A friend once contemplated what he’d do if he woke up one morning and discovered he wasn’t Jewish. Because Judaism is central to his life, he believes he would do whatever it takes to become and remain unambiguously Jewish. In his case, that would mean an Orthodox conversion. But a cousin of mine, upon learning of my wife’s own Orthodox conversion, remarked that she’d have to think long and hard about converting if she suddenly learned she wasn’t Jewish.
For these two, this issue remains hypothetical. For you, however, it is starkly real. Or rather, it might be real. First, it is critical to determine if your son’s information is accurate. While some genealogical discoveries are incontrovertible, others are mired in ambiguity, and sometimes flatly incorrect. If I were in your shoes, I’d research every aspect of your mother’s family history and not leave one stone unturned. Your mother’s belief that she is Jewish came from somewhere - do not proceed further unless this is disproven beyond doubt.
If your son ultimately is correct, then decisions await you. While some insist that you are Jewish if you personally believe you are, Judaism has always been a communal venture. Being Jewish by individual decree will create problems for you and your children. The best course, should you wish to become Jewish, is to do it in a way that is recognized by the greatest possible number of Jews. But ultimately, the soul-searching and the decisions will be yours to make.
Harold Berman is a veteran Jewish communal professional, and the Director of J-Journey.org, which provides mentoring and support for intermarried families exploring the possibilities of observant Jewish life. Harold is also, with his wife Gayle, the co-author of “Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope,” about their “intermarriage gone Jewish.”