NEW YORK CITY — A Manhattan resident with a flourishing opera career hopes unsealing her grandfather’s Italian roots will help create la dolce vita.
Singer Jordanna Hurwitz Rose, 24, and her family want to access her late paternal grandfather’s adoption records because they believe his biological father (Rose's great-grandfather) was born in Italy. Proof of family history in Italy would allow Rose to get Italian citizenship — which could be key to the soprano’s success.
Rose’s father, San Diego lawyer Kenneth Rose, filed a petition in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, requesting that a judge open the confidential adoption records of his father, Robert Rose, in order to prove their heritage. If their hunch is true, the main beneficiary would be Jordanna, who could obtain dual citizenship and get gigs overseas.
“There are far more opportunities for opera singers, and substantially more opera houses, in Italy and other European countries,” Kenneth Rose said in an affidavit. “Work and resident visa requirements and restrictions pose a significant barrier to Jordanna’s professional pursuits that would be eased if she attains Italian citizenship."
Under New York law, adoption records are confidential, and without the consent of the birth parents, agencies are prohibited from sharing information.
However, a surrogate’s court judge can open the records if an adopted child makes a compelling argument that outweighs privacy concerns.
Generally, adopted children appeal to the court on medical grounds, hoping to learn of genetic predispositions. At least 10 people have filed petitions to open adoption records in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court in recent years.
For the Roses, it's all about Italia.
Kenneth Rose says his father, Robert, was born in 1917 in New York and died in 1970, but before his death, he told his family his biological dad was Italian.
Kenneth believes that, by unsealing the records, Robert’s pre-adoption birth certificate will show the name of his biological father and his Italian roots.
Italian law states that people of another country may obtain citizenship if they have an ancestor born on The Boot. The Roses would meet that requirement if the birth certificate shows what they think it does.
Jordanna, whose day job is at an artist management firm in Manhattan, studied opera performance at the University of British Columbia in Canada and can sing in Italian and other European languages.
Kenneth Rose’s affidavit notes that Italy has more classical opera houses than the United States and that Europe has programs for up-and-coming singers like his daughter.
“Italy (and other European Union countries) offer employment and training for opera singers essential to the career of professional opera singers,” he said.
Jordanna did not respond to an inquiry and Kenneth said he was unable to speak because he was traveling.
Italian citizenship would also benefit Kenneth Rose and his son. The two run a legal practice in California, and Kenneth Rose said he and his son are involved in international matters and need to reside temporarily in Italy for business.
In January, Manhattan Surrogate’s Court Judge Ritat Mella denied the Roses’ initial petition, ruling that their goal of obtaining dual citizenship did not outweigh the privacy rights of the biological parents.
However, Kenneth has appealed the decision, claiming the judge misapplied the law and that unsealing the records wouldn’t harm the birth parents since they’re dead.
Advocates for opening adoption records say there have been efforts to change the state law, but so far they have failed.
Attorney Thomas F. Liotti, who is not involved in the case, wrote the memoir “The Secret Adoption,” which chronicles his efforts to unseal his adoption case in Nassau County Surrogate’s Court. He called the state’s law archaic since advances in science show the health benefits of knowing one’s genetic history.
“You really need to know who your parents were so you can pass this along to your own children,” said Liotti, who successfully unsealed his records on the grounds that he wanted to know more about his heart condition.
“The reality is, I think science has to prevail here. There is a better way to do this," he said.