Home > PUM introduces you to the Sufrin family, dedicated to giving back to the community, raising their children with strong Jewish family values and traditions.

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Celebrating Children in Pittsburgh: PUM introduces you to the Sufrin family, dedicated to giving back to the community, helping to break down racial barriers and stereotypes while raising their children with strong Jewish family values and traditions.   

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” —Albert Einstein

PUM catches up with the Sufrin family, one of Western Pennsylvania’s lifelong Pittsburgh families, who proudly share their joy and pain along their adoption journey. In so many ways, the family feels their adopted son was a miracle and a blessing all wrapped up in a special bundle of love, a perfect son, created just for their family.

After an extensive, tedious, unpredictable and dare we say expensive adoption process, it was over a year of trials and tribulations before the family would be able to successfully adopt, but in 2009, their prayers were answered and the Sufrin family gratefully welcomed Maccabee Moses Sufrin to their family with opened arms.  

Maccabee, who is currently 5 years old, is a biracial 5 year old boy of Irish and African-American descent; he is named after The Maccabees, who were the leaders of a Jewish rebel army that took control of Judea, which at the time had been a province of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE. They reasserted the Jewish religion, partly by forced conversion, expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest and reduced the influence of Hellenism and Hellenistic Judaism.)

 In their own words, Lauren and Adam Sufrin share with PUM their thoughts about the state of children in Pittsburgh and also offer their ideas on how they feel we can help to take Pittsburgh to the next level by improving the lives of some of our region’s most vulnerable and precious citizens - our children.

As parents, they are dedicated to raising their children in the Jewish faith and they hope one day they will also emerge as leaders who care enough to give back to their communities. 

 

 

  

 

Pictured: The Sufrin family, Lauren, Adam, 9 year old Hallie and 5 year old Maccabee. Click image to enlarge. 

Lauren Anderson Sufrin, is a born and bred Pittsburgher who grew up in the region and attended Kenyon College in Ohio, and later Chatham College here in Pittsburgh. She has a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of social work, and has deep roots here in Pittsburgh where she says most of her family still lives in the area for the most part. Lauren sits on the board of the Sarah Heinz foundation, which is a boys and girls club located on Pittsburgh's Northside. The organization helps about 1200 kids by providing them with afterschool care and additional educational opportunities and activities.  

 

PUM: Tell us more about the significance on why your family decided to adopt?

Lauren Anderson Sufrin: I think for us the primary goal was to complete our family, we wanted one more child, we had a child, a biological child, and then had secondary infertility, to the point of where we really weren’t able to have a second child and had gone through fertility treatment and then started looking at adoption as an option to get one more child, we just wanted one more, that’s all.

PUM: And when you were looking for your child did it matter to you the race or sex?

Lauren Anderson Sufrin: No, I think there were votes. I think Hallie my daughter wanted a girl, and I said either one, I loved having a daughter, and so I said, well maybe a girl, but I said either one would be fine. I think the best story of that was Adam said it doesn’t’ matter, it doesn’t matter at all, it will be fine with either one, and we were walking through a hotel in Las Vegas and he is holding Mac and he turned to me and said, I lied, and I said what did you lie about, he said I really wanted a boy (laughs). So he got his boy, so it’s worked out.

PUM: In fact you adopted a biracial boy, raising a biracial boy, of African–Irish decent, raising him Jewish. Tell us more about that process.

Lauren Anderson Sufrin: Well our family is Jewish and we knew no matter, whether we got a boy or a girl, we would go through the process of conversion, and so that the child could be raised in our faith as well.  So when Mac was about a month old he had some health issues, initially so we waited a little bit, we had the Rabbi come and we did the Bris at home with our family and friends.  And actually we had two Rabbi’s because we had the Rabbi from our Temple come and talk about children and adoption and the Mitzvah of having children and it was lovely and so he has been converted and when we go to Temple he goes with us and he will start his religious school education probably in second or third grade and he will go through the process of his Bar Mitzvah and for all purposes he is Jewish just like every other Jewish kid. 

PUM: As a mom of a biracial boy, you have had some discrimination also in the Jewish faith, are you more aware of some of the plights he may encounter in the future because of his race and nationality?

Lauren Anderson Sufrin:  Honestly, it’s terrifying,  I think when I look at Mac and I see all of Mac’s potential we don’t look at color anymore with Mac, it’s just Mac, and I joke, that he will have to be a Jewish doctor because I’m a Jewish mother and that’s what you are supposed to be,  and really for Mac the sky is the limit because we have no preconceived notions other than we want him to be successful in whatever he decides to do, it’s really his choice. I think the plight that I look at is I look at other little guys his age and this is such a segregated city, and this is such a city where people of color for the most part are incredibly disadvantaged, they are disadvantaged in terms of their housing, in terms of their jobs and in terms of their education and sometimes I look at kids who are just his age and  I think the experience they are having is so vastly different and it shouldn’t be so vastly different -- all these little guys all their moms should look at them and say well of course you can be a doctor, whether you are Jewish or not Jewish because you should have the opportunities, and so I probably almost have a little guilt, because I know he is going to have so many opportunities, and so many boys just like him aren’t going to have those opportunities just because of the world that we live in.

As far as discriminatory experiences, I mean we really have been lucky and had virtually have had none; we have had people occasionally ask us, and people couldn’t figure out what the relationships were, because we use to have a nanny who was biracial and so a lot of people thought he was her child. A lot of people are fairly convinced Adam and Mac use to go to my gym together, and people were convinced his wife was African-American,  because I never took him, and one day I showed up and they said, how can you be Mac’s mom, it never occurred to them that he would be an adopted child. We had a little bit of that and occasionally people do a little bit of a double take, but we are very opened with the fact that he is adopted and it’s a great thing and we are thrilled to have him and for us it’s all just really positive.

PUM: With all the different challenges you went through to adopt a child would you still recommend the process to other families?  And what would be your advice?

Lauren Anderson Sufrin:  We went through a tremendous amount of effort to have a second child, a lot of ivf, a lot of fertility treatments, I think under the perception that was the way to have our family completed, and when we got Mac, there was a point in which we both looked at each other and said, this is so the child that we were meant to have he is just the child that we were meant to have, and I think he could have been in France and he would of still been the child, somehow he would of ended up to us, because he is literally destined to be ours, so honestly I say to people over the years, I would have never gone through fertility had I known Mac was going to be the child that I got so I would encourage people to adopt,  I think the sad part is that it still is so difficult, long, sometimes heartbreaking and certainly an expensive process that I think people are really detoured by it, and intimidated by it,  and it shouldn’t be like that, it should be that crazy.

PUM:  Looking at Pittsburgh and what we need to do especially as it relates to improving our city for our children, especially the disenfranchised children, what are your thoughts about what we need to do in the city?

Lauren Anderson Sufrin:  I think we’ve made the movements in the right direction, I think when you look at something like The Pittsburgh Promise, I think that’s a terrific idea and  I can’t emphasize to people enough how unbelievably cool and unique and wonderful that program is that you are going to get money for your secondary education and how important that is, but I think there is still a lot of kids as we know, who can’t take advantage of it because they are either dropping out or they are not getting the  grades, they don’t know or they don’t see sort of the direction, so it’s a huge, it’s one of those things that not one thing is going to fix, you know we know that this is multi-generational poverty, we know these are kids that are going to schools that are not great schools.

We now have this influx of these cool young professionals, and these great companies like Google and the oil and gas, and if you are going to live in Pittsburgh and you are going to spend your money here, and you are going to have your family here, then maybe Google can adopt a couple of Pittsburgh elementary schools in the worst neighborhoods, that are getting the worst schools, the worst scores, and maybe Google can go in and help with some technology that would help these kids out, maybe  they could say you know part of your Google experience is we like you to spend ten hours a month tutoring kids or something like that, maybe we can take kids from a school that is really struggling and have them come to Google and be interns, or have some sort of thing, where kids can see what it could be.

We need to give them a dream and give them the tools to get to that place, we need to be able to feed kids at school and get them nutrition, it’s just a global thing, and it’s going to take a long time to help out people who are not use to being helped out at all.

PUM: Lauren, tell us more about yourself, where did you grow up?

Lauren Anderson Sufrin:  I grew up in Pittsburgh and went to Kenyon College in Ohio, and Chatham College here in Pittsburgh, and I have a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of social work, so I’m a born and bred Pittsburgher, my family still lives here for the most part, and I’ve gone away for a little bit, but then I’ve come back. I think it’s a great place to live and a great place to raise a family.

My husband is also a born and bred Pittsburgher and we are very committed I think as a family to Pittsburgh.  I sit on the board of the Sarah Heinz  foundation, which is a boys and girls club in the Northside we have 1200 kids that we provide with afterschool care we feed them dinner, we help them do their homework every night, you know these are kids again who might go home and nobody’s there and nobody’s going to feed them, nobody’s going to help them do their Algebra, but Sarah Heinz provides that kind of experience for them we teach them to swim, they have to do a sport, they have to do leadership stuff so they learn about citizenship and leadership and respect and all the things that you would think people would know but they don’t get taught it, and we provide them I think with a lot of great examples, older kids who have been there for a long time, learn to mentor younger kids, and bring them up through the ranks and they get more and more responsibility. It’s been a great experience, I mean I feel a place like Sarah Heinz is sort of one of those little pieces that people don’t know that much about but they are really critical to a lot of kids being pretty successful, kids who would again would fall through the cracks, they get caught there.

 

 

 

 Adam Sufrin doesn’t hold back the fact that he is a proud and attentive husband and father, who appreciates life as a retiree, but he especially values his families ability to be able to contribute donations to a number of organizations in the region.

Giving back to the community is a way of life for Adam who learned so many important lessons from his parents growing up in Pittsburgh. He is the son of the late Marianne and Adolph Sufrin, his mother was a Holocaust survivor, and his father was a very prominent and successful businessman in Pittsburgh who created and established a very lucrative office supply company.

While life is great, Adam doesn’t forget the values and wisdom his parents instilled in him where they emphasized the importance of working hard in life, and finding ways to give back to the community while also being a leader with a purpose.

He treasures the enormous gifts and wisdom his parents gave him and he is committed to passing down these valuable ethics deeply-rooted in the Jewish faith to his children.  

 

PUM: For you as a dad, why was the adoption process important to you?

Adam Sufrin: My role was primarily to support Laurens efforts in the adoption; she had more of an emotional need to adopt.  I certainly wanted to have another child in our family, but as far as the process it was more supportive than actively doing it.

PUM: Now that the process has taken its course, the end result is you got your boy.

Adam Sufrin: Yeah, I’m one hundred percent satisfied with the way that things turned out, the process was an ordeal, the end results were wonderful.

PUM: Your thoughts on being a Jewish dad raising a biracial boy?

Adam Sufrin:  I know at least in the Jewish faith it really doesn’t make a difference the skin color of a human being as long as they have the same ethics, ethos of the world, their world view of Judaism is more important to me than any skin color.

PUM: What are your hopes and desires for your children?

Adam Sufrin: To grow up, be leaders rather than followers, get a good education and try to make a positive impact on the world, try to treat other people with respect, and help people. We are in a position to help people and be happy just like every other parent I hope.

PUM: Helping other people, why is that important to you and your  family?

Adam Sufrin: We are in a position to give back and we included Hallie in some of the decision making and we intend to do that to Mac as well.

PUM: What sort of charities are you interested in?

Adam Sufrin: We have given money to multiple food related organizations like Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, Americas Second Harvest for instance, and we support other organizations that don’t necessarily help people directly, that’s kind of the general direction that we go.

PUM: Tell us more about your family, your mom.

Adam Sufrin: My mom was a Holocaust survivor, she came over from Germany in 1939, her family were skilled industrialist, so they were kept around by the Nazi’s as long as they were useful and at the point where they were no longer useful they felt the need to go, and they bribed their way out.

My dad was a very successful, intelligent risk taking person, we had a family business for many years selling office supplies, and that put us in a position for me and my brothers to be where we are, I’m currently retired.

PUM: What important lessons did your mom leave with you?

Adam Sufrin: She left with me with the fact that you can survive, even if bad things happen to you, that you got to fight and be independent and not rely on others to do things for you. You have to fight for what you believe in and stick with it and don’t waiver and have the belief that you can do it. 

My dad was the same way, he was a workaholic and he worked until pretty much until his death, they weren’t quitters and they taught me never to quit.   

PUM: You are a lifelong Pittsburgh family, what do you feel we need to do to help to improve the lives of some of our children in the region?

Adam Sufrin: I’m very big at teaching leadership, give a man a fish you feed them for a day, teach a man to fish you feed them for life. People have become much too dependent on entities that in the long run aren’t helpful. I believe that people have to take matters into their own hands, and fight for themselves, and leadership is important, to be a leader rather than be a follower.

I know where my kids go to school they are very big on teaching leadership and I’m all for it.

PUM: What gives you joy on a daily basis in terms of what you are doing with your children?

Adam Sufrin: Seeing them evolve in a positive direction, trying to teach them to be good people but be independent at the same time. We have the means to do good things and help people and I want to pass that on to the kids, and try and teach them to be helpful. If you teach children to be independent and be leaders rather than being dependent it can only be beneficial in the long run. 

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