What’s a Part-Jewish, Part-Asian, Part-Adoptive Family to Do?

My kids and I are Jews living in a very Christian part of northern New England. When we shop at the grocery store or at Target in December, we’re very conscious of our status as minorities.

My daughter is Asian and living in a white-as-Wonder-Bread part of northern New England. She’s only four, but she has already begun to notice skin color, and at some point, I know she will become conscious of the fact that she is a racial minority not just in our larger community, but even in her own home.

“Emmie” is also a minority in that the vast majority of kids she knows and with whom she will go through school are growing up with one or both of the parents they were born to. But Emmie may never even know her birthparents.

So Emmie is a triple minority, and our family is, well, uncommon in our area. Sure, we could move, but the truth is that my husband and I have lived in more places combined than we can count, and neither one of us has ever found a place with a stronger sense of community than where we live now. It’s a great place to raise children, an almost-perfect place for a family.

So what’s a part-Jewish, part-Asian, part-adoptive family in a white, Christian community to do?

Answer: work to create our own community-within-a-community.

Families like ours are uncommon around here, but not unheard of. There are several other multicultural, adoptive Jewish or interfaith families in our area, so this weekend I brought as many of them as I could together to talk about our kids, our families and our communities. We shared pizza and conversation for an hour-and-a-half as we talked about comments we’ve already absorbed, issues we wonder if we’ll face and prospects for sharing experiences as our kids grow. We considered in the future bringing adult Jewish multicultural adoptees to our group to educate us parents, holding a multicultural Shabbat dinner or holiday celebration and/or setting up more structured workshop-type sessions to address specific issues. This nascent group is our creation, so what it becomes is up to us.

Not everyone invited came. Not everyone who came wanted to continue. But there seemed to be enough interested parties to begin to establish a community-within-a-community, a safe place for our kids (and their parents) to talk about issues and feelings and to celebrate every aspect of who they are. We are fortunate in that our larger community is, for the most part, tolerant and welcoming. But as most parents of minority kids will attest – whether or not those parents are minorities themselves – even a single comment uttered by an uninformed stranger can hurt in a way that those of us who are not minorities will never fully appreciate. It’s my hope that by establishing a place for my daughter to be with other kids like her and see other families like hers, she won’t feel quite so isolated if and when whatever combination of identity, prejudice and other, related issues arise.

It would be easier in many ways if we simply lived in a more diverse community where established resources could be found simply by looking out of the window or in a telephone directory. But for us, there are a great many other advantages to where we live, and we don’t want to give those up. Yet that doesn’t mean we have to live without the tools our kids need.

We’re parents. We improvise. Sure, it may be uncharted territory, but that’s what being a parent is all about.

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