More than 60 years after birth, man finds his family
By BONNIE LEE STRUNK
Special to The Press
Ed Rabinowitz invited his brother to stop by for breakfast.
That may not sound noteworthy or even interesting, but Rabinowitz, 69, and his brother had never met each other.
And that was only the beginning.
An adjunct communications professor at Lehigh Carbon Community College and Penn State, Rabinowitz, who was adopted at birth, has discovered “an instant family, eight of us kids,” in the past three years.
The off-and-on search for his biological family consumed more than 40 years of his life and has resulted in Rabinowitz publishing a book, “Bloodline,” about his tenacious journey.
Born in Liberty, N.Y., in the Catskill Mountains, Rabinowitz was adopted by “giving, caring parents,” he notes.
He says he grew up in “a nice neighborhood in the Bronx,” where he lived until he was 23, before moving around the country for various communications’ jobs in the corporate world and later in the classroom.
When he was 10 or 11 years old, Rabinowitz learned he was adopted and says he had “a burning curiosity. I wanted to know my history.”
Afraid of hurting his adoptive parents, Rabinowitz initially kept his search hidden.
Indeed, when his mother learned of his research, “she felt she was being rejected,” according to Rabinowitz.
But, over time, she came to accept his desire to know his story.
The process was decades long and tedious.
Rabinowitz says he often felt he had reached “a dead end, a brick wall.”
Numerous disappointments led to breaks, sometimes for a few years, in his search.
But persistence - many trips to libraries, museums, historical societies, courthouses and cemeteries - paid off.
So did a DNA ancestry test he took at home and sent off to 23andMe, trying to discover his genetic roots.
Rabinowitz says in January 2018 he received the results of his DNA test and learned he had a half-sister.
They were put in touch and, from her, he learned she had a half-brother, who would be a full brother to Rabinowitz.
“It was like a soap opera,” he recalls.
Some siblings knew of others and gave him useful information, but “no one knew it all,” he says.
Rabinowitz has been the glue, reaching out to connect the others.
He even found his biological father’s youngest sister, who is now his 82-year-old aunt.
Rabinowitz and his wife have visited his aunt in New York and have seen photos of his biological parents.
Rabinowitz’s discovery convinced him he had “dodged a bullet.”
He says he feels fortunate he was adopted.
“I was the lucky one who got out,” he insists.
His biological parents, both of whom were married multiple times and died before he discovered his birth family, “were not very nice people,” he reveals.
Asked about similarities among the siblings, Rabinowitz says he and all his brothers have beards.
In addition, “All have blue eyes. Several are musically inclined and some of us have similar personalities. We grew up in different situations, but there are quite a few commonalities.”
He has met in person all but one sibling, a half-sister in Tennessee.
His other siblings live in Cleveland, Chicago, Reading, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York.
Rabinowitz says all the relatives he connected with were “warm and welcoming, and all have unbelievable stories.”
When he mentioned his intention to write a book about his story, Rabinowitz says his siblings “thought it was a wonderful idea. They were receptive to talking to me and sharing family information, even though it opened old wounds.”
He describes some of their young lives, chronicled in the book, as “heartbreaking.”
In what he calls his “historic novel,” Rabinowitz says he has changed the names of his family members to keep their lives private.
But the 280-page book is based on real events and real people, he maintains.
“This is our family, captured on paper.”
Asked what it’s like to find a large instant family in his later years, Rabinowitz says, “We appreciate knowing each other. My curiosity brought us together. I’m glad they’re there. My life changed dramatically, all for the better.”
The discovery of his siblings has been an adjustment, but a positive one, he adds. “It exceeded my expectations.”
Jokingly he continues, “Now I support Hallmark. I have to buy birthday cards for a lot more people.”
Although it took decades, Rabinowitz’s youthful curiosity paid off.
“I am so glad I did this. It has been an amazing journey, beyond my wildest dreams,” he declares. “I still pinch myself this all really happened.”
“Bloodline” by Ed Rabinowitz is available through Amazon.com as a paperback book or e-book.