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New Roots in the Holy Land

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons; Feb 27, 2012 at 03:23:08 AM

Last year, posted an article about Geoff & Jenny Isaacs who – through the magic of Internet and some diligent genealogical research, was able to reunite the branches of a family that had lost contact for more than 100 years.

Geoff, a researcher living in New Zealand. had discovered (at age 63!) that he had been adopted. He found out that his paternal grandfather was Jewish, and may have descended from Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition.

But "finding family" was only the first part of this amazing story. The second part was Geoff's reconnecting with his Jewish heritage. Here’s how it happened:

Geoff and his wife, Jenny, who had no Jewish roots, began to read voraciously about Judaism and Israel. In August 2009, they visited Israel and reunited with their cousins. When they returned to New Zealand, they began to look for ways to connect with the local Jewish community – not an easy task, since their metropolitan area had zero Jews. But they did make contact with a synagogue in Auckland, changed back to the original family name, and were encouraged by the rabbi to study.

Throughout the year, they moved further toward Jewish observance – cleaning their house for Passover, and plunging into the online courses offered on

They rolled full steam ahead, and in February 2011, they stepped off the plane at Ben Gurion airport as new immigrants. Geoff & Jenny settled in the northern mystical town of Tzfat, jumped into Hebrew ulpan, and continued their Jewish studies. They were determined to convert to Judaism.

On January 30, 2012, Geoff & Jenny Isaacs dunked in the mikveh, returning to the heritage of Geoff's father.

Geoff Isaacs

That wasn't quite the end though. Geoff & Jenny then needed to have a Jewish wedding ceremony. The rabbi who had overseen their conversion was so moved that he contacted Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, which sent a reporter and photographer to cover the event. The Israeli cousins came to celebrate, along with other relatives from Europe and the U.S.

This story is truly incredible. Geoff & Jenny didn't wait for spirituality to strike them through osmosis, nor did they assume that events would spiritually uplift them. Granted, God had performed a miracle by reconnecting Geoff with his long-lost cousins. But then they took that spark and turned it into something transformational.

In a world where so many people are searching for spirituality, that's a powerful lesson. Each of us can grow if we just read the signs the Almighty is sending us, and take the step.

with thanks to Laurie Rappeport

February 27, 2012

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