I finished Heidi Neumark's book last weekend, starting Elisheva Carlebach's book this weekend.
From "Hidden Inheritance":
My father was not a Jew who rejected his Judaism. Like me, he knew nothing of his Jewish roots, but for him, the revelation must have been far more shocking and disorienting because it was life-threatening news. As my father moved into adulthood, finding his own identity, it was increasingly dangerous to be who he was.
I realize that my reflections on all that lead my grandparents to the font are a mix of fact and speculation. It's also true that much of what happened in my family is not unique. Nevertheless, the fact that such Jewish baptisms were increasingly common does not make them any less tragic. These baptisms were only unremarkable because anti-Semitism was business as usual, a force so powerful and twisted that it could lead people raised as Jews, from generations of Jews, to bathe their children in waters stained with the blood of Jews.
From a history of horror, I have received staggering gifts of truth, identity, and love. This is something we all long for and need, and we can help to make it happen, one story at a time. Listening without prejudice or pity to those who are willing to recount their narratives of pain, loss, and righteous rage is part of changing the world. Another challenge is recognizing and naming our complicity in such narratives. Those of us who belong to religious communities can join to dismantle the architecture of judgment with all of its closets and shadowy corners and resurrect our history of sanctuary – not only for those fleeing violence and poverty in other lands but for refugees closer to home seeking community where they can be their authentic selves. We cannot undo the past, but there remains plenty that calls for our outcry and action today. What we do will vary, but I pray that we will not do nothing.
Exploring our family trees is an exciting and precarious venture. Even if you lose your balance, as I surely did, you can land in a new place where you always belonged. If I had only learned a portion of what was has been revealed and recovered, it would have been more than I imagined possible. I am blessed by all my once-lost kin, those at this Passover table and those who people my heart, whose memory has enlarged the twin chambers of my being…