Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Kislev 5764 - December 17, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

"Hey, Brother!"
by Ruth Fogelman


"Hey, Brother, how ya doin?" That's how I first greeted him at the Central Bus Station. I'd never seen him before, but there was an immediate attraction to the tall, dark-haired youth, about my own age, who stood in front of me. I admired the thick curls of the neat ponytail at the nape of his neck. Was it really that much shorter than my own, or did it just look that way because of the curls? We were both taking the bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and we continued a lively conversation on the bus.

"See you around sometime," he said as we parted ways at our destination.

That first meeting was five years ago. I didn't even ask his name then, but I felt I'd known him all my life. He lived in a small town in the north of Israel; I lived at that time in a small town south of Jerusalem.

Two years after that initial meeting at the bus station, I became observant and I came to study at a small yeshiva in Jerusalem. I'd been studying for three months when Yonatan came to study there, too. Even though he had cut his long hair and grown a beard, I recognized him from our first meeting. I remembered his deep, searching black eyes and I could just about make out the shape of his lips under his full, black beard.

Yonatan was given the dorm room next to mine at the end of the corridor, and we became fast friends. I'd take out my guitar after a long day of classes, sit crosslegged on my bed, and we'd sing together way into the night.

"If you two guys are going to be singing," my roommate would usually say, "I'm going next door to sleep. You don't mind, do you, Yoni?" And my roommate, more often than not, would switch beds with Yonatan. We'd share our dining table, too, in the large dining hall where we ate all our meals.

Even though I'd often talk to Yonathan about my parents, and told him I was an only child, I never mentioned the fact that I had been adopted when I was a few months old, or that I actually went to visit my biological mother and her family one free afternoon. It was too complicated for me to talk about it, even with my best friend. I needed to unravel my mixed emotions first.

On the one hand, a fuzzy feeling of abandonment lay somewhere within me, yet on the other, I felt a deep appreciation for my Mom and Dad and a deep sense of their acceptance of me, whoever I am. What? I have a mother and a father and also a biological mother? I felt more secure with and accepted by my adoptive parents than by my biological mother. Sometimes, a strange twinge of guilt would haunt me, but I'd push it to the furthest recesses of my mind. I was too ill at ease with the situation to discuss it. I preferred to keep life simple and discuss other complexities, such as the gemora we'd been learning that week, or to pull out my guitar and sing.


Even though I knew I'd been adopted when I was fourteen months old, it was one of those things that I put in the back of my mind, and carried on with my life. My mother was my Mom, packing chocolate-spread sandwiches for my ten o'clock recess at school when I was a kid, and telling me at least twice a day to clean up the mess from my floor (as if my floor was ever so messy with just a couple of magazines on it, and maybe a sock or two waiting to make its way to the laundry hamper), and telling me to "look after myself now" every time I walked out the front door. My father was my Dad, usually hiding behind the business news page of the paper, with a cup of Turkish coffee with two-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar in his hand, or yelling at me to turn down the volume of my CD player. I went to school and spent most of my free time playing soccer, and when I got to high school, basketball or listening to music.

Soon after I finished the army, after reading about Jewish history in the local library, I decided to become observant. I looked for an intimate setting for study in Jerusalem. I wanted a place that would give me the background I lacked and after I checked into several possibilities, I found the perfect yeshiva.


"Hey, Brother -- don't you remember me?" Yosef said almost as soon as I walked through the door, and I remembered our meeting two years previously on a bus trip to Tel Aviv. I was astonished to find someone I already knew in my new setting. No one was observant or even close to it in my army unit, neither was anyone in my neighborhood. I didn't even remember Yosef as looking religious on that bus trip. We had talked about music -- jazz or blues.

When Yosef got married a few months ago, he invited all of his classmates to the wedding. This was the first real Jewish wedding I'd ever been to. The ceremony took place at the end of the lawns of a wedding hall on the outskirts of Jerusalem. When Yosef returned with his bride to join all the guests, after the ceremony, a fanfare of music greeted their entrance. I was so excited.

I lifted him up on my shoulders and I danced and danced with him. Even though he's tall and muscular, he felt no heavier than a package of sugar. All the boys danced in a circle around us. Their jackets and sweaters were all left on chairs, and their shirts became moist with sweat. I guess I didn't even notice the sweat on my neck then. I felt as if clouds were beneath my feet.

When I eventually lowered him to the ground, his father came over and hugged him. Oh, I could see the emotion in his face: his eyes were moist with joy. I wished then that my father could show such emotion. But my father was the reserved type. I don't think he ever hugged me.

I was sorry, on the one hand, to lose such a great next-door neighbor. I was sorry to lose our midnight music sessions, but I was really happy to see my best friend so very happy, and we would still continue to see each other in the study hall.


About a month ago, Yonatan mentioned to me that he'd looked in his adoption file for the first time. An orange light blipped in my mind. I hadn't told him I was adopted or that I'd gone to meet my biological mother, but I guess he sensed my interest.

"Er, Yosef," he said to me, "I know this sounds kind of strange, but I'd like to bring a friend for moral support when I go to meet my real mother for the first time. Would you do me the favor and come with me?"

Even though I hadn't wanted anyone to come with me when I made my first contact with my biological mother, I could relate to Yonatan's anxiety, and I agreed to accompany him.

We travel on the bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, just like we had done on our first meeting. Yonatan had arranged to meet his mother in a restaurant in downtown Tel Aviv.

"I spoke to her on the phone," Yoni tells me as we get off the bus near Dizingoff Center. "She said she'd be wearing an orange cotton shirt.'

We walk down the busy street, filled with sidewalk cafes and tables with umbrellas opened as shade from the hot Tel Aviv sun. We continue walking and turn left to reach the Circle Restuarant. We enter the restaurant.

The only woman in an orange cotton shirt is my biological mother...

based on a true story


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