By Sidney S. Fink
Four people, a middle-aged couple and a younger pair sat
buckled into adjoining seats in the passenger section on the large,
roomy Northwestern Air flight. The airplane was progressing from
the United States to the new Lantau airfield in Hong Kong.
If anyone on board would observe those four closely they
would discern four blank silent faces. Four faces, frozen faces
behind masks shielding riddles and deep individual feelings that
were a mixture of fear and hope, fear and curiosity, uncertainty and
the angst that was then haunting their souls.
The older couple, the middle aged parents of the lovely
young woman seated next to them, were struggling inwardly in a
sea of anxiety over what this trip might cascade over into their
lives. Would, or could, some forceful and mighty undertow carry
away from them the child they loved so deeply?
The young man sitting besides their daughter, her future
husband to be, and so very much in love with the young woman,
was uncertain of their future together. His mind’s tortured thoughts
wondered if indeed they would even have one.
The young woman, unlike her three Caucasian companions,
was noticeably Oriental in appearance. She was carrying inside her
soul an unquenched thirst to find and explore her roots, to discover
answers to her currently confused thoughts and feelings about
herself. “Who am I? Where do I truly belong? Where will all this
lead me? Will I survive this torture that is now in my soul.”
In early 1980. Joel and Deborah Price were living in Hong
Kong, where Joel, an economist, was in the employ of Multicorp,
an international banking firm headquartered in New York. The
youthful pair had been hopefully trying, but unsuccessfully now,
for several years to conceive a child.
One evening they had gone out for dinner at the Peninsula
Hotel and had joined with their close friends, John and Liz Burney
and an English couple, the Courtneys, who were friends of the
Burneys. John was an investment banker also employed by
Multicorp. The Burneys had two small children whom the Price’s
adored and they had been aware of their friends frustration at not
being able to conceive a child. During dinner, Liz that particular
evening, unexpectedly revealed that the Courtney’s had but
recently adopted a Chinese child from a local orphanage.. At that
point the Courtneys, made aware earlier of the Price’s frustration
prior to coming to the dinner suggested that perhaps they might
also consider looking into the possibility of adopting a Chinese
child from the local orphanage themselves.
The comment took them by surprise.
“We are still quite young…” Joel responded looking
sheepishly embarrassed at his wife.
“Yes. Maybe down the road if…well thanks for the thought.
It’s kind of you to suggest it, but we are not quite ready for a step
like that…Well, at least not yet. We are still trying.” Deborah Price
said in a subdued tone.
“Well, just in case you ever change your minds…I say, why
don’t you two visit us and meet our daughter, and then we can if
you would like us to…we can give you some information on how
to do as we did…just in case you might ever wish to consider
looking into the possibility of copying us.”
The Price’s thoughts once they were in their home that night
were very negative on the issue. After all, they were still young
and what would a Jewish couple, do with a Chinese child anyway?
Then after a few days of intensive soul searching, and despite all
their doubts about the wisdom of a Jewish couple adopting a
Chinese child, they finally, reluctantly, decided to at least look into
the possibility. They arranged to first visit the Courtneys and spend
a day with them, and their new daughter. Afterwards, there
followed several further agonizing, soul searching and sleepless
nights on the issue. Finally, they contacted the Courtney’s seeking
their assistance on the matter.
Joel and Deborah Price found their daughter on the very
first visit to the orphanage, just outside Kwaloon, becoming
immediately smitten, by falling in love with the beautiful child
who had suddenly tripped, falling on her rear end just in front of
them while playing. The child then just reached up, as if it was
very natural to Deborah, to be picked up. The child then smiled
and cooed at them. Deborah held her up high, just above her head
and the child gleefully giggled at them..
"Look Joel, it's like she knows us. Look at that smile! Joel!
Oh, Joel isn't she just precious?"
Joel looked at his beaming wife with the child and smiled.
"Honey, I never thought we would be doing this, but I feel,
you know…like it was bashert as my zeyde would say…She’s just
beautiful…honey…it’s our mazl… she is our baby. Let's talk to the
Joel and Deborah adopted the child, called Su Yi,
and when the time to return home came, they were able to bring
their infant daughter, now known as Sue Price, back with them to
upstate New York.
Joel and Deborah raised Sue with all the love and devotion
parents could possibly bestow, and although there were some early
friend and family doubters, Sue became a treasured family
member. Her warmth and pleasantness made it difficult for both
the Price’s family and friends to neglect her and everyone just
gravitated to her. Sue was an excellent student at both the local
elementary school and in her classes at the,synagogue..
Sue became Bat Mitzvah when she was thirteen, and
confirmed at sixteen. She was an outstanding student and a strong
swimmer on her high school team. Deborah's best friend's son
Arthur Goodman, several years older than Sue became her big
Deborah Price did not have any other children.
During her junior year in college at SUNY in Purchase, New
York, Sue and Athur realized they had fallen in love. They no
longer felt like a brother and sister. It had reached a point where
they found themselves past those feelings towards each other.
Arthur was now about to complete law school.
Joel and Deborah were deeply concerned at first about the
relationship because of Sue’s obvious Chinese appearance, but the
soon relaxed when Arthur’s parents, Jack and Elsie Goodman told
them that they would all obviously have beautiful grandchildren
one day soon.
Sue, however, was suddenly confronting demons that had
unexpectedly arisen within her. She was studying Mandarin as a
language at her College and had met and become friendly with
fellow Chinese-American students. The new relationships raised
thoughts in her mind about herself. Sue began to stare at herself in
the mirror more often and became deeply lost in herself enduring
questioning thoughts and a deep turmoil began to arise in her
After Sue and Arthur had graduated from their respective
colleges and were planning their wedding, Sue began to openly
confront Deborah. She began to raise questions about who her
"real" parents might be. She expressly wondered as to whether she
might still have a family, or siblings in China. Her thoughts about
them became an obsession that she could no longer put aside.
"Why had they abandoned her? Why had they given me away?"
Sue could not live with just those thoughts any longer.
"I must find my real parents!" she told a now deeply
frightened Joel and Deborah. "Please mom…dad! Please humor
me. I must find my birth family!"
Sue made up her mind and decided to postpone her marriage
to Arthur. She felt that she must travel to China to find her "real"
parents, before committing herself to any future life in America, or
if there could even be one.
The three people who loved her most sought help and
counseling from their Rabbi and a therapist. They were advised by
both to let Sue go to confront her demons, but not to do so alone,
not without them being there for and beside her, if and when
they might be needed. “Don’t let her go alone. Better for all to be
safe, than sorry.”
Now here they all were, flying to Hong Kong.
The Prices had contacted the orphanage in advance and
explained the situation that was bringing them back to Hong Kong
to beseech their help. The administrator at the orphanage, a
Mrs. Chen, was not very eager to meet, or to assist them, but
after some days of hesitation, she had reluctantly agreed to
assist them. None of the original staff when the Prices lived there
was still at the orphanage.
Mrs. Chen had by then completed her research and with
the Price's consent, disclosed whatever information the orphanage
records had about a child called "Su Yi" in the year of her
adoption.. Sue, then Sun Yi, had been brought to them by her birth
mother from an impoverished mainland farm community.
The woman's husband, the child's father and his parents had
wanted only a boy child and would not accept the girl child. The
husband and his parents proceeded to ignore both the wife and
child until finally, the wife fearing somewhat for herself as well as
the child at that point had reluctantly agreed to give the child away
in order to save them both..
After being apprised of this, Sue continued to insist that
she wanted to meet her birth parents. Mrs. Chen had agreed, for a
fee, to assist them in their endeavor and assigned a bilingual
associate worker, a Mr. Liu, to aid them with the intricacies and
all the necessary papers for their task and journey.
Early morning days later, they had finally arrived at the still
small impoverished farm community above the Yangtze River on
the mainland, and made their way to the exact farm site that they
were seeking. The farm, like the other ones they saw nearby, was
located on a meager plot of impoverished soil upon which stood a
small thatched dwelling that obviously contained few, if any
modern amenities. Since the group had had no way in which to
contact the people living there prior to their arrival, the aide, Mr.
Liu from the orphanage went into the dwelling first to explain the
reason for this unexpected visit. It took some time before Mr. Liu
finally came out to usher them inside the small dwelling. They had
heard coming from inside the hut sounds of anger, shouting and
what seemed to be disturbed voices.
"They are not anxious to see you. They are upset that you
have come, and I had to promise it would be a brief visit. I lied and
said that the Beijing Government had sent me and had approved
the visit. That frightened them somewhat and I had to flash some
papers from my briefcase at them…it impressed them. Of course
they cannot read anyway."
Once inside, Sue and her family found the bare primitiveness
of the home was as they had been forewarned by their guide. The
poverty of the inhabitants was quite obvious. Sitting on the ground,
waiting for them inside they found a small old-looking and bent
man, his wrinkled faced wife, and their son, unmistakably her
younger, birth brother all dressed in poor, simple peasant clothes.
The son's childlike wife was standing behind them, and she was
noticeably pregnant. The old bent man was visibly disturbed, as
was his son. Both spoke angrily to the aide, who then turned to
them to translate.
"The old man and his son feels it is a bad omen… your
coming here. Bad joss, he says. Bad to have the girl come back
here to haunt them. They can't understand why you have come.
Girls born here, are of no use it is felt to a son’s family. They grow
up, marry and go to the husband’s family and take care only of his
family. They feel that you, Su Yi, have jinxed them now by
returning and that it will only bring them bad luck. They do not
wish to have you here and he and the son say that now he may also
have bad joss and his wife will not now give him a son. They fear
that is the meaning of Su Yi's visit. They wish you all to quickly
leave and not to ever come back."
Sue, staring at her birth parents, and her birth younger
brother’s faces, was visibly taken aback by the aide's explanation
of the tirade. She saw the fear in her young sister in law’s face and
she felt ill and went outside, her face had drained. The others
quickly followed and surrounded her as she tried to recompose
herself. Deborah put her arms around her and Sue laid her face on
her shoulder. Suddenly, from the doorway of the hut her birth
mother then burst out and spoke to Mr. Liu sharply. She cast a
bitter looking face at Sue, angrily waving her finger and then
pointing it at Sue, and then Joel and Deborah, she began shouting
loudly and offensively at her. She then turned about and went back
into the hut, still muttering angrily aloud to the surrounding air as
she did so.
“What was she saying?” Sue asked in a broken voice.
Mr. Liu then turned to face them and explain what had just
"The woman says she gave you birth, they gave you life.
Honor your parents. We are not your family. Go away!"
On their way back to Hong Kong Sue began speaking to the
"What will happen if a girl is born in that hut?"
"They will probably try somehow to get rid of it. Perhaps
dispose of it, or even bring her to us. With the current Chinese
policy of one child for a family they will certainly want to try
again for a boy."
After they had returned to Hong Kong, Sue had restless
Nights. She kept seeing the faces of her birth family and the fear in
her birth sister in law's face. Finally she realized what she wanted
to do and told her parents and Arthur that she wanted to go by
herself to the orphanage, and to speak to Mrs. Chen, privately,
about herself and her recent experience. Her parents and Arthur
talked it over amongst themselves and although worried,
reluctantly agreed to let her do it. They all had a sense of what was
in her thoughts and wondered how she might work things out with
While waiting for Mrs. Chen to receive her at the
orphanage, she was allowed to wander about the facility. Sue
quietly watched the children as they were going about their
activities. While some of the children looked quite content, other
children did not seem to be so. Sue tried to imagine herself in their
place and found she could not do so. She could not conjure up any
memories at all of her time there. Finally, Mrs. Chen was ready to
see her and she went into her office.
"Well Miss Price, what is it that brings you here to me
today? What is on your mind? You seem, I sense to still have
something that is deeply troubling you, something that you now
wish me to assist you with… to relieve you perhaps of an
enormous burden. Mr. Liu, your guide told me of your
confrontation, so I may have some inkling of what it is that you
wish, but I'm not entirely sure. What do you desire?"
Sue looked at Mrs. Chen and smiled.
"You are a wise woman Mrs. Chen, so I guess you realize
that I would like to stay in touch with you about that family, my
birth family. Can you arrange that?" she asked the director.
"We can try, but why? You realized what you came
to discover here. I know it was not easy for you. Why…?"
"If the woman there gives birth to a girl child I'd like to
know….if they don't want to keep it… if it can be brought to you
here …maybe I can help, or do something for the child."
Mrs. Chen, looked at her for a moment without speaking.
"I'm not quite sure where this will lead us, but I can
guess…you and your future husband you will want that child to
raise as your own if it is a girl. Yes? So then I will try to honor
"Thank you!" Su Yi said.
Two days later they flew out of Hong Kong's new Lantau
airport. After awhile her parents fell asleep, but Sue couldn't.
Arthur was watching her. He leaned over and took her hand,
pressing it to his lips.
"I think I know what's going on in your beautiful head, if it's
a girl. It's okay with me." Arthur whispered to her " Sue, we will
raise her, it may be difficult for awhile, but it'll work out. We'll
handle it together. I’ve talked with you parents and mine. It’s fine
with them. I called Mrs. Chen and told her that we both wanted
Sue Price looked at him, leaned over and kissed him. She
then got up and went to her sleeping parents and woke them. She
smiled at them.
"Mom, dad, my birth mother …she said the right thing about
you two…as it says in the Torah... “Honor your parents!” She is a
wise woman. It feels good to be going home. " Then she bent
down and kissed them both.
from the July 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine