Shana Tova With Love Across the Globe
By Gina Raphael
Entrepreneur and Chair of WIZO, Los Angeles
Traveling with my husband on a plane from New York to Los Angeles on a summer Sunday morning twenty-two years ago, we read a New York Times article by chance that would change our lives. The article shared a story about an observant Jewish family that adopted a daughter from China. We read the article and literally on that flight knew how our family would come to life.
Following three adoptions, a dear friend told me that the souls of my children were with me at Mt. Sinai and we had needed to take this route to come together as a family. I initially told this story to my children as a comforting story and perhaps not believing the reality of it. As time has passed though, I have come to believe this with all my heart as the message that shaped our legacy. While my children are not “of me” they are truly “of me” in every way possible.
It just took a different route to bring us together.
Adopting from China had its challenges with the Jewish Community as we evolved as a family. Initially, an orthodox synagogue and others didn’t want to assist us as we weren’t religious enough. As we became more observant, we were isolated from reform congregations who thought we were too religious. Wounding comments followed over the years, but through love and commitment, we raised three amazing “Zionistas” and focused our efforts on creating Jewish home and making sure the Jewish homeland was always a paramount in our family. We have made a strong commitment to Israel and the Jewish community at home and have been blessed with support by so many.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah – the New Year – I hope that we will work harder to ensure the doors of Judaism welcome everyone, especially Jews who have chosen to convert.
“Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, we are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.”
For the year ahead, my heart is also with the remaining Jewish community in China that has flourished for over a millennium before assimilation and intermarriage brought its collective demise in the 19th Century.
Thank you, Michael Freund, founder of Shavei Israel (shavei.org), whose dedication for bringing home Jews from China and lost Tribes from across the globe is so inspirational. His commitment to ensure Israel is a homeland to all Jews is overwhelming. This year I dedicate to support the work of Shavei Israel in bringing those Chinese Jews home to Israel.
I am overwhelmed by my love for my Dani, Sydney and Mia for the gifts they are to me, and the world. With the new year upon us, we can all work to make difference in the world with love and compassion. Shana Tova Umetukah
About the writer
Gina Raphael is as an entrepreneur and business owner in Beverly Hills, CA. A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business Gina is Chair of WIZO Los Angeles (Women’s International Zionist Organization), and Chair Israel Bonds Western Region. She is the mother of three daughters – Danielle Gross (21), Sydney Gross (19) and Mia Gross (10).