Monday, November 16, 2009

Ok, that was interesting

What I find very interesting, is that from all the agencies in the U.S. that we could have chosen, we chose one of the few that is actually in a very Jewish neighborhood (Coolidge Corner in Brookline, MA) with several kosher restaurants, a couple of synagogues and places for us to stay comfortably nearby. We met with our agency for the first time this past weekend, and really enjoyed our visit. I think that other than the multitude of snow, Brookline would be on my top 10 places to live in the U.S. I didn't realize that it was quite a busy suburb. It had a fun vibe...even without all the alcohol. Everywhere we went, people were quite obviously passionate about their liquor, which was a little funny once we started noticing it. We also met a nice cross-section of religious Jews who were very interesting. I think we'll be going back, if I can stand the 4+ hour drive again. In addition to it being a popular Jewish and Israeli neighborhood, there were also a lot of Asians, and I saw several Asian-Jewish couples. Basically, we felt comfortable, which was nice.

So the hubs and I were attending a Chinese Culture workshop at our agency on Sunday. Another odd thing? It was on Sunday. They've been hosting this workshop for several years I believe, and it's always on a Saturday. This year, it was on a Sunday. Basically, it was the first event we could ever consider attending, so we made sure to go. I was actually hoping to meet a lot of people in the process, but there were only 4 couples in total there. Oh well. I probably should have networked more in advance to get people to attend.

During the lunch break, we ran out to a local kosher restaurant to pick up some lunch. As soon as we walked in, I looked down and spotted Chinese hair on a little girl. I looked up, and saw her Caucasian parents. I immediately caught their eye, and said: "Hi! We've just come from our adoption agency around the corner and are also adopting from China!"

Of course, they immediately mentioned that they had used the same agency, and we talked a bit. I really didn't have that much time to talk; we basically had to get take-out and run. I also didn't want to pressure them to talk to us, when they were there to eat after all. But the mom (who was adorable by the way) looked a little familiar, so if I see her pop up in my "People You Might Know" Facebook screen, I think I will have the guts to send her a friend request.

By the way, Dear Readers (all 10 of you ;)), if you would like to connect on FaceBook, and we've had some sort of commenting relationship, please email me. I've made friends with some nice people on FB and wouldn't mind connecting with a few more. I do see some friend suggestions from time to time for people that I don't know that well, and don't walk to look stalker-ish. I can't say that I'm all that fascinating, but you'll get to know me a little better!

So, we had a really nice weekend in a lovely town, learned enough about Chinese culture to see that we had a lot to learn and should start Mandarin classes now, and I finally broke the ice and spoke to other adoptive parents out of the blue. It was a pretty good weekend.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recent news about Jews in China...and Chinese Jews in Israel

First, a nice video by Jewish Fan about Chinese of Jewish extraction in China:

And this is a cool video about a Chinese woman of Jewish descent who moved to Israel, converted to Judaism, and then married an American in a Sephardic-style wedding ceremony. This was definitely a very multi-cultural wedding and is so beautiful.

Some translation:
* 5 months after she converted to Judaism, the woman now known as Shoshana Rivkah (formerly Chiang Li, if I am spelling that correctly), is marrying Ami Emanuel, an American Jew.
* The speaker at 1:01, Michael Freund, the founder of Shavei Israel is saying that there are 700-1000 Jews in China that identify themselves as Jewish, and at least a couple hundred of them are interested in learning more about Judaism and the State of Israel. Over the last few years, they have brought several Chinese Jews to Israel, and they are learning about Judaism in order to convert.
* At around 1:50, you see a lovely young lady named Chiang Jin (again, not sure how to spell this), who, I have so say speaks an excellent Hebrew! Really amazing! Her father is next to her. They moved to Israel and converted about 5 years ago, currently living in Jerusalem. She talks about how her grandfather always spoke about being Jewish since she was a child, and on the Sabbath they would like candles, drink wine, and read the Bible. That's all they knew.
(Note: I'm a little wary of the groom's comment at the end. Ummmm....)

Of course, I managed to find many other videos about China and the Jews. Must save some of this for later. But I really enjoyed this video where a JTA reporter interviewed Chinese in China about what they think/know about Jews. I finally got confirmation that Jews are indeed called "Yoh Tai Ren" in Chinese, which may mean "big noses". Maybe. Gotta look that up in The Bamboo Cradle again.

This is a nice video about how the non-Chinese Jewish community is growing in Shanghai:

As I've mentioned before, my brother-in-law's mother, aunts and uncle(s) were all born in Shanghai during and immediately after WWII, and have fond memories of their treatment by the Chinese. We actually included some details about the history of the Chinese and the Jews in our home study, I think. I was a little worried that my Israeli citizenship could be an issue, but as y'all know, we've been through review with no questions! Yay!

My in-laws did a Jewish cultural tour of China in 2007 and I believe they met with the family in Kaifeng that were featured in the first video. They brought back a knitted yarmulke and a paper cutting of a menora from the family. It's nice to see that at least some of the culture has endured throughout several hundred years.

Oh, and not to forget, this is the article that inspired this post in the first place:
From Kaifeng to Kibbutz: Chinese Descendants of Jews Come Home
"For the first time, a group of seven descendants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China has moved to Israel.The new arrivals, who were brought here by the Shavei Israel organization, arrived at Ben-Gurion airport late Tuesday night.

The city of their birth, Kaifeng, sits on the banks of the Yellow River and was home to a flourishing Jewish community for more than a millennium.

"I am very excited to be here in the Holy Land," said Yaakov Wang, one of the new immigrants. "This is something that my ancestors dreamed about for generations, and now thank G-d I have finally made it."

Wang said that he eventually hopes to become a rabbi, so that one day he can help other Kaifeng Jewish descendants to learn more about their heritage."
Read the rest of the article here.

P.S. Partial hat-tip to Robert Avrech of Seraphic Secret. Make sure to check out his blog post that includes details about about doing his morning prayers (that require a whole odd-looking uniform of prayer shawl and phylacteries) on the Great Wall of China. I was laughing pretty hard at the complete freak-out by his "guide". Hm. I wonder if my husband should try to do the same, or just stick to praying on the tour bus. I think he just may be stuck without a minyan during most of our time in China.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Second Anniversary

Today, it's officoally two years since our Log In Date to China. Here's to hoping for only one more year! Heh. That would have depressed me a year or two ago.

In other news, it's been 14 years since my dear husband proposed to me. He's fabulous.

I still don't have confirmation that our dossier has been reviewed. Off to email the agency!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Whew, potential disaster avoided

Yep, it's that time that comes around every 15 months! Time to renew fingerprints and the I171H. We're sending in the letter to ask for renewal (and, no, this is NOT the free renewal!).

Only one obstacle - I couldn't find the form we received after our last renewal. Ulp. After half an hour of near-frantic looking, I finally found it. Whew. For some reason, I hadn't scanned it into my computer like all our other documents. Not good! I'll have to make sure to scan in the new renewed paper once we receive it...

Now that I've located the missing document, I can go back to watching a 20/20 special from 2004 about domestic adoption. It will probably make me ill. So far, a pregnant birth mother has rejected 3 couples out of 5, but the third couple *literally* received a 2 year old instead, on the spot! Whoah.

Also, I have heard rumors that the CCAA has reviewed dossiers up to 06/30/07, which would mean we had been reviewed, but I don't have confirmation. Hope so.

I'm making the hubby watch this for me. This should lead to some interesting conversations.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Almost time to freak out somewhat

While reviewing Pearl S. Buck International's update newsletter today (not my agency, but I'm on many agency's email lists), I saw that the last date that they had for dossiers that were reviewed in China is April 20, 2007. Our LID is in June 2007.

I knew in the back of my mind that it was possibly time to be a little worried, but now it's sunk in. They've reviewed up to April, so they'll be up to reviewing our dossier within two months...probably around our 2 year LID anniversary. My secret fear is that they'll find something that they don't like and reject us, G-d forbid. I know, I know, it's pretty rare, but we're not perfect on paper. What if they have some sort of issue with us? Trying not to bite my fingernails now...

Deep breath.

Anyways, many of you are probably wondering why we seem to just be sitting around, waiting for a 3-4 year referral wait. We're most definitely not getting any younger! The truth is, we have been looking into other programs. A lot of the international programs are closed right now, or closed right after we were considering them (so glad I didn't do all the paperwork and then get closed out of Vietnam), or we've actually aged out of them already (so much for Colombia), or I don't trust the program. Some are also quite expensive. I absolutely refuse to work with any program that has had allegations about baby thefts, or seems to require bribery or dealing with corruption. Of course, the China program is not completely clean in that regard - there have been reports of baby trafficking - but we are still most comfortable with that program. We are still monitoring various international programs to see whether we would want to adopt from a different country, but haven't found a particular preference at this time.

Meanwhile, we've had a few domestic adoption possibilities crop up, all of them roller coasters. For example, my husband and I went away for the weekend last July 4th. There was a kosher program at a hotel. We couldn't go away for a significant amount of time (my husband doesn't get a lot of vacation days, as he needs to use them for Jewish holidays), so we try to take advantage of legal holidays and go away for long weekends.

We made a mistake. Don't get me wrong - the hotel was lovely, and the food was fantastic. (We had to skip meals so we wouldn't gain ten pounds.) But in the past, we had usually gone to Sabbath programs when they were holding a program for singles, and some couples would come along as well on the side, taking advantage of having a weekend off at a nice hotel with good food.

This was the first time that we went to a program that was not tied in with a singles program. In other words, it was for families. Families. With children. Lots and lots of adorable children and happy parents.

It was torture. We were one of maybe 8 couples there, but there had to be 25-30 families, with anywhere from 2 to 10 children. It was so hard to watch the kids running around, and parents (and grandparents - there were extended families there) spending time with their children. There were strollers around our table with cute babies in them, and toddlers coming over to gaze into my face (I'm a friggin' baby magnet). By the end of the Sabbath, the smile was just pasted on my face. Every time a little girl walked by, I would gaze at her longingly. My husband understood, but what could he do? Not much.

We left early on Sunday; I was pretty desperate to get out of there. We were stopping by at a special furniture clearance sale on the way home, then we were going to go visit my sister and new niece (did I mention that all my sisters had babies last year? Oh yes they did!), and then go to a wedding in a city about 2 hours away from our house. Sunday was going to be a very busy day.

We wandered through the furniture store. I was eyeing a wall unit that we desperately needed. There happened to be a baby clothes vendor there as well, so I bought my newest niece a beautiful (pink!) stretchie and hat. We had reached the end of the store and were looking at the children's furniture. I figured if I could find a really good deal on something that looked like little girl's furniture but could pass as guest room furniture, that I would buy it. My husband wandered off to check our voice mail messages on our home phone. He came rushing back and handed me the phone: "listen to this message, and see if you can figure out who it is." I listened to it carefully (it was a little garbled). The voice and name sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite place it, even though we managed to get the phone number.

A couple of minutes later, it hit me. It was a woman who we had been in contact with several months earlier about a sibling pair that had been available for adoption. It hadn't worked out; another couple had been given first "dibs" and we had been told that they had taken the children. I called the woman back, and she told me that, actually, only one of the children had been adopted. The other sibling, a girl, was still with a foster family, but they could no longer care for her. This would be a guaranteed adoption, no changing of the mind. DCFS would not allow the foster mother to keep her, and the biological parents' rights had been terminated.

I couldn't breathe. The whole weekend had been all about wanting a little girl, and here we were being handed a daughter on a silver platter! I was literally standing next to a little girl's bedroom set and was tempted to buy it on the spot. We drove back home, planning to meet with the woman in a couple of hours. My head was whirling with plans and questions. How to handle work, what we would need to get for her. I need toys! Craft supplies! I might need to buy her clothes (yummy little dresses!) and sparkly shoes! Where would we send her to school next year? Wait, is she in day camp? OMG, how are we going to handle this? I'm a planner and project manager...believe me, I was going crazy with the possibilities.

We met with the woman involved...and then the details started coming out. There was a medical issue (ah hah - that's why she hadn't been adopted!). Then the way she wanted to handle the placement started ringing alarm bells in my head. I've read about attachment, and I've been a foster parents whose foster children's placements were completely mishandled. She wanted an quick decision; we asked for more time. The situation had been handled by a temporary placement with another family, but we still visited so we could meet her. And then we went home.

Even with all of the potential negatives and the possibility of a debilitating disease, I (and my husband, who was completely on-board) was ready to do it. It seemed to be the answer to our prayers. We had literally been in pain all weekend, desperately wanting our little girl, and, 24 hours later, here was a daughter, all gift wrapped! The gift wrapping was a little wrinkled and torn, but the gift was definitely still very shiny.

I couldn't go to the wedding. I had to talk to somebody about the situation and our decision. We did go visit my sister, and we sat and talked about it. She had freaked out when she heard what I needed to discuss, so her older kids knew that something was going on, and were tremendously excited. Her kids want us to have children so badly and were going out of their minds with joy. It felt like such an answer to our prayers. I started making final plans.

And, then, it all fizzled. When I called the next day, I got more details about the situation, but was told that we could still continue. I was still ok with the situation. But then every time we called her again, the story changed a little more each time. A little over a week later, we were basically told that another couple had been chosen instead.

I wasn't quite devastated, but was quite disappointed. And, quite frankly, I think that the reason that we were not chosen is because we are not from this particular woman's community. We're both Orthodox Jews, but have varying customs and habits that make us very different, and we would not be their first choice for raising a child from their community. So if she gives us the opportunity to adopt, it will be because a preferred member of her community doesn't want the child. We will not be accepting any more proposals from her, and frankly, feel that we were taken advantage of.

There have been other opportunities as well, but none of them have worked out either. So we continue to wait, while being open to possibilities. And hope that the dossier passes through review with flying colors.