Imagine the following scenario: From the time you were very young, you thought you knew who you were. As far back as you can remember, you were given a certain identity. Then a secret is revealed and that identity is questioned.
That is the premise of the 2007 book, Suddenly Jewish: Jews Raised as Gentiles Discover Their Jewish Roots. Written by Barbara Kessel, the book contains interviews with 160 individuals. While their lives and individual stories vary, they all have one thing in common: they discover they either they are Jewish or they have Jewish ancestry. The interviewees are broken down into four distinct categories: Crypto-Jews (descendants of Jews who were forced to convert to another religion, but still practiced Judaism in secret), child survivors of the Holocaust who survived by hiding and assuming Christian identities, the children of Holocaust survivors and children who were adopted.
This book is absolutely fascinating. What made it fascinating was not just the history behind the stories of the interviewees, but the reactions of those interviewed. Some were not only accepting of their true identity, but they also actively became members of the Jewish faith. Others dismissed the idea and distanced themselves from their Jewish ancestry. Either way, it was a compelling view of the roads where history and identity meet.
I recommend it.