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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/7/19

Genetics, Judaism, and Finding My Birth Family

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Charlotte Laws with her birth mom and birth grandma
Charlotte Laws with her birth mom and birth grandma
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My birth mother is Jewish. Actually, she had been raised Christian, then attended a Unitarian church for a year, and finally converted to Reform Judaism.

I am also Jewish. I had been raised Christian, too, then attended a Unitarian church for a month, and finally converted to Reform Judaism.

The interesting part is that we did not know each other or even know anything about each other yet we had followed the same religious path. We had lived in different states with different families; we had led completely separate lives.

My birth mom was in her mid-20s and living on the East Coast when she studied with a rabbi and converted to Reform Judaism. I was 24 and on the West Coast when I completed a one-year "Introduction to Judaism" course. Afterwards, I stood before a Reform congregation, recited Hebrew passages, and was officially welcomed into the religion.

Let me back up to 1960 in Atlanta: I was born in the backseat of an Oldsmobile. My birth mom was in labor for 15 minutes, not enough time for my birth dad to drive her to the hospital. A nurse lifted me from the vehicle in the hospital parking lot and immediately whisked me out of sight because my birth parents had already signed the official adoption papers. They had relinquished me to "The Agency."

Two months later, I was adopted by a well-to-do couple that was determined to raise a respectable number of children--two--in order to fit in with preppy, debutante society. This couple, whom I called "Mom" and "Dad," lived in a big, Atlanta house with a servant, a servant whose ancestors had purportedly been slaves to Dad's family. This was a bragging point for Mom, although I found it disturbing and embarrassing, plus I've never found data to support her claim.

Mom and Dad were racist and homophobic. They claimed to be Christian, although they never attended church or discussed religion. They owned guns, raised cattle as a sideline investment, and had no interest in current events, charities, or philosophy. They were, however, very interested in money. They were the embodiment of the saying, "Whoever dies with the most stuff wins."

They branded me as a bad seed because I did not share their values, taste, or religion. I liked sequined dresses, something they considered "low class." I complained about going to Sunday school and attending communion services at my private school, confessing that I was not a Christian. From an early age, I was fascinated with Judaism, and I seemed to have an innate love for the Jewish people. I also supported the civil-rights movement, gay rights, and had empathy for animals, including those on the dinner plate. (I became a vegetarian in my early twenties, and a vegan later in life.)

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Charlotte Laws, Ph.D. is an author, TV host and renowned activist. She was voted one of the 30 fiercest women in the world for 2013 and is a former politician in Southern California. Her 2015 memoir is called Rebel in High Heels, which tells about her fight as the "Erin Brockovich of revenge porn" (more...)

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