Ahavah/Love by Amanda Zaidman

I love Judaism. It has grounded my family in traditions that make us feel like we are a part of something bigger, part of a history steeped in knowledge and beauty. Being Jewish was a choice for me and it has shaped my adult life. It has made me strong in ways I never expected when I converted.  And it has expanded my chosen family of people who make me feel loved and supported.

As an infant, I was adopted from Colombia, South America.  My adoptive parents named me Amanda which, I learned in the fourth grade, means “worthy of love.” I had a wonderful childhood but one of the ways I dealt with the emotional difficulties of being given away by my birth parents was by refusing to process what it truly meant to be adopted. A few months ago, I decided I was ready to take this on, to start to explore the impact that being relinquished at birth has had on shaping my identity.

I am a positive person and I make friends easily.  I have always felt loved by my parents, by my family and by my friends.  When I was young my parents talked openly about my adoption and explained that the reason my birth mother gave me up was because she loved me and she wanted a better life for me.  But we never talked about how being adopted caused me to constantly question whether I am worthy of that love.

What I have discovered is that it is possible to feel more than one way.  It is possible to feel loved and to also feel hurt that my life began with my birth mother’s choice not to keep me, to feel both grateful for the life I have and sad for the losses I have experienced which are inherent in adoption. I am able to hold all of these feelings at the same time.  And it is Judaism that helps me to make meaning of them.

When I converted to Judaism I chose the Jewish name Ahava.  I liked that it meant love and that it was so close to my American name.  Within the Hebrew word Ahava there are two different roots: hav which means to give and ahav which means to nurture.  It makes sense to me that within my chosen Hebrew name are the concepts of giving and nurturing.  After all, these two seemingly opposite concepts are what define my story.  My birth mother’s choice to give me away was a sacrifice that was made in love.  And my adoptive parents’ choice to nurture me made me feel loved so completely that I never questioned that I was meant to be theirs.

I am grateful for this life I have and for the security and support I receive from my family, friends, and this Jewish community. It is this security that has given me the strength to explore my past and what it means to be worthy of love.

 

Amanda Zaidman is a mother to Maya (10) and Jonah (8) and wife to her wonderful husband, Jeff.  She is actively involved in the Jewish community and is the owner of a private practice called Constructive Parenting, PLLC.

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