Susan Silverman is the author most recently of Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World, which focuses on her family's experiences with international adoption. She also is the co-author of Jewish Family and Life. She is a rabbi and is the founding director of the group Second Nurture, and she lives in Jerusalem.
Q: You write, "I very much want my family's story to put the orphan crisis in a personal light as part of the fight against the prevailing anti-international-adoption forces." What are some of the attitudes you hope to change?
A: Systemically we sacrifice children on the altars of politics and ideology. It's impossible to imagine that anyone would choose for themselves, or their own children, a childhood outside of family care either in institutions or on the streets.
Yet, in the name of cultural preservation, of heritage rights, we keep children in their home countries at all costs -- to them. If we really prioritized kids, we would make sure they were in families.
Q: In the book, you describe some very personal moments in your family's life. How did your family members react to the book?
A: As my youngest said, "Sababa (Arabic slang, used in Hebrew, for "Cool!"). Every family is weird in its own way."
Q: You've written that the book's title "seemed to have so many meanings." How did you come up with "Casting Lots," and what does it signify for you?
A: Finding a title that I felt captured the book was really hard. "Casting Lots" came from thinking about the Purim story -- a central theme in finding Adar -- where lots were cast to determine a fate. And we had cast lots, in a sense, to determine our family.
Also, like casting roles in a play, we "cast" people in our family; like casting a net we were reaching out into the world; and like casting a fishing line we had a general direction but didn't know where we would land. And we cast the lot of our children with us and with the Jewish people.
Q: What role do you see your organization Second Nurture playing when it comes to the future of international adoption?
A: The goal is to radically increase the number of children in permanent, loving families.
First, we educate strong, tight-knit communities in North America (e.g., churches, synagogues, community centers, schools) about the orphan/foster care crisis and our opportunity to become permanent, loving families for these kids and encourage a number of families from the same community to each adopt a child or sibling group.
We will then facilitate the adoption of children who come from the same region – ideally the same orphanage -- or all from the local foster care system, such that the children continue pre-existing relationships and/or have a network of shared experience.
All the way, we will develop materials for various aspects of community life -- such as religious school, adult education and holiday enrichment -- that will integrate the particular issues and questions raised by adoption, the adoption process, and then adoption and families -- to enrich the shared conversation and experience as well as cultivate networks within and from outside the community to address issues such as physical and mental health, identity development, and belonging.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm promoting the book and Second Nurture, hoping that the book tours and publicity will help get Second Nurture off the ground.
I'll be in the U.S. most of November and again for March on book tours and, between book events, meeting with potential partners ad visiting congregations to introduce Second Nurture.
In another realm, I am working to re-envision Israel's response to asylum seekers. If we are the Start-Up Nation, let's create a Start-Up University tailored to different refugee populations -- in Israel that means largely Eritreans and Sudanese.
If we can work with, for example, Eritreans here to create a curriculum and training, then export that program to expat Eritreans around the world, there will be half a million people who can someday return to Eritrea and build a democratic, Start-Up Nation of their own! We can be a light in that way if we choose to.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I am so grateful for your interest in my book and work!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb