What would you do if, at the age of 64, you discovered that your parents were not your parents and everything you thought you knew about yourself and your family was a lie?
This is what Geoff Isaacs did: He embarked on a search for the truth that led him to discover his Jewish roots, become an Israeli, complete the process of conversion together with his wife, and marry again, this time under a chupa in Tzfat.
Geoff Lloyd, as he used to be known, was born in Birmingham in 1944. His parents divorced six months after his arrival and both subsequently remarried. At the age of 12, Geoff traveled alone to the other side of the world to join his father and older brother in New Zealand. Coming from industrial Birmingham, which still bore the scars of war, he fell in love with the lush landscapes of this new country. Family life on the other hand, dominated by the proverbial difficult step-mother, was another matter. In fact, from the very beginning, Geoff's family life was unsettled, disjointed and not entirely satisfying. But he learned to be self-reliant and establish his own life outside of the home.
And then, four years ago, Geoff's brother sent him a letter that began, "It is with regret that I write this letter to you as I know it will, of course, cause you some distress." Adoption documents were enclosed. Suddenly, Geoff's world came tumbling down. He had been adopted. His brother had known for some time that they were not really brothers. Nor were his parents any blood relation. They had all lied to him. Upset and angry, Geoff was determined to discover his true origins.
He embarked on a painstaking search, starting with obtaining his original birth certificate which bore the name, not Geoffrey Lloyd, but John Leslie Harris. His birth mother's name was there and he managed to track her down, only to be rejected once again. She refused to acknowledge or to see him.
Finding his fraternal parent proved to be more complicated as no father had been named on the birth certificate. However, he discovered the name Leslie Isaacs on the divorce documents of his biological mother. A picture began to emerge of a wartime romance during the extended period when his young mother's husband was away fighting the war. More dogged research located members of the Isaacs family, and a DNA test done by Geoff and an Isaacs in the States confirmed without a doubt that he had found his true family.
And to his surprise, it was a Jewish family. Geoff embraced the idea. He also discovered that his Jewish family in the US, the UK and Israel, were warm and welcoming. Feeling a strong family connectedness for the first time in his life, Geoff felt compelled to change his name to Isaacs, to come to Israel – as a new immigrant – and to undergo a conversion process marking his official acceptance into the Jewish People. Like the Biblical Ruth, his wife Jenny proved to be a remarkably supportive partner and underwent conversion along with her husband.
The culmination was that after 30 years of marriage, they were married again last month in Tzfat, under a chupa and according to the Laws of Moses and Israel. The wedding was attended by newfound friends and family, all of whom told Geoff and Jenny Isaacs, with a lump in their throats and a dab at their eyes, "kol hakavod and welcome home!"
Mimi Tanaman is currently writing a book about Geoff's life and remarkable journey. Her husband, Baruch, is one of Geoff Isaacs' newly discovered relatives.