“Okay, but where are you from?

Skylar Blechner,
Mineola, NY

When people ask me the question “where are you from”, I usually respond that I am a 5th generation Jewish New Yorker. Then I get the follow up question of “Okay, but where are you from? Like your ancestors.” I answer the same way and usually get weird looks, but in my mind that is the truth. I am a Caucasian woman who follows the Jewish faith who lives in New York. I don’t actually know where my ancestors came from. My mother is adopted and we have no idea who her birth parents are and where they came from. My mom was adopted though by an Ashkenazi Jewish couple. Ashkenazi Jews are those who originated in Eastern Europe (which is many different countries). Two years ago she took one of those DNA cast and the results said she was Irish. I don’t know if I fully believe in these tests, but it does explain why both my mother, myself and my younger brother do not have the stereotypical large Jewish nose like my father. My dad is the only birth child of three children. His older sister was adopted from Seattle and his younger sister was adopted from South Korea. Despite the fact that they don’t look like each other, they still love each other and my grandparents love them all equally.
Adoption is something that’s been very big in my family. I plan on adopting some day. But adoption leaves a lot of questions about yourself. Where am I actually from? What illnesses might I have in the future? What culture and experiences could I be missing out on? Who am I? Being the daughter of an adopted person can be confusing. I don’t always know how to answer the question where are you from. I know that I’m from a loving family. I know that both sides have been in New York for many generations. I don’t know what European country I come from, because as Jewish people my family has been kicked out of many different countries. My last name comes from the German word Bléch, which means Tin; the job that we believe my ancestors had was a Tinsmith. Despite the fact that my last name comes from a German word, I have my great-great-great-great grandfather’s passport from Russia (he was the first to come to the USA but used a Russian passport to emigrate here). We think we are from Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia (maybe Germany too, but no one actually thinks that). I may never know and I am okay with that. I have no idea what race I truly am, but I know who I chose to be. I chose to be a proud Jewish New Yorker!


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