Adoptive families look at identity


Looking around Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, Allison Stearns saw there were many families that, like hers, had adopted children. The Bethesda synagogue has a chug, or special interest group, for families who adopt. There they bond and support each other over issues common to Jewish adoptive families.

Now Stearns and her group want to open up the discussion to the Greater Washington Jewish community. On April 6 at 9 a.m., Adat Shalom will sponsor “Adoption, Identity and Jewish Families,” an opportunity for families from around the community to learn from speakers and from each other.

“As our children grow up, we want them to have strong, healthy identities,” Stearns said.

Speakers include Debbie B. Riley, CEO of the Center for Adoption Support and Education, which is co-sponsoring the event. Stearns is the organization’s deputy director. Riley will speak on “Adoption and Identity.”

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb of Adat Shalom, an adoptive parent, will look at identity from a Jewish perspective.

“There’s a subtle distinction between identity and status,” he said. “Jewish parents imbue their children with identity. But status is in the eyes of others. Many of the toughest questions between Jewish denominations concern status. Adoption raises these questions in sharp relief.”

In addition, Jewish adult adoptees will give their perspectives on identity. There will also be the opportunity for families to meet and talk in small groups, Stearns said. “It will give kids and parents a chance to get to know each other.”

For information and registration, go to

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