My mother found out that she was carrying twins when she was pregnant with my brother and me at the tender age of 17.
Her parents insisted on putting us up for adoption due to her young age, frail nature and lack of financial stability. They found the perfect new home for us with a wealthy philanthropic elder woman who was famous for taking in many children from all sorts of backgrounds. She wasn’t Jewish but assured my grandparents she would allow and encourage us to take an interest in our heritage and would make it easy for us to maintain our traditions and religious practices as we saw fit.
My twin brother and I had a great life. We had everything we needed and wanted and remained practicing Jews despite the fact that most of the other children we came to know and love as our own family were not Jewish.
My brother was always bright, intuitive and seemed to succeed in whatever he did. I worked hard to keep up with him and we both did fairly well. Some of the other kids would taunt us and call us names, sometimes with humor and other times with palpable hate. I was never sure if it was due to our achievements or something deeper. I discussed it with my brother on various occasions but he dismissed it for the most part while making varied attempts to placate the others, determined to fit in.
I think it bothered me more because I always wanted to go back to my birth mother, especially once I had learned that she went on to have other children and they managed to make it work. My brother didn’t feel the same because although she regained some of her health, our mother was still not financially stable enough for him to feel secure. He said that even though there were additional birth siblings, they were strangers to him. He just didn’t feel that they had anything to offer him. I, on the other hand, had a constant yearning to return to my birth mother and didn’t care if she couldn’t offer me material comfort or financial stability. I wanted to reconnect with my roots and discover parts of myself that had not yet been explored. I wanted to meet my family and become a part of them. I felt eternally grateful to my adopted mother and planned on visiting her, but I felt a gravitational pull to go back and connect with my blood relatives.
My adopted mother generously informed me that her door would always remain open for me to return, which is a blessing and a comfort.
My brother thought I was nuts leaving everything and everybody I know and love behind for a challenging and difficult life ahead with people whom I share “nothing in common with”. I felt his anger as he continued to tell me that what I was doing made no sense.
I left anyway with sadness in my heart. I wanted my brother to return home with me
But he didn’t
He stayed in America.
And I went home to Israel, my Motherland.
Disclaimer: I was not born to teenage mother, I do not have a twin brother and was never put up for adoption. The above is a total fabrication designed to illustrate a divergence of approach within the Jewish community with regard to settling the Land of Israel.