Discovering A Jewish Life in Atlanta
by Rachel Sigman
Living in the south and being Jewish can make one feel a bit disconnected at times. I live in the diaspora of Woodstock, and if you are Jewish up here, you won’t have everyone you meet inviting you over for Shabbat dinner. That’s what I was able to expect in Miami and in New York, but here, not so much. Here, I am lucky if I can find Hanukkah candles when Hanukkah rolls around. Here, there is no synagogue nearby.
So it’s a miracle that adopting our son Jack was the best Jewish thing that my husband, Darryl and I have ever done. He is a perfect little baby boy and has brought us immeasurable joy already. Jack will turn one in March and watching him grow and achieve milestones brings our little family so much nachas (joy). As an older mother, it has also been a small miracle to finally meet other Jewish moms and build a Jewish life with this beautiful boy. PJ Library helped make that happen. I knew very little about PJ Library until a friend of mine signed me up for free Jewish books, just after we were matched with a birthmother. PJ Library brings Jewish families together and gives our kids a sense of Jewish community. Now I know I don’t have to move back to New York or Boca Raton. I can live in Woodstock and still be part of a large Jewish network.
I met my husband Darryl on JDate. He was also from New York and our families lived less than an hour away from each other in Florida. Darryl was raised in a Conservative family. I had gone to Hebrew school, had been to Israel, and even attended a seminary in Crown Heights. Darryl was working in the corporate office in Home Depot for 15 years already when we met. I was an elementary school teacher. Neither of us were practicing much at the time, but we both identified as Jewish. We fell in love and got married. It was bashert (pre-ordained).
Like many older couples, shortly after we married we discovered that we had some fertility issues. We considered in vitro fertilization, but failed attempts at pregnancy and heartbreak sounded so bleary to me. Darryl’s father Fred suggested adoption to me many years ago. I loved that idea but did not yet have the gumption to make it happen. Shortly after Fred’s death I turned 42 and realized that if I didn’t have a baby soon, it would never happen. I decided to commit every fiber of my being into becoming a mom. I pushed Darryl to go through the adoption process with me, knowing that he would one day thank me (he did). In less than a year, we became mom and dad.
Our first PJ Library book came shortly after Jack was born. A woman who used to volunteer in my classroom through Federation brought me a slew of books from PJ library for Jack. I knew I wanted to raise my son as a Jew and made sure to give him a kosher bris so that when the time came, his conversion into the fold would be joyous and painless. I had stopped doing Jewish things before Jack was born, but now I was eager to do mommy things. When Hanukkah rolled around, I began looking at Facebook events and saw a familiar name: PJ Library! PJ Library North Fulton was hosting a small Hanukkah party. Darryl and I took little Jack and it was there that I met Abby Adler and Leah Stinson, who are PJ Library Connectors.
Leah and I met for coffee. She told me more about the wonderful programs that PJ Library does for young children, even children Jack’s age. I joined the Facebook page for PJ Library North Fulton and since then have taken little Jack to many Jewish events. Babies and toddlers play side by side at these events while parents schmooze and get to know one another. Sometimes we meet at a preschool where children get to play in all the classrooms. Sometimes there is an event where a craft is involved or where doing mitzvot is encouraged. I met several moms who have children Jack’s age who are committed to raising their children in a Jewish home. Some moms have held playdates in their homes. I am meeting some very nice people and hope to establish and maintain friendships for our little family.
Who could have guessed that a little baby, born in Arkansas, would be the spark that connected me to my Jewish roots. I know that adopting a baby from a non-Jewish birthmother means that it is up to the adoptive family to decide if they want to raise their child in a Jewish home. For me, there is no doubt that I want Jack to live a Jewish life. Finally, I feel that I can. I wish you could see how Jack’s face lights up and how he claps his little hands to his favorite song, Hava Nagila. To me it’s proof that he already has a Jewish soul.