In first person… Adopted Asian child plunges into Judaism

Our Vietnamese daughter, Lianna, must have entered the world with a pintele yid — and pieces of many other paths. This orphaned and malnourished child from Da Nang came to our family at age 3-1/2.

The following year, the late Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank, then the spiritual leader of Aquarian Minyan, performed Lianna's conversion ceremony. An Orthodox-ordained rabbi's spiritual journey included a pit stop in Zen Buddhism. Was this the right holy man for our Asian daughter's conversion or what?

When it came time to recite the Sh'ma, Lianna sang it beautifully, in the way that only children can. I looked at our family. Lianna is Vietnamese. My wife is from Eastern European Jewish stock. I am Chinese. In my lifetime, both my mother country, China, and my adopted country, America, waged war against this little girl's people. And here she is singing the holy prayer in Hebrew after only one year in this country.

Light shines from this child who expresses kindness easily. She understands the noble truths about suffering and compassion. My daughter, who came from a nation of survivors, is joining a nation of survivors.

For Lianna's Chinese name, I chose Ch'ao-an, "bridge of peace." Her Hebrew name, Eliana Tiferet, means "My God has answered." That day, I knew that God had blessed these names. Lianna jumped playfully into the mikvah, and into the Jewish world, without any concern about all the bridges she had to cross to arrive at this pool of water.