A Jewess From China


A Jewess From China


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Going Home

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 people here."

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 brother.

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 mind..

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 occurred.

"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 aide.

"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 Mrs. Chen.

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 your request."

"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 the child."

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

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