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How should I understand my newfound Jewish identity, and how do I go about telling my family?

Hey everyone,

I’ve been interested in researching the genealogy of my family, so I’ve been poking around my family tree for a while and stumbled upon something rather interesting. I traced up my unbroken matriarchal line (no boys, only girls), and discovered that my distant grandmother was a practicing religious and ethnically Jewish person, according to census records. This lines up with the time period, history, and the big wave of Ashkenazi Jewish immigration into America from Germany at that time. They settled in rural Indiana after living in New York for a few years. It seems most likely they hid their Judaism in return for safety and keeping a low profile. Either that or the knowledge was lost somewhere down the line, although I have my reasons for suspecting the suppression.

I brought up this fact to a couple Jewish friends of mine and they happily informed me that, because this was an unbroken matriarchal line back to a verified Jewish identity, I am technically Jewish according to Jewish law. They honestly seemed happy that I’d be ‘joining the family’ as they put it.

I am more than happy to learn of this identity. I’ve always respected Judaism highly. I had great Jewish friends growing up, and I’ve been to feasts, celebrations, and Passovers. It’s a culture I look upon with great admiration. I am very much a secular person, and I do not subscribe to any religion, and this does not change that. However, I do think I would be interested in learning more about the culture, ethnicity, religion, and my place in it, and perhaps even celebrating some feasts. Over the short time I’ve known, I’ve already felt a deeper bond with my Jewish friends, and I really cherish that.

One more reason I feel connected to this is due to the fact I’m the person that dug this heritage up. I am very thankful for my distant grandmother (I believe 3rd or 4th great grandmother), for immigrating here to America in 1868. I am thankful for the family that she created. And I feel awful that she felt the need to hide or diminish her Jewish identity. She even changed her name from Anne Marie to Mary when she got to America. I wonder if she went to her deathbed mourning that the Judaism in our family would be lost. So if I could repay my distant grandmother for her hard work by reviving our family’s ethnic understanding, that would mean a lot.

This leads me to the dilemma of telling my family. I’m not sure how to go about doing it. I have screenshots of the proof and I even have a document I’ve written up talking about our lineage in this regard. But as opposed to me, who is very secular, most of them are hardline Evangelicals. Not anti-Semites by any means as far as I know. They believe the Jews are God’s chosen people, and have great compassion for them, believing they too go to heaven. But I do imagine this will be a bit of a shock. I have no idea what their reactions will be, or if they will care at all. But I do want to tell them. I have a great Aunt who’s name Is Mary Anne, the inverse name of my distant relative Anne Marie. It feels full circle to let her know this before she dies. It also feels like my responsibility to make sure this knowledge doesn’t die AGAIN. I’m just unsure of how to go about doing it.

Also, the question I am most unsure of. How do I go about understanding my new discovery? I know by the Jewish Law that I am Jewish, but any knowledge of this in my family has been dormant for a century. How does the broader Jewish community feel about “reviving” the understanding and celebration of a Jewish heritage within a family? I don’t want to appropriate or step on toes. I really just want to learn, understand, and find my place in the community.

submitted by /u/trickyman226
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