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Posts Tagged ‘jew’

The Road Less Travelled: Authenticity in the Age of Indifference

Posted by E on January 6, 2016

loss

My mother died on December 2, 2015. She was 71. What was to be a joy-filled holiday season turned into a time of horror and desperate sadness for me. Not only because of the passing of my last surviving parent, but because of the indifference of people I’d trusted and held closest to my heart. Some of my closest friends, whom I’d counted on for emotional support in such a difficult time (mistakenly assuming they would reciprocate in empathy because I was always there for them) didn’t so much as phone me to see how I was, conversely finding enough time to post countless selfies and memes on Facebook.

indifference elie wiesel quoteI broke down. I blamed myself in a million ways – if I hadn’t insisted that my mother be hospitalized because of her advanced dementia, maybe she could have lived another year. Lots of studies state that living in one’s home prolongs one’s life – maybe I killed her in some way. Maybe it was my inability to visit more than once or twice per week (because I live out of town). Maybe because I still blamed her for the abuse I suffered as a child, for not protecting me when I needed her most. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I hated myself, I crucified myself….and in the end, I realized that the only person I was accountable to was myself.

My mother’s harsh death (she passed away in my arms, in a dimly-lit private room, after I told her that I’d forgiven her and that I loved her) and my friends’ shocking indifference taught me about the importance of being real – of authenticity and living in the moment, as raw and unfiltered as it might be. And, maybe because I’m still in shock or traumatized by the indifference of those closest to me, I realized that my first article of the year has to be about authenticity and integrity – especially in the golden age of apathy and indifference.

indifference wieselWe live in a time when technology has connected humanity more than ever, but paradoxically we have drifted apart in inexcusable ways – ways that will eventually lead to the decline of our humanity. We live in an age where we have the power to take to the streets and end the wars our governments wage against innocent nations in the name of oil, but we are too busy sharing Youtube clips of kittens, Drake songs and Kardashian “booty twerking”.

This is why I write this post, and this is why I am asking all of you to take a moment and reflect on your own authenticity. At the end of the day, what do you want to be known for? What would have been your purpose?

Are we really the people we think we are? Or have we deluded ourselves to think ourselves more capable and deserving than we really are? Have we really put in the time, sweat, blood and tears necessary to fulfill our dreams?

This piece, my first of 2016, is about the choice we all have to make – whether to be an impostor inside our own lives, or seize the days ahead and realize our potential with the authenticity and integrity needed to breathe life into our dreams.

I once knew a girl named Elizabeth Moore who was obsessed with Jews. At first she hated them, having become a neo-Nazi. Later on, after she left the hate movement and became a self-appointed anti-racist, she wanted nothing more than to be a Jew. She surrounded herself with Jews. She slept with Jewish officials associated with the Canadian Jewish Congress. She had years-long affairs that appear to have advanced her career, if her LinkedIn profile is anything to go by. She volunteered to be in films and documentaries that featured or were produced by Jews. She inserted herself like an insidious tapeworm into the Jewish community, going so far as to emulate me and issues I had discussed in prominent interviews regarding my role as a young girl who had actively helped to shut down the Canadian neo-Nazi movement.

Moore shown in Choose Your Voice, 2005

Moore shown in Choose Your Voice, 2005

We first became friends sometime in late 2012/ early 2013. At first I liked her – why wouldn’t I? We had lots of quirky interests in common. Elizabeth even declared publicly that I was her “soul sister” – perhaps because in our distant youth we had both made the mistake of joining (and eventually leaving) the same white supremacist hate group, the Heritage Front.

But ultimately we were nothing alike. At age 16 I was a runaway, often homeless MINOR from bullet-ridden Shuter Street in Regent Park who needed a family. By age 18 I had defected from the group, turned information to police and testified in court against dangerous neo-Nazis who had threatened me with death, leading to their eventual convictions.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a university-attending, 19-year old ADULT, the only daughter of an upper-middle class family who lived in the area of Pebblehill Square, an affluent part of Scarborough, Ontario. Unlike me, she chose to remain in the group until age 21 and did absolutely nothing to actively shut down (she didn’t testify in court or provide police with information as I had) or stop the neo-Nazis whose company she had once enjoyed.

Over the years, Elizabeth’s obsession with Jews eventually led her to marry a secular (non-religious) Jew. Then, after close to a decade of hanging around the now-defunct Canadian Jewish Congress (if her resume is any indication), she set upon getting an MFA from Toronto’s Ryerson University in documentary film-making. The MFA’s piece de resistance culminated with 2 years spent to produce a 20-minute film titled “In God’s Keeping” (the Vimeo trailer has since been removed) – the subject being none other than Moore capturing herself as a former neo-Nazi whose greatest desire appeared the wish to become a Jew.

Moore In Gods Keeping

Moore pictured in In God’s Keeping – image from Ryerson.ca

For her documentary, Elizabeth interviewed rabbis, synagogue staff, other potential converts, even top leaders of the Jewish community. She was keen, almost desperate to convert – or so it seemed. She made profiles on LinkedIn that included resume-building credentials with the Canadian Jewish Congress, although CJC officials deny she was ever in their employment. She sought to befriend big names on the Jewish scene, including community leaders and religious officials such as Tina Grimberg of the Darchei Noam congregation/synagogue.

Unbeknownst to Elizabeth, for the past decade I too had progressed on the path toward Judaism. I had already discovered that my father was Jewish and I wanted to return to the faith of my ancestors, and a DNA test taken through 23andme confirmed my Jewish heritage. Unlike her, I didn’t attempt to publicize or capitalize on my inner journey – I just studied and read as much as I could. Reaching out to media – much less before my actual conversion – would have been unfathomable (and embarrassing) for such a personal journey.

Naturally, as soon as Elizabeth told me of her intent and gave me a copy of her film, I was terribly excited that she too wanted to be a Jew. We spent countless hours over the following months comparing notes about conversion, discussing philosophical ideas and our pasts, questioning what our future identities as Jews would entail.

Across 2013, I began studying in earnest and enrolled in a Conversion to Judaism class. I read religious texts, classic and modern Judaic discussions, and joined a Jewish community. I struggled trying to make sense of the Hebrew alphabet. On December 17 (my actual birthday), I met with a three-rabbi Beit Din, immersed in a purifying Mikvah, and I became a Jew. Read about my moving experience that day in the entry Journey to Judaism: The Day I Became a Jew.

But did Elizabeth eventually go through with her conversion?

No. Of course not. Such a radical step would involve substance, and soul, and ardent desire; no publicity but an inner transformation of the spirit. In the end, Elizabeth’s obsession with becoming a Jew appeared in my eyes to have been more about appropriating a culture that wasn’t hers, ingratiating herself overtly with influential Jewish leaders, and benefitting emotionally and financially than about actually getting her feet wet and embracing a rich, millennia-old heritage. A culture that (in her own words in an email dated April 7, 2014) “can illicit PTSD responses”.

In February 2015, Elizabeth invited me over for dinner at her house and subsequently sold me her entire Jewish and Judaism-themed library (approx. 30 books) for $40. Actually, she had wanted to give me the books for free. I, on the other hand, didn’t feel right about accepting them without paying at least $1 per book, so I gave her all the money I had in my purse. Elizabeth’s reason for changing her mind about Judaism: she didn’t want to have to learn Hebrew.

Committing to weekly Hebrew classes was too tedious, she told me. She didn’t feel like attending weekly classes downtown for more than a year. Her husband hadn’t even had a Bar Mitzvah – he too didn’t see the point. And why should she? By then she’d already ingratiated herself in the Jewish community, by way of personal social media relationships with former leaders of the Canadian Jewish scene like Bernie Farber and Karen Mock. All this despite that she had done absolutely nothing for the Jewish community, other than arguably to exploit and monetize her connections with the CJC for close to a decade.

I can’t say I didn’t feel both saddened and shocked at her statement – here I was, having gone through more than a year of conversion studies, taking my choice to heart, while someone who was busy befriending people like Farber and Mock on social media and in real life (along with others in the close-knit Toronto Jewish community) seemed inwardly repulsed, or at the very least put off, by the thought of learning Hebrew, a core part of Judaism and its historical legacy.

star david peaceJudaism was still making Elizabeth Moore feel icky, deep down inside. It was making her break into hives much in the same way as the sight of a swastika. Jewish symbols were still “triggers” – along with neo-Nazi and Hitler regalia. In other words, although Jews had done absolutely nothing to her and she had been the anti-Semite, seeing a Star of David would be enough to send her into fits and panic attacks.

In the end, after two decades of obsessions related to Jews, sleeping with Jews, marrying Jews (in a Christian-style, non-denominational ceremony), being prominently featured in Jewish documentaries and a CBC feature that earned her $12,000 despite being partly based on my life story, even getting a degree that culminated in a documentary that depicted her ardent desire to be a Jew – she gave up the dream because she was loathe to learn the Jewish language.

I learned something powerful from Elizabeth Moore last year – that in this day and age, the act of going through the motions, the pretense of wanting to be something, is enough for people to convince themselves that they have what it takes – and the line between living an authentic life or forging a false, self-deluded existence becomes increasingly blurred.

To Thine Own Self Be TrueYou’ve met those people – the girl in yoga class who recites motivational quotes about positive thinking because she watched “The Secret” but takes no real steps toward actually applying for the job she claims she desires. The hipster dude who tells everybody he’s a genius poet – the next Bob Dylan, the next Rimbaud or Bukowski – but prefers playing the part of disturbed bard at the local watering hole, charming gullible coeds over flowing pints of Guinness, than over writing any actual verses.

We all know these types. We went to school with people whose unshakable confidence and self-assurance made our own self-esteem shine less brightly. People who seemed higher-than-life and more important than us merely because they had played the part to perfection. But in the end, substance faltered beneath the enormous weight of their ego’s illusion.

The idea of being a Jew – making films about becoming a Jew, associating with the Jewish community while holding mixed feelings about Jews themselves – was more attractive to Elizabeth than the actual pursuit of studying Judaism. Telling everybody she wanted to be a Jew held more significance, in the end, than truly understanding the plight of a people who were forced to give up their language, customs and very identity on threat of death for half a millennia.

So for the New Year, I encourage all of you to pursue your dreams and truly commit to whatever you most desire – because you don’t want to be one of those sad individuals who live an entire lifetime unable to distinguish between the fantasy of being something – say, a writer – and the actual gruelling, painful process of transforming yourself, your soul and your art into the real thing.

integrity memeLet’s all be real, people. Let’s be authentic, to ourselves and to the world surrounding us. Money, media connections, this life is all temporal. Only too late do we realize that we don’t need to impress anybody – this brief moment on earth is about surpassing our worst fears and inadequacies and being authentic to our soul’s purpose.

Holding my mother in my arms as she faded away taught me the importance of looking past the illusion. What illusion? All of it. The world we live in is an illusion, and the only thing that matters is how much we loved. How authentic and empathetic we were. And as the Jewish saying goes, that our memory becomes a blessing onto others.

In this New Year, practice acts of radical kindness. Believe in your ability to transcend the pain that surrounds us all.

To be honest, I struggled over the publication of this piece. I didn’t know whether I should disclose Elizabeth’s secrets (particularly involving the intimate affairs that earned her publicity and media exposure). Perhaps her intention of becoming a Jew had been genuine, once upon a time, and had dissolved along the way, or perhaps it had been fuelled from the beginning by a persistent need for attention and financial gain. I’ll never know for certain.

In the end, my concern for authenticity (as well as the Jewish community who might be manipulated and deserves to know about this matter) won out – I now believe it is my hard-won duty to tell the truth, as harsh as it may be. Because the act of truth-telling is both redemptive and illuminating, leading to a road that might benefit all of us collectively as a species.

Don’t be ensnared by your own delusions. Face the bitter road ahead – the sweat, the tears. The triumph. To borrow Robert Frost’s timeless words, take that road less travelled by.

It will make all the difference. That’s how we’ll unearth the roots of our humanity.

robert_frost_two_roads

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Posted in 1mooreliz, anti-semitism, authenticity, canada, elizabeth moore, indifference, journalism, media, onemooreliz, politics, religion, sarah polley, white supremacy, writer, zundel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Auschwitz: Remnants of Sunlight

Posted by E on January 27, 2015

Auschwitz photos birkenau camp pics girl krystina

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I’ve thought for a long time about what I might be able to write, about what I could say to both honour and preserve the memory of such terror coming to an end. Do I write about the time when I was once surrounded by neo-Nazis and Holocaust revisionists who wove a network of neo-fascists across Europe, Canada, America and South America?

Do I write about old Steve Bendersky, who was like a beloved uncle to me when I was a child and whose arm bore the faded blue numbers that I once seriously contemplated tattooing onto my own wrist? Whose Shabbat candles I inherited after his death and which I still light every Friday evening?

Do I write about discovering my Jewish roots, and how my family tree research has come to an abrupt halt as I realize that it’s very likely most of my father’s relatives perished in the war?

If I started to write about the heartache that Auschwitz represents both to me and to Jews as a population, along with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians, gypsies and political prisoners in WW2, I would probably just sit here, start crying and be unable to stop, much less write a single word. So instead, I want to talk about my own memories of the concentration camp.

I visited Auschwitz once, during the summer of 2001, the year after I graduated university and worked as an English teacher in South Korea. Instead of doing something respectable like paying off my defaulted student loans, I decided that I had to journey back to eastern Europe that summer – I had to track down for myself the roots of the hatred that had surrounded my early life.

I took these photos at Auschwitz-Birkenau and I wrote this long poem, Remnants of Sunlight, which I published in my first poetry book. Today, on the 70th anniversary of the WW2 genocide that represents the worst of humanity, I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz than to republish this poem that is so close to my heart here, on my own blog.

Many of the verses and imagery encompassed here were scribbled while I stood there, in the empty barracks of Birkenau – it was a sunny, beautiful day, in contrast to the horror that surrounded me. The planks underneath my feet snapped and crackled as I walked among the barracks, amid the three-tiered bunk slots, touching the worn, rain-soaked wood that had once let in the cold, bitter winter winds that killed thousands of malnourished prisoners.

I listened to the frogs and crickets singing through the knee-high grass, and imagined that the lush, verdant greenery of my surroundings had sprouted up from the ashes and crumbling bones of countless nameless victims. I felt the great big emptiness of those awful barracks corrode through my entire being and leave a huge, empty hole in my soul.

And then I wrote this poem.

REMNANTS OF SUNLIGHT

  1. BARBED ROOTS

Last night, my fate made an unannounced appearance.

She presented herself for dinner uncombed,

long hair spreading like a silver service set

upon my Hungarian lace and Polish linen.

Her lips made the sound of a struck match

and then she dissolved like the flame

and suddenly,

folded between napkins and candlelight,

in clotted ink behind all the spice jars,

I discovered a journey –

 

A pilgrimage of crumbling pages

with scribbles and margins ripped

and a big part missing,

the part about how, one evening in August

my return is inevitable.

 

The coarse grains of history

have become threads between my fingers

as I hold my father’s funeral suit in preparation

and the smell of mothballs finds another fragrance

of yellowed books, copper and sulphur

lingering soft as the light of opals

and the mouldy cellar smell of a dead grandmother

 

chemical powders and twisted letters

weave like high country roads on my tongue;

the sound of predestination

is the hush of waist-high grass among barracks

and the ribbit of frogs leaping

out of a pond of ashes

 

right after graduation I know I must find him –

breathe in the last days of my father’s essence,

find out his ending

I have to revisit the house where my grandmother lived

locate the little girl who was my sister, now missing

 

the boulders that rained upon my childhood

must be swept out

from the floorboards of this house

that I have carried on my back

for more than twenty years

 

The dark house of my memories

where my father who disappeared breathes

the house that nightly perches on my eyelids

and ropes my hair down through the pillow

into the black earth of a country

I left when I was ten

 

I arrange to fly from Toronto to Paris one-way

then train onward to eastern Europe

 

Unfolding in the silence pressed among suitcases

packed with blossoms

brittle like paper, like blouses

I wait

in the centre of the Black Forest

 

weeds protrude through the planks underneath

and I smell the sun and the moon being burned

 

I inherited the wire

my hair grows twisted like that, all black

charred like Romany wagons

and muddy villages

the same colour as the evening branches I reach toward

through the smeared window

of the Krakow-Budapest train

 

Brushing my fingertips against the corrosion of metal railings

I feel the echo of locomotives flowing through them,

the breathing of doves perched on wooden fences.

I pick up little white stones shaped like petals

and a fire is burning in my palms

 

2. KRAKOW, 5762

 

Two hours before you catch

the connecting train

in the middle of nowhere

the birds sing louder, gravel paves the horizon.

Two hours to put down your backpack and breathe in

the smell of corn and sleepless kilometres

lingering like murmuring chords

 

Shadows of firs line your closed eyelashes

pad riverbeds and uncombed hair

an unlit street, a colour

splashing over your shoulder

a bridge rail glinting in the sun

 

you arch, the metal between your fingers

rocking in your palm

a rocks skips across the shallow surface below

emerging on the shore

in the stubble of raspberries and grass against trees

 

like a bell, your mouth

opens to echo the air

swallowing another voice that breaks out

like a burning rash, over autumns without hours

and railroads that glint in the afternoon sun

 

shadows juxtapose across your forehead

cloth is reduced to threads, even-numbered and silent

and the direction of the winds commands

the distant vapour of wheat to start an insurrection

 

your two hands on the railing testify unknowingly

by virtue of their existence

about the arid landscape and the sharpness of language,

the language of grandmothers in old photos

and numbered suitcases in dark rooms;

a language you don’t even speak

of a place you don’t even know –

letters, epitaphs, barometers

are the only coordinates left

in this geography of asphalt.

 

III. THE HIVE

 

The old woman with the glassy green brooches

today forgot to pencil in her brows

not that it makes any difference;

her eyelids still sag under the thick black India ink

but she doesn’t stop writing –

If I am dead, who will write these verses for you?

 

Now enters the smell of white chrysanthemum

carrying the musk of narrow wardrobes

and yellowed newspapers rustling underneath.

 

Outside the open window, bees are humming;

sunshine dust gathers languorous and heavy –

a few slender rays spread like fingers

across my rumpled blue bedspread.

 

From this high window I can see the entire city

how pretty Wawel castle is, how loud the wail

of the dying trumpeter across Rynek Glowny Square

 

and how empty of voices

although on another frequency that only stray animals make out

pressed between the dying weed and cobblestones

there is singing

 

no matter how many hot the day, she remains cold

papery like a delicate leaf in the morning rain

and still here, through the sunshine and foliage

climbing over the windowsill

the fingertips of ghosts continue to cling from the edge

 

in every vacant place, on every park bench

there is a hollowness that becomes testament,

then turns into voice

and the voice speaks the names – all of them

every one of them

 

Darting through my black hair

Auschwitz’s bees search for their stolen honey

buzzing through tall cannibal grass

buzzing in and out of the barracks

 

Don’t touch, don’t search my soul,

she leaves me a folded message on the table

not on such a beautiful day

so hot, so full of brightness

when the circumference of summer

becomes a fragile eggshell

with its yolk missing

 

IV. AT SUNRISE THE FORGOTTEN WILL WEEP

 

At sunrise the forgotten will weep

big tears of stone.

 

So heavy their tears,

they will roll down hills as great boulders

 

and smash into the grey buildings that had crushed

the beating hearts of the nameless

 

such great rocks will fall – thick like rain in the valleys

and the forgotten will once again weep

 

So wet will their tears be

that they will moisten the earth

and make it easier for fingers to dig out

 

fathers and grandmothers

brushing the dirt from their clothes

picking up suitcases, ready to come home

 

So hot the sunrise will be

that it will dry the blood on their faces

and clear a sadness fringed with eyelashes

 

It will call them by name

reacquainting them with the heat of the loved

with the sensation that somebody remembered

 

the names and the dreams they once carried

folded like secret letters

in the depths of their shirt pockets

 

V. FAR FROM THE APPLE ORCHARD

 

In my classroom in downtown Seoul, the windows are always open with voices.

Little kids squeal and climb up my back; we sing about the dog named Bingo

eat kimchi together for lunch, the heat of searing Korean spices

wafting away that other smell of smoke

 

On vacation in Beijing I climb the Great Wall through stinging air,

running up the steps as fast as I can, like a Tibetan mountain goat

trying to reach the heights of Tibetan mountain-dwellers

where the North wind rages so loudly, it silences everything

 

A year later, along the Ponte Vecchio in Florence,

I listen as Michelangelo would have, to the sound of hammer and chisel

drifting across the Arno. Here, the clang of iron is an invocation of beauty,

not the screech of a train coming to a stop, the crash of gates closing

 

Then, on the bus to Mombassa, along the bright coast

women with round syllables and laughter

sing a song of bronze bracelets and colourful khangas

 

So far from the dark, endless woods where songs turn to screams

where the faces of locals are stout and red

as though stained by the blood underneath their feet.

 

As far down as Cusco I feel the breath of cliffs on my back,

The spit of hot springs at Aguas Calientes. Up the trail to Macchu Picchu

I smell chickens in the alpine air: wild fowl, wet feathers, muddy paths.

 

I am like an apple, there are five parts to me –

seed, core, meat, skin, and stem.

Like an apple, I leave parts of myself everywhere.

 

I am the shell of a seed eaten up by villages of rock and dirt along the Danube –

swept along rivers rampaging out of their beds

there is nothing left but my war –

a forest of wolves.

 

The shaman anoints my forehead with red liquid.

His hands smell of fermented herbs, berries, cocoa leaves, leather.

You are a bird that refuses to feed or to fly/

but there is something in you which will not die.

 

My ears pick up the noise of the jungle, rushing water and tall blades of grass.

The heat inside the enclosed hut makes my body sticky;

The air is viscous and green with thunderstorms.

 

This may well be the first time I can see /

this strength that has always evaded me

the will of a body to survive in spite of itself –

a drowning rat clawing out of its own frailty.

 

How much determination is required to breathe?

There are certain things a body will do with or without approval;

(take in air, for example).

A body will fight for survival.

A body will survive pogroms, refugee camps, beatings

while the mind, just a seed raw and torn from its shell

stays wrapped in a peel of green apple skin

around a tea cup glazed with a Spanish windmill,

the last one of a set.

 

 

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Who are you, really? Where history and identity converge

Posted by E on September 23, 2011

To those of you who are fortunate enough to know your family history – you’ll never know how fortunate you are. Never, ever take that knowledge for granted.

Last week I stumbled onto an Anderson Cooper show, a program I’d never watched before (I hadn’t even realized that he had his own show). In it there were two young women who had both been abandoned in trash bins or by the side of the road, respectively, as infants. Although unrelated, both grew up under similar circumstances, and both had always wondered where they had come from. Toward the end of the show, they were given the results of DNA tests they had taken prior to the show taping by a company called 23andme. By discovering which Haplogroups they belonged to, at least they would have some answers.

One of the things that moved me most during the show was when Anderson said this: “My father died when I was ten, and for the longest time I thought he would have left me a letter to tell me more about himself.”

My own father had died around that time also – I was thirteen when he left Canada and shortly thereafter died somewhere in Bucharest. Because Romania was still a communist country and we had been forced to relinquish our citizenship as part of our emigration process, there was no way possible to obtain further information as to what happened to his remains.

 But as I got older, I realized that the absence of a grave or details about his death were only a small part of my frustration, as it compared to the questions I still had of him – and of my own self. Like Anderson, I felt that my father’s death had prompted in me a disconnection to my past, to my own history. My father took to his grave the answers to innumerable questions that will never be answered, and I am forced to live with that for the rest of my life.

My father was fifty-five years old when I was born. He had lived an entire lifetime by the time I was born – 3 wives, two careers, countless mistresses – a life in which a child was not expected or wanted. Consequently, my father kept himself apart from me, a remote man whose aloofness was further accentuated by his deafness. Even as I, as all children of deaf parents, grew up with sign language as my primary way of communication, it mattered not; my father didn’t tell me anything.

He kept all his secrets within the pages of a couple of old notebooks in which he wrote every afternoon, and which he purposefully hid from my prying eyes. Those notebooks were in his valises when he died in Bucharest. After he died, his so-called friends rummaged through his suitcases for anything of value, and discarded the rest as garbage in the alleyways behind their house.

Even today, as I walk through alleyways and backstreets, I find myself scanning the gutters and trash cans, irrationally asking myself, What if? What secrets about myself could I find there?

So many more years later some answers would come, but never the truth that I have searched for – the identity of his father, of an entire line of Hungarian relatives that I will never know because my grandmother took revenge at being abandoned with her infant son, and swore never to tell anyone their name. Even my father’s birth certificate, which I obtained from a Debrecen courthouse, yielded nothing – as she had carefully omitted the father’s name as “Unknown” and given him her own last name.

 It took even more digging and scouring through rumours in the old East European villages of his past to realize that his ancestry involved Jewish roots that everyone from my grandmother to my own mother sought to keep from me. It disturbs me that so many of my relatives have chosen to die with secrets on their lips than to consider the emptiness that their offspring might experience. And furthermore, it saddens me that I may have to rely on an internet-bought $99 DNA test to discover things about my history and lineage that my own family should have shared with me.

But nothing that I can gain from spitting into a test tube would even marginally account for the profound loss of my own history – which, because of shame and selfishness and thoughtlessness, will be inaccessible to me forever. No matter how painful or shameful a secret may be, no matter how much anger still festers, one should never deny one’s children the ability to access their own legacy and history.

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