How her risky confession brought these twin brothers together.

For years, Louise Wise Services, a prominent Jewish adoption agency in New York City, was in the habit of separating sets of twins and triplets and placing them into different adoptive families.

Why an Adoption Agency Decided to Separate Twins at Birth

During a controversial time in the agency’s history, their consulting psychiatrist, a woman by the name of Dr. Viola Bernard, believed twins would do better being raised in separate homes with more individual attention.

There was also a huge interest in studying the nature versus nurture debate: which was more influential on a child, their innate personality or the way they were raised?

These two things created the perfect storm. After separating twins and triplets, the agency engaged in a study to follow them. Policies dictated that the adopting parents were not even to know that their baby had siblings, much less a twin. Researchers followed the adopted children for years.

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“My father and mother were never told that there was a twin brother,” Doug Rausch told ABC News. Instead, they were told that their new son was to be part of a study on child development and that researchers would come to their home to observe and ask questions a few times a year. Rausch remembers those visits. But he never knew he had a twin brother.

Neither did Howard Burack. Raised in an upper-middle-class family in New York, he always knew he was adopted. It was through Louise Wise Services that Howard was adopted when he was just a baby. The agency had also arranged the adoption of Howard’s twin brother…to a different family.

And all of this could have stayed under wraps, if it wasn’t for a brave woman who worked for the agency. 

The Important Secret One Woman Had Kept

One day, Burack made a phone call to the adoption agency to get his medical records. He was shocked to learn that he had a twin brother; but the agency refused to release that brother’s personal information. According to state laws, they said, they could tell him that he had a twin, but they couldn’t tell him anything else. That was like a punch in the gut for Burack.

“[You] just feel like you’re missing something, just don’t know what it was,” he remembered. “You can’t touch it. You can’t feel it. Something was there.”

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Burack said he thought about this new information every day. He started looking for people who looked like him everywhere he went. It became an obsession.

Rausch, on the other hand, received a different kind of phone call.

As the agency was preparing to stop offering new adoption services, a worker there received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. She knew she was dying, and she couldn’t imagine taking the agency’s secret to her grave. But she also knew she could lose her job or face other punitive actions for what she was about to do.

In the end, she had to clear her conscience. So she decided to make a few phone calls. One of those was to Doug Rausch.

“She even told me,” Doug Rausch said, “She goes, ‘I’m not supposed to do this. I could get in a lot of trouble, but I’m going to do it anyway.’” Rausch said he’ll always be thankful that she did.

That’s when the woman told Rausch that he has an identical twin brother. Rausch, who was driving when he got the call, remembers the moment clearly: “I literally almost drove off the road. It’s not something you ever expect to hear.”

Rausch told the woman to give his phone number to his brother. She did. When a man named Howard Burack called him, it would change his life forever.

Burack said of that first phone call, “It was, you know, like I knew this person my whole life. It was amazing. I think we may have exchanged pictures and stuff after that and you know, it’s just like, man, you just see yourself in a picture. It’s, you know, it’s pretty strange.”

How One Woman’s Risky Confession Brought Two People Together

two men sitting with 2 dogs
Photo by Alena Darmel

The two set a date to meet in person. They chose the Columbus, Ohio airport for their reunion. It was an emotional moment, to say the least.

“It’s like you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, and I think we hit it off right away,” Burack said in a TV interview with ABC’s 20/20. “Instant connection. I felt like I knew Doug my whole life.” Those decades spent apart because of separate adoptions had not erased the twin bond.

Said Rausch, “It was just the funniest thing I’d ever seen because it literally was like looking in my reflection, but then the reflection would move and do something I wasn’t doing. … I don’t know how to describe that and I don’t think most people can relate to it, but it was a very, very weird feeling.”

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After catching up, the two quickly realized how much they had in common. “We lived parallel lives essentially,” Rausch said.

They both got married in 1992. They both coached hockey and had children who played the sport. Both of their children wore the number 2 jersey. They also both carry their wallets in their front pocket.

The reunion was celebratory. Finding a twin they didn’t even know they had was like finding that last puzzle piece that had been lost for years. It filled a void. And they have one woman and her courageous phone call to thank.