In honor of both Easter and Passover, we want to share Debra’s 23andMe story.
A Christian, Debra didn’t just read the Bible, she began to immerse herself in the Torah, the first five books of Hebrew Scriptures that are also part of the Old Testament. In looking into her own family history she didn’t have her parents around anymore to ask about her ancestry so went to the DNA and tested with 23andMe.
What she didn’t know was that those two paths would cross in a most unexpected way.
A teacher by profession, Debra has always had an innate desire for knowledge. After going through a very difficult divorce she sought solace in the scripture.
“As a Christian, I wanted to understand and appreciate the Jewish roots of Christianity. So I began researching the Torah,” she said.
A three-year spiritual journey ensued. Debra delighted in the learning, immersing herself in the customs and celebrating the holidays.
“I remembered a preacher once saying, ‘If you want to be blessed, bless Israel.’” She said. “And here was this treasure of traditions that were unknown to me.”
Friends and colleagues would invite Debra for Passover and to break the fast on Yom Kippur. She celebrated Purim and Sukkot, joining in on the readings and embracing the customs.
“When my kids come home they know if it’s Friday we are going to have Sabbath prayers and they look forward to it,” she said.
As she continued on this spiritual journey, Debra took a personal journey as well when a few months ago her daughter suggested they both join 23andMe. Ever eager for discovery, Debra agreed. Waiting for the results was the hardest part.
“My daughter and I submitted our samples without acknowledging any family connection,” she said. “23andme recognized that we were close relatives and labeled her as my daughter. Wow!”
But the biggest revelation came when they both reviewed their ancestry results. They had tried other genealogy services in the past and were left with more questions than answers. This was not the case with 23andMe.
“I’ve known all my life I was African American — all I had to do was look in the mirror but this — this was so exciting. My most unexpected, but highly prized revelation was that we have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry,” she said.
Debra was surprised and elated. After three years of immersing herself in the Jewish faith she now could say that was REALLY part of her. She immediately shared the news with the rest of her family, friends and colleagues.
“One of the secretaries who works with me is Jewish and we were always talking about the holidays and such. When I got my 23andMe results I ran down the stairs and I said “Look! We’re cousins!”
“It was such an honor to be in the room,” she said. “For four years, I had observed Passover at home alone, but this year, I stepped out and made contacts within the Jewish community. I am so thankful and grateful for 23andme.”
Through all of this Debra only has one regret, that her mother has passed and she was not able to share this news.
“Years ago, my mother worked with a man who was Jewish. She spoke highly of this man who worked along side her in a factory in St. Louis, MO and was not bothered that she was Black. She remembered that this man and his family were so kind to her.”
23andMe provides genetic testing services for informational purposes; your results may or may not help you to search for or identify relatives or family members.