I have a friend whose parents were German Jews who’d escaped right before the Holocaust. They were both college professors and completely secular. And deeply messed up by the Holocaust, as you can imagine.
My friend has no interest in her Jewishness and never even mentions it. It’s not a part of her life at all. So one of her daughters went on that birthright trip to Israel, and now she feels completely Jewish, even started a Jewish organization on her campus in the deep South.
I might have told this story before and I don’t remember because with thousands of posts it’s impossible to keep track. But I just met this daughter, and she confirmed the story. It’s fascinating to me how identity works. My friend says she feels very weird whenever she hears het daughter say, “I’m Jewish” because every time she has to remember where that comes from.
The entire family speaks fluent German, by the way, and travels to Germany all the time. And the girls’ father is actually an ethnic German who learned the language of his ancestors from my friend.