As part of a ritual we created to say farewell to our foster daughter, Dafna, below is the story of my family’s history of fostering across the generations, from escaping the Nazis to offering shelter to teenagers fleeing Vietnam. We read this during the goodbye ceremony.
Photo by Nomad Nirvana Photography
Dafna, the TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. of how you came to our family begins before anyone in this room was born. In 1938 my grandfather, Walter Fried, was a teenager living in Vienna. As the situation for Jews become more and more dire, his family became more and more desperate to getA writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. him out of Austria. Shortly after Kristallnacht in November of 1938 my great-grandparents were able to get a sponsor for my grandfather in England and a ticket on the Kindertransport, a train that travelled out of Nazi Germany, filled with Jewish children being brought to safety. Walter was sponsored by a Jewish family named the Adlers. In a very real way, the Adlers were my grandfather’s foster parents, and they saved his life. Without them I would not be here today.
Walter spent six months with the Adlers, but he felt bad about draining their resources during wartime, and after he felt confident in his English, he transferred to a technical college in Leister. In 1943 he went to Cincinnati where he was able to meet up with his parents, who had also been able to escape the Nazis. Shortly after arriving in the United States Walter was drafted into the army, and went back to Europe first as an engineer, and then as a translator for the War Crimes Investigating Team which took statements from former concentration camp inmates, camp guards, and commanders.
My mother grew up knowing this story, and was always very aware of the way her own life had been saved by the Adlers. We stayed in touch with the Adlers, and when I was a child my mother always took me to visit Mrs. Adler when we visited England.
In the winter of 1979, when my mother was 26 and a young, very poor social worker, she and my father sponsored two refugees from Vietnam. Mai and Thai Tran escaped Vietnam on a boat in 1978. They went to Indonesia, where they lived in a refugee camp for about a year, until they were sponsored by my parents though the Jewish Federation in Chicago. It was HanukkahThe holiday which celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following its conquest by the Syrians in 165 BCE. The holiday is celebrated by lighting candles in a hanukiyah oon each of eight nights. Other customs include the eating of fried foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (jelly donuts), playing dreidl (a gambling game with a spinning top), and, in present day America, gift giving. of 1979 when Mai and Thai arrived in Chicago. For a month, they lived in my parents’ living room. Mai and Thai were siblings and teenagers. My parents helped them find a place to live, and my dad got Thai a job at the electric company where my dad was a computer programmer. Mai and Thai still live in the Chicago area. Thai still works at the electric company, and he owns a nail salon. He and Mai have flourished, building families and enjoying freedom and success in America, in no small part because my parents sponsored them.
So Dafna, becoming a foster parent was something we did to carry on the legacies of our families. I would not be here today if the Adlers had not decided to open their home to my grandfather. Today I thank them not only for that incredible act of kindness, but also for inspiring my mother to do the same, and your Papa and me to become foster parents to you. I am so grateful for the strange history that brought you to our home.
Photo by Nomad Nirvana Photography
See the farewell ritual Tamar and her partner created here.
Tamar Fox is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia with her partner, step-daughter, and foster daughter. Her writing has been published in the Washington Post, the JerusalemLit. City of peace From the time of David to the Roman destruction, Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and the spiritual and governmental center of the Jewish people. During the long exile, Jews longed to return to Jerusalem and wrote poems, prayers, and songs about the beloved city. In 1967, with the capture of the Old City, Jerusalem was reunited, becoming "the eternal capital of Israel." Still, the longing for peace is unfulfilled. Post, Tablet, LilithIn the midrash (rabbinic story about the Torah story), Lilith is imagined as Adam's first wife. Because she wanted equality, she wss ultimately banished, and God provided Adam with a more obedient wife. Lilith, according to tradition, lives on as a kind of demon, causing men to have wet dreams and stealing infant boys from their cribs. Today, Lilith has been reclaimed by Jewish feminists as a symbol of women's equality., and many others. Her children’s book, No Baths at Camp, was published in 2013 by Kar-Ben and is a PJ Library selection.