Orit Harpaz loved being pregnant with her son Theo, now 9. The Sherman Oaks-based photographer got pregnant quickly, had no trouble carrying the child, and delivered at home with her husband, Gal, also a photographer, at her side.
All too often, religious and societal taboos impede honest dialogue about difficult issues that can affect any marriage, such as spousal abuse, blended families, adoption and infidelity.
Santiago Brown calls himself a “cashew.” It’s his way of combining the words “Catholic” and “Jew,” to refer to his unusual religious background. He lived in Colombia in a Catholic orphanage until being adopted into a Jewish family a year ago, at the age of 12. His mother, Lori Brown, a graphic artist and Nashuva member, says Santiago has Jewish music on his iPod and tells his friends, “It’s awesome to be Jewish.”
These days, more American families are adopting from China than any other foreign country, and a large number of those families are Jewish. A wave of girls is now coming of age, starting to face challenging issues of identity.
In his raw, autobiographical monologue, "Who Is Floyd Stearn?" actor Michael Raynor struts onstage with a swagger reminiscent of James Caan. Raynor, playing himself, jabs a finger at a faded photograph.
The photo was taken on 185th Street in Queens, on his grandmother's lawn. In the photo, an athletic, brawny man embraces a 3-year-old. The man is Raynor's father, Floyd Stearn. The smiling boy is young Michael, who clutches a toy banjo, his blond bangs peeking out from a cowboy hat.
Raynor tells the audience that, even at 40, he cannot discuss the photo; should anyone pressure him, he angrily departs.
"Every time I see the picture I cry," he adds quietly. "That's why I can't look at it. I see the happiness in my face, and it scares me. I'm hoping it won't go away."
If your kids are out of the house and you're experiencing empty-nest syndrome, how about considering adoption?
Just off Motor Avenue in West Los Angeles, about where cars shoot out from under the 10, a simple sign points the way onto the campus of Vista del Mar Child and Family Services. Go fast and you'll miss the sign and the 17.5 acres beyond it of bungalows, recreation areas and service buildings.
In 1995, nurse, mystery writer and prospective single mom Serita Stevens traveled to Romania to adopt an abandoned 9-month-old baby girl. So appalled was she at the conditions in the orphanage at which she finally met her future daughter, she started Hugs and Hopes--Romania to help care for the orphans and abandoned children in a country still struggling to recover from the ruin and desperation caused by the Ceausescu regime.
Judaism commands us to be kind to animals.
By Janet Fitch
Little, Brown, $24..
When author Janet Fitch was 9, her longtime friend disappeared into the netherworld of the Los Angeles foster care system.
All her life, Jeanette Kopitowsky has been searching for a face in the crowd. She scans strangers' faces for someone, anyone who looks like herself. Her biological mother. Her father. A sibling.
The playwright-actress, who was abandoned by her parents as a baby, grew up in foster homes until she was adopted by a Jewish family at the age of seven. She describes the painful experience in her powerful, one-woman show, "What's Your Name, Who's Your Daddy?" which asks the question, "Do I exist if I don't have anyone to claim me?"