English

I Google My Mother 


Late one night in June 2001, slightly after midnight, Rony Epstein called his childrens from his office at the Sadna Internet Branding Agency.  His childrens,  Shai & Yoav were at home in Tel Aviv. "I told them, "I googled my mother," he recalls. And that's how after two years, the search of his life came to an end. At age 40, Rony Epstein finally found his mother online, by entering some keywords into the Google search engine And became the first man in the world that found his biological mother in Google!.


Rony Epstein was born on Sept, 21 l961 in the Ashkelon Hospital.  His mother, Alma Swartz was 20 years old, an American, coming to Israel via Berlin to kibbutz Zikim, the best  place for this lost young woman already four months pregnant.  Plans were then made for adoption of the future baby in Jerusalem. After the summer drought, on the first rain, the kibbutz little children dancing and singing a song of "Yoray" the Hebrew for this special rain, Rony that night was born and so he was to be named "Yoray"... "David - Yoray".


Rony, that night was born and so he was to be named 'Yoray', David-Yoray'


When David-Yoray Swartz was a one month old he was given to adopted to Yosef and Shimona (Mona) Epstein who were then living in the  'Abu Tor' neighborhood of Jerusalem.  They decided to name him Ron (joy in hebrew), After hearing from the adoption official some details about Alma, Ron biological mother - a story  Moma found moving- they decided to keep David as the boy's middle name. The court in the adoption order allowed them to keep the name given to him by the biological mother. The parents wanted to keep Ron's biological link.

The adoption order issued by the court half a year later stated that "Dr. Yosef Alexander Epstein and Shimona Epstein shall adopt the minor David Schwartz as a son. The document added, "The applicants are authorized to change David's name to Ron David Epstein."

Yosef and Mona... they decided to keep David as the boy's middle name

Rony Epstein collected all the documents related to the search for his biological mother, documents he received from his father, in a book he called "Looking for Alma," which he distributed to friends and family. In addition to a photocopy of the adoption order that he get also from his father, the book contains some other information that he learn from his adoption file no. 153.62 - a handwritten item stating that the infant was born at 9:40 P.M. and weighed 3.2 kilograms, that his maternal grandfather arrived for the birth, that the mother immigrated to Israel five months pregnant, and that the father was a Christian German who denied his paternity and the mother does not know where he is.

Before deciding to adopt, the Epsteins had tried several times to have a baby of their own. "After a series of miscarriages, our gynecologist, Prof. Sadovsky, said he had found no physiological problems," Yosef Epstein notes. "He thought it was something psychological and suggested that we adopt. Afterward, we had two daughters of our own, Gili and Zohar." 

After we adopt Rony we had two daughters of our own, Gili and Zohar

The official in charge of the adoption service, Ella Nelkan, was a friend of the Epsteins. She was familiar with the story from the moment Alma Schwartz decided to put her son up for adoption, and because of this they learned a few details about the biological mother that they otherwise would not have known.

"I was the last to know," Rony Epstein says. "Everyone knew that I was adopted and that my father was a German before I did. There was no mistaking my physical appearance. The difference between me, a blond blue-eyed kid, and my parents and sisters, all of whom are dark, was very obvious, and my parents were always being asked where they got such a blond child. My father is a chemist, so mom would say, 'Yosef mixed genes in the lab and this is what came out.'  "Besides that," Rony continues, "there was this neighbor who would curse at the kids for making noise when she was trying to nap, but for me she had special curses. One time she even called me a Nazi. I went to ask her why she used that word and she was embarrassed and told me to ask my mother. I just forgot to ask.

Everyone knew that I was adopted and that my father was a German before I did

"When I was six, on the day before my first day of school, my mother decided to tell me I was adopted, because she knew that in school I would meet new children who didn't know me and that my unusual looks would arouse questions. We had just come back from the pool, and after the shower she sat down next to me on the bed and told me that she had not given birth to me, even though I was completely her child. She had not given birth to me because she had been unable to give birth for many years, and the person who gave birth to me was a very young woman who was not from Israel who knew she would not be able to raise me. She never said that someone had decided to give me away. She said 'We received you.' 'Received' is a very nice word. Everything she told me went in one ear and out the other. I knew I was adopted, but it wasn't an issue."
 
Rony Epstein has blue eyes and light blonde hair, as well as a bronze tan from his sailing and out door sporting activities. Rony, who is in training for a triathlon, rides roud and mountain bikes and is very active in profetional yacht-raching. He owns his own bout, Nili B', which is docked in the Tel Aviv marina.


Rony owns his bout, Nili B' (Rony & Alma 2003)

Bronze tan from his sailing and out door sporting activities

Rony  was always an outdoors child, an athlete who turned the house into "a total zoo, with birds and snakes and of course cats and dogs." When he was in eighth grade he wanted to give practical expression to his attraction to nature, and at his request moved to Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, which was taking in children from established families. "It was an amazing period. I always called it paradise," he says. Moshe and Ilana Shlomker, "who to this day feel they are my parents in every respect," were his adoptive family at the kibbutz. It was then that he began to take an interest in sailing and joined the elite group from Kibbutz Sdot Yam, near Caesarea. This led him straight to the Navy.

This led Rony straight to the Navy...
After his military service he worked in the graphics department of the now-defunct daily Hadashot, and in 1988 he established a branding agency called Sadna - the first, he says, to work online. His projects include eBranding for all leading company and chain in Israel, International Hi-Tech company, Government Ministries, major corporations - for example Microsoft and Bank Hapoalim.  Recently Rony and Sana planned and designed the new eBranding of the President of Israel, Shimon Peres and the eBrand-web site of Migdal Insurance group, IKEA and intel Israel.


Finding Alma
He had just conceived the idea of setting up an Israeli phone book online ("Today it's taken for granted, but then it was considered innovative"), so he began going through the American listings. "Just to understand how the technology works, I typed in 'Alma Schwartz' and got a few dozen addresses and phone numbers throughout the United States." Every evening for half a year "I would wait until the last of my employees left, take a deep breath and try one of the numbers. If the voice was too young, I would say 'Sorry, wrong number.' In other cases I would only ask 'Were you born in Boston?' None of the dozens of women I spoke to were born in Boston, and I also discovered that people are not very nice when you call them by mistake.

Rony at 'Sadna' planning the search for Alma
"At the same time, I continued to promote my idea for a phone book. I wanted to develop a site called Sulamit, a database for mobile phone owners, who could register, list information with the site, and make calls, send e-mails and text messages through it. In the end, we wanted to have a site that would be called 'the million faces of Israel.'

I typed in 'Alma Schwartz' and got a few dozen addresses and phone numbers throughout the United States
"To advance the project, I tried to understand how people can find one another online, and through the Web I reached a detective agency owned by a person named Tim Lampron, who specializes in locating family members. I started to correspond with him about the Sulamit idea, and he informed me that in the United States it's very easy to locate people via the Population Registry database, which people like him can access with a federal permit."

Rony gradually came around to the idea of using Lampron's services to locate Alma, though he did not tell who she was.  On May 7, 2000, Lampron wrote him that the only Alma who was born in Massachusettes in 1941 was Alma Gale Swartz born on April 23rd to Edward and Lena,  a  salesman 30 year old and his 29 year old wife.


Alma Gale Swartz born on April 23rd to Edward and Lena

A week later, the investigator informed him that he thought Alma Schwartz was living in Maine under the name Alma Yoray, "the name I was given at birth." He said he had her address and phone number but that the phone had been disconnected.

At this stage, Rony decided that "I had enough faith in Tim to tell him that the woman was my mother. He was very moved by this and said, 'If so, I want you to pay me for expenses only.' Lampron went to Maine and started to question the neighbors in Alma's building. They referred him to a friend of hers named Sylvia Young, who lived next to Alma's dance studio. Thus, Lampron learned that Rony's mother was a dancer.

Lampron learned that Rony's mother was a dancer
"Tim started to ask her about Alma and she wondered and asked why he was interested. He told her his mother had gone to school in boston with her, was dying and wanted to renew the friendship.  She then told him Alma had indeed been in Israel.  In l976 she had changed her last name to Yoray, the name   she had given the baby, when she needed a stage name.

"Afterward I learned that in 1993, Alma had come to Israel to look for me and had even left a letter to be put in the adoption file in case I looked for her. But she didn't find me and went back to Maine, and since then had been spending most of her time in Poland." Sylvia Young also told the investigator that Alma had never married and had no children.


Alma had never married and had no children (New York 1969)

That familiar scent
Rony searches for Alma Yoray via Google proved fruitless. "I started to think about what I had to do in order to get a certain address in the search results. Google has a form you can fill out for this purpose. I created a kind of profile for Alma, as though she were a Web site, entered all the information I already had about her from Tim - Boston, dance, Israel, Poland, Maine - and registered her as though she were a site I wanted to promote. A while later I entered Google again and typed in her name. I received 10 results. The last item led to a list of all the Buddhist centers in Poland, and I found her name listed as the contact at a center in a village called Przesieka.

Friends of mine at the Polish embassy confirmed that she was active in the village especially with the children. At this stage I understood that there was no point in continuing the virtual search, and that the time had come to launch the real search."

As I got out of the car a man with a big black dog passed and I asked him about Alma

On July 25, 2001 He bought a plane ticket for Wroclaw, Poland and from there drove several what seemed like endless hours in a rented car to Przesieka,  "I thought I would go to the center of the village and simply ask where Alma Yoray lives,  But when I  got the the road just wound up the mountain with no center.

I started to bother the poeple along the roads leading off to valleys and then decided to just park the car and ask at the nearest house.  As I got out of the car a young man with a big black dog passed and I asked him where Alma Yoray lived and where the Buddhist center was. He asked me if I was a guest of the center. I told him I was and he told me he was a staff member and asked me to accompany him.


I asked him where Alma Yoray lived and where the Buddhist center was
 We arrived. It's a beautiful place, surrounded by a huge area of natural growth with apple trees and organic crops. He told me it was suppertime and that Alma was in the guest house dining with the meditation group. I straightened myself up a little, the way they do in American movies before a romantic rendezvous. I entered the dining room and asked who Alma was. They pointed her out to me, and she herself was sitting at the end of the table and raised a hand, like in school. I told her in English, 'I am a special guest from Israel.'

"That didn't make much of an impression on her, and I later learned that she had already had guests from Israel who had not impressed her at all. Because who comes for Vipassana meditation from Israel? Usually all kinds of bored women from Ramat Hasharon. I told her, 'I am bringing very important information.' I asked her to step outside with me.

From that moment she called me Ron-San... Alma and Rony July 26 2001

We started to stroll by the veranda, and I said, 'We know each other and don't know each other.' The penny didn't drop. I said, 'I am your son, David Schwartz.' Then she looked hard at me, and to dissipate the tension said, 'If you are my son, where did those ears come from?' Then, with surprising coolness, she said, 'This could be the most moving moment in the world, but before I start to cry I have to ask you a few questions.' I told her when and where I was born, and she said, 'What a fateful day.' From that moment she called me Ron-Son.

For two days they didn't sleep or eat; all they did was talk. "I brought her a great many pictures and she was very moved by the fact that in one fell swoop she had become not only a mother again but also a mother-in-law and a grandmother. I also showed her a letter I had written in advance in case I didn't find her."

Alma surrounded by her meditation freinds, Przesieka 2001
The letter, which is also included in the book, says: "From the day I was first told I have two mothers, I found myself thinking about you a great deal, trying to imagine what you look like. When my first child, Shay, was born, I was sorry I couldn't learn more about the person from whom we received our special genes. "I found you two weeks after my second son, Yoav, was born ... To come to Poland is like closing a circle for me, an opportunity to learn, finally, more about myself and discover whether I could be in touch with you."

In 1976 Alma moved to the coast of Maine to create her own school, small dance company, and to create a language of dance of her own. Rony and Alma, Beth, Main 2006
Alma had no previous experience in motherhood. "She said, 'Tell me how to host a son.' I told her she had to see to it that I had a room - not in the guesthouse, but in her house - and a bed. Naturally, I immediately called my father, Shay and Yoav, and she spoke with them, too. When I left, after four days, she cried for the first time. She also gave me letters for my father and for the sons."



 In the letter to Rony's father she thanked him for raising "Rony, whom I call David-Yoray, a very special person." To Shay and Yoav she wrote, "What a surprise to find out you are there - to become all at once a mother and grandmother."

"First of all, she is the end of some sort of incredible adventure. She is not mother, because Mona is my mother, both because she raised me and because of my love, and also because of the heroic way she fought her illness and death. But Alma is very close to me. I remember that the first time I embraced her I had the feeling that her scent was familiar, as though I had known her for many years."


Product of genetics
During the visit Rony also learned his mother's sotry.  She was born to first generation Russian-Jewish parents near Boston, and has one older sister.   Dedicated to dance since a child, in l960 she traveled to Berlin, Germany to study modern dance with Mary Wigman, mother of modernn dance in Europe, and the former teacher of her teacher in Boston.

Totally naive to the war, the holocaust, from the bright prosperety of America, she entered the war-torn gloom of Germany to a depressing school, whose students had all lived through the war.  (Wigman was recovering from pneumonia and seldom teaching.)  wihtout the language, as a Jew.  Her parents were in the proccess of divorce, returning home was not possible.

The Schwartz Family... Try to find Alma...
In shock, and the grief of the country... peerhaps the best that could have happened to her of all the horrible possibilities, she met a young German man, the soon father to Rony, who was a spy for possibly the Rusians and was later caught by the German police in her room and taken off to prison.  It was then she learned his real name.  That night the American Army also came to question her, and several months later in Israel. 
 
Rony says he understands his mother, she had harsh memories of childhood and had never considered either marriage of children for herself.  The birth, though, was traumatic and formative event in her life.  There was always a part of herself  wondering about him and a longing for reunion.


Photo of Alma on the coast of 'Caesarea' two weeks after the birth of 'Yoray' (Rony). The picture was taken by her father Edward Schwartz during the trip they made together in Israel. Alma remained on kibbutz Zikim for another six months. She wanted to make sure the baby 'David-Yoray' is given to a good family

After the birth, Alma remained on kibbutz Zikim for another six months, then traveled to England to begin dance again, but a serious illness of her father recalled  her in the first week back to Boston. Both there and later in New York City she danced.

In 1976 she moved to the coast of Maine to create her own school, small dance company, and to create a language of dance of her own.  She made group pieces, solo dance tales, and improvisation with various musicians.  1982 found ere In Warsaw, during their martial law and cold winter as her first introduction to the Poland where she would work on and off for the next six years, finally settling in the mountains of the southwest. For nearly twenty years this Polish translation of her Maine studio slowly evolved into a Vipassana meditation center and is where Rony showed up  in 2001.."

Alma decided to return to the United States and change her name toAlma Yoray

In 1993, when she came to Israel to look for her son, she approached the Children's Service. Through friends and connections here she reached a young man named David-Yoray, but he insisted he had nothing to do with her. "At first, she thought he was her son and was taking revenge on her," Rony says. The letter she wanted to have placed in the adoption file was apparently lost. She returned to Poland.

Since being located by her son, Alma Yoray has visited Israel many times. Rony and his sons went to meet her a few months after Rony returned from his first meeting with her. "The children fell in love with her at first sight, and afterward Rony and the sons went to visit her a few more times. We also all went on a heritage trip to America. She took us to Boston and showed us where she grew up and went to school, and then we went to New York and saw where she lived and studied and performed, and of course we went to Maine.


The letter she wanted to have placed in the adoption file was apparently lost

She came to Israel to visit us for the first time in 2002 and stayed with us for a few weeks, and immediately became great friends with my father and my sisters.

In 2006 after returning to Poland from a lengthly meditation in Burma, a growth the size of a flattened tennis ball was found in one of her lungs.  Poland has lost many of her work force including the medical professionals to Europe after she began a member of the EU.  She returned to Maine and the journey of alternative healing.  she  was  given six months to live by the medical establishment or maybe longer if she went the route of operation, Chimo, etc.  but she didn't think it was worth torturing her body and set out on an unknown path.  Now nearly three years later the tumor has not grown and she is healing.  It is hard work "you have to be willing to not know, to investigate, be alone in the confusion of what to do, to listen deeply inside yourself, and of course to change."

I believe I was always rather a fairy god mother to Rony

"I am apparently perfect proof that man is a product of both genes and the environment. We are very similar in our need for nature. When I come to a natural setting, my senses awaken. That's why I love the sea so much. She is the same. Both of us have a great appreciation for solitude. I achieve my solitude when I sail around the world or when I ride a bike, and Alma does it through her meditation and her ascetic way of life. I, too, am inwardly ascetic, even though I am surrounded by gadgets and live well materially. But I can make do with very little. The first time I came to Alma's center, in the heart of that wonderful place of nature and quiet, I felt that this was exactly how I would like to live. Strange, isn't it? After all, I live in the heart of technology, but what really appeals to me is life without a phone or a computer.

Rony, Alma and Yona

21 October 2010 - "Kadish"  for Alma soul at her funeral

From Alma...
There were many representations in the original article.  I have from my standpoint corrected these and it is why there are two styles of language.  I jut was in Israel for passeh and coincidently fro my birthday. It says in the article I was born in Feb. but I don't know how to use the computer well enoug to change it  to April.  Rony and the kids and a friend took me to the very tip of Israel, so wondrous, mysterious and dangerous.  I wished for an earphone telling me the history of each step I took, and until now for a guide book on how to be a suddenly mother, grandmother.  Now it isn't necessary, it was become more natural in its own way.  I believe I was always rather a fairy god mother to Rony.  So he has lost this for the real person and the unknowns inevitable in human relationships.  I wish we could have a dog...

Alma Yoray 1941-2010


Contact Rony Epstein:
+972 50 7267423

Contact Alma Yoray Meditation Center:
Vipassana Meditation Group,
From The Dhamma Encyclopedia.
Tradition: Theravada, Vipassana.
Address: 58 563 Przesieka, Poland.


Alma Yoray by James Young 1973
Rony and Alma 2008-2010