Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am in a terrible dilemma and am reaching out to you for help. I am about to get engaged to a wonderful man, who like myself, is Jewish, or at least, so I thought. It was only three weeks ago that I learned I had been adopted at birth and, once over the shock of this revelation, I wanted to see if I could track down my birth mother and father. I was able to find the hospital where I was born and my birth certificate, which is when I received my second shock – my biological mother’s name is McMahon and in the box marked “Religion” appears the word “Catholic”! All my life, I recall going to Temple on Yom Kippur, attending both Chanukah and Christmas parties thrown by family and friends and going to Israel with my parents for my sixteenth birthday. That makes me Jewish doesn’t it? The fact that both my parents are Jewish and my grandfathers both are Jewish, doesn’t that count?
I’ve tried to look up my birth father, whose name is Levy, that’s a Jewish name, isn’t it? But there are so many people with that name it would take me forever to find him, if at all, and it’s time I don’t have. I feel like the hourglass is almost out of sand and I’m terrified I’ll lose my boyfriend, something I don’t think I can live through. Suddenly I don’t know who I am anymore and if I’m not Jewish, than what am I? Am I an imposter if I just choose to continue as if nothing has changed? Would my fiancé hate me if I never enlightened him about my birth certificate or the new and startling information it contains?
Mrs. Bluth can it be that I’m Catholic too? Will it matter to my boyfriend as we are both non-observant? I have asked a Conservative friend of mine and he says that I absolutely cannot tell my soon-to-be fiancé as he may not want to marry me. I am terrified this will end badly and I am going crazy, not knowing what to do. I don’t want to go into a marriage with a lie or withholding the truth. Please let me know what you think, I’ll do whatever you say!
My heart goes out to you for your pain and shock at this discovery at such an emotional time and more so for the sad truth I have to impart. If your birth mother is Jewish you are Jewish and can happily marry any Jewish young man you choose, even a non-observant one. However, if your birth mother is of any other faith, Jewish law dictates that you are of that same faith and you and any children you have will not be Jewish unless you covert. That is what you need to discover: did your adopted parents have you converted when you were adopted? Even if not, you can contact a reputable rabbi and undergo the process of conversion yourself. It is not a simple process and there is much to learn and study. Once you are living in accordance with all that you have taken upon yourself to accept, you are then required to undergo a ritual involving immersion in a ritual bath where you verbally renounce your previous faith and promise to take upon yourself all the commandments, laws and rituals of Hashem’s Torah without forfeiture.
While it will be incredibly hard, you must be straight-forward with your young man and tell him the truth. Even if he should say that it doesn’t matter to him, be true to your conscience and walk away. The one ray of light still remaining in this dark chapter is if you are willing to undertake the long, intense journey into Judaism and if he will be willing to wait for you to complete it.