a child who’s already born. Their mother explains that many babies and children in the world have parents who love them but can’t take care of them, which is an important message for young readers to try to understand. The flowing story-line simplifies the complicated process of international adoption, including months of telephone calls, paperwork, and meetings, before Mrs. Stein boards a plane to another side of the globe. When she finally brings home their new baby sister, the brothers hug her and call her “Vietnamese and Jewish and American.” Their mom adds, “And she’ll be many more things someday.”

Formerly named Le tai Hong in Vietnamese, the baby’s new name is Rebecca in English and Rivka in Hebrew and they bless their new daughter in a Mikvah (ritual bath). The light-hearted text is appealing because it teaches young readers about international adoption and cross-cultural heritage intertwined with the importance of traditional Jewish family practices, such as celebrating Shabbat every Friday night.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. In November, she also celebrates National Novel Writing Month, National Flu Awareness Month, and National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month. Feel free to send any comments to: ellie@mishegasofmotherhood.com or visit her website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.