Dear Rabbi - I’ve recently learned that my great grandmother on my mother’s side was a "Schauerman" and my great grandfather was a "Coen" On my father’s side, the family name, "Koenig" was Anglicized to King sometime in the 1870’s. Never having been raised with any any Jewish traditions, what are the appropriate steps for me to now take to learn more about the religion which has been lost to me? Various items of Judaica were also found in my grandmother’s home when she passed, although she was not an observant Jew. I feel that part of my identity has been lost, and I would now like to regain the missing pieces. Any suggestions?
Shalom Robert, Without a doubt, finding one’s roots is not only satisfying but also essential. Roots not only anchor and stabilize the tree, but also continuously nurture her, and only if a person knows where he comes from, can he know to where he’s going. If in fact your maternal lineage (your mother’s mother’s mother…) was Jewish, than in fact, you are Jewish. If so, welcome back to your people! We recently began the new Jewish year, and tonight actually begins the Jewish holiday called “Sukkot” (Tabernacles- commemorating our 40 year sojourn in the desert after the exodus from Egypt 3,326 years ago- and before our entering the Land of Israel) and it’s a suitable time to begin your reconnection to your roots. In any event, probably the he best way of becoming familiar with Judaism is through a basic book by the Pulitzer Prize winning author Herman Wouk, “This is My God”, and “Practical Judaism” by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel. All the Best and with wishes of success! Happy Holiday! Rabbi Ari Shvat