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Open Arms, Empty Heart

As told to Chaya Daniels

Looking at me, no one could have known that my life was in shambles. Ironically, at a certain point I got used to people’s acclaim, their raised eyebrows and assumption that I was some sort of tzadeikes. Little did they know what went on behind my closed doors.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Take an everyday trip to the park, for example. I’d sit down next to a woman who looked about my age. We would start the usual get-to-know-you schmoozing, comparing backgrounds and impressions of life in Israel. I would mention that I was organizing an arts-and-crafts club in my home, and she would seem interested. She’d point out her bunch and I’d casually gesture to my brood.

“Rivky’s seven, Dena’s six, Chana is five and Yedidya is five, and Sara is three.”


“No, Yedidya’s adopted,” I would answer without hesitation. I never hesitated, never tried to make my life anything other than what it was. I would watch the curiosity spark in her eyes, wait for the next comment.

“Wow, you really have your hands full!”

Little did she — or any other of the other nameless, pleasant women in the park — know the truth.

Hands full, house full, and a heart full of confusion and torture.

But I suppose I should start at the beginning.

My parents are Moroccan. They first immigrated to Israel and then settled in Savannah, Georgia. I was raised in Savannah. My family was active in kiruv, and our home was always open to the throngs of college students searching for a Jewish connection down South.

My husband is from Flatbush, but he studied in Savannah. He became a frequent visitor to our house, and my parents realized that he was a perfect match for their eldest daughter — namely, me. So we avoided the shadchan scene, and settled down in Savannah as the ideal young couple.

My husband was working and I was a stay-at-home-mom and loving it. After the birth of our first two daughters, Michoel and I discussed adopting a child. Our motives were altruistic. We were in love with our children, and we felt truly blessed by HaKadosh Baruch Hu for all the gifts He had bestowed upon us. We wanted to share our wealth with the world, share our overflowing love with another child. We felt that we could make a difference in the world, extend our genuine affinity for child rearing to a child who may not have been fortunate enough to be born to the brachos that we were.

Truthfully, we were young and foolish. Idealistic and naïve. Several people, including our family and our rav, tried to convince us to think through the decision more fully. But we didn’t want to acknowledge the truth culled from their years of life experience. We felt we knew ourselves best.

Looking back, I can’t believe how thoughtless I was.


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