Suddenly Jewish: Jews Raised as Gentiles Discover Their Jewish Roots

Barbara Kessel, Author
Barbara Kessel, Author University Press of New England $21.95 (130p) ISBN 978-1-58465-038-6
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 127 pages - 978-1-58465-620-3
Ebook - 144 pages - 978-1-61168-302-8
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Stimulated by Madeline Albright's well-publicized 1997 discovery that her parents were Jewish, Kessel, a freelance writer, decided to explore the question of ""hidden roots."" She placed an inquiry in the New York Times Book Review and on the Internet ""seeking people raised as non-Jews who discovered they are of Jewish descent."" She received 178 responses. This book is based on her interviews by mail, by telephone or in person with 166 individuals. Kessel classifies her respondents into four groups: crypto-Jews (""descendants of the Jewish victims of the Spanish Inquisition""), ""hidden children"" (those placed with non-Jewish families to save them from the Nazis), children of Holocaust survivors and adoptees. Her book consists of statements from representatives of each group, accompanied by psychologically oriented analyses. The interviewees' wide range of reactions to the belated discovery of their Jewish ancestry make for fascinating and occasionally humorous reading. An Oxford student, on learning that he was Jewish, ran to a synagogue and shouted, ""I think I'm a Jew and I don't know what to do about it!"" He is now a New York rabbi. Some interviewees were ""shocked or moved or thrilled or distressed""; some were ""blas "" while others were ""dumbstruck."" According to Kessel, they are all bound together by a basic human need for determining their identity. (June)
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