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What's Cantonese for Mazel Tov?

     Chinese and Jewish Families Mashup in New Jersey

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Kosher Chinese Food: The Experience

 

           Many Jews love Chinese food and don’t keep kosher. Offer them “Kosher Chinese Food” and they think, “Death Row Cuisine in a Poorly Funded Prison”. I didn’t grow up in a kosher home, and while my wife’s family kept kosher, they also kept the workarounds. Cover the table with newspape…

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Jews and Chinese Masking Together

 

            It’s Christmas Eve, 2016. Two masked men enter a Chinese family gathering of about fifty people at a home in northern Jersey. Their masks are not ski, stocking, or Halloween. They’re blue surgical. No one else is wearing one or is concerned about the two men who are.

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Ethnic Day, Part One

           

 

The preschool’s announcement: “Wednesday is Ethnic Day! Come dressed to show the place you came from.”

            “Came from?” Okay, Julianna’s grandparents, father’s side, arrived in New York from China and Vietnam in the 1960s, encouraged by communism’s ris…

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Ethnic Day, Part Two

 

 

            Okay, kids, let’s line up and celebrate America’s diversity, if only to piss off the nativists.

            After Ethnic Day, the preschool sent pictures of the costumed kids, all with faces pixilated. here’s a sari on some girls, a turban on a Sikh (I g…

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Jewish and Chinese Numerology: Mishugas with Numbers

 

            Most people think eighteen is just a good uniform number for a quarterback. For Jews, the number eighteen (chai, pronounced with phlegm + eye) means “life.” Remember the song in Fiddler? “To life, to life, l’chaim!”

            Snap your fingers and dance in…

Read more

The Hassid and the Girl from Shanghai

 

            In the spring of 2014, the third-year students at U of Virginia Law School looked forward to graduation. It was a busy time as they finished their academics and sought permanent jobs. The social highlight was Prom, law school edition.

            Tina Z, a third year,…

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Jewish Girl Dates Chinese Man. Why?

              As far as we knew, the boys in Sara’s life were all Jewish.

            There was a Jewish guy she dated during her vegetarian moment, senior year at Marlboro High. He challenged her to eat a hot dog and even offered money to do it. When he got up to two hundred bucks, she …

Read more

Ethnic Day, Part One

           

 

The preschool’s announcement: “Wednesday is Ethnic Day! Come dressed to show the place you came from.”

            “Came from?” Okay, Julianna’s grandparents, father’s side, arrived in New York from China and Vietnam in the 1960s, encouraged by communism’s rise in Asia. Her great-great-grandparents, mother’s side, landed in the city around 1900, from what is now Lithuania, encouraged by the Czar’s pogroms.

            Hence, the kid’s got a Chinese side and a Jewish side.

            But both her parents “came from” Jersey, and she already used her toddler-size Rutgers football tee for “Sports Day”. Her maternal grandfather (me) and grandmother provide no international flavor, born New Yorkers, with a little more than half our lives in Jersey. Three of her mother’s four grandparents were born in the Big Apple, too. Julianna could dress like the Statue of Liberty, which is in Jersey’s territorial waters. Pickup a Nerf version of the Statue’s pointy headdress at Newark Airport, crumple orange crepe paper on a toilet plunger for the torch. Add sandals and an oversized shmata for a robe, and she can stand astride the mouth of the Hudson, all three feet of her.

            It falls to her paternal grandparents to provide the exotic background. Fred, her Yeh Yeh (you’ll pronounce it wrong; I always do) grew up in Canton province (now called Guangdong), which is suburban Hong Kong, in the southern part of China. Ma Ma Betsy was also Cantonese but grew up in Vietnam. The dress Julianna wears above has traditional Chinese embroidery; dragons, birds, and flowers, in lucky-Chinese-color red (for happiness) silk with maybe-luckier-color gold (for wealth) designs. You’ve seen this motif if you’ve ever been to a Chinese restaurant.

            I guess there are other outfit choices. A conical bamboo peasant hat with simple pajamas suggests an Asian background. That’s inappropriate, since most of the Asians in my extended family are professionals or businesspeople. And don’t call it a coolie hat, either. These folks never were coolies. Call it a Vietnamese non-la, or use the Chinese term, du-li. My granddaughter dressed like the up-to-date suburban youngster she is, paying tribute to faraway Asia where half of her ancestors “came from”.

            The other half, her maternal Jewish great-great-grandparents out of Lithuania, called themselves “Litvaks”. There was antagonism and mistrust between them and the Jews of Poland, ‘“Golitzianers.” For why, ask my grandfather Sol, a Litvak who warned me about the crafty Golitzianers before he died in 1962. I was twelve then and more concerned about winning touch football games against the crafty Irish and Italian kids on Bronx streets.

            The blue thing on my Julianna’s head is a yarmulke (YA-mul-kah). It’s a traditional head covering for Jews to wear in the presence of God. Orthodox Jews define that as everywhere and all the time. For men only, though. Orthodox women mustn’t wear one. Reform Jews like me can wear a yarmulke whenever the mood strikes them, no matter where the wearer is on the gender spectrum.

            The color coordinators among you might say that the light blue head covering doesn’t coordinate with the red / gold outfit. So what? The gene pools that “come from” different parts of planet Earth have merged well in the beautiful young person pictured here, getting ready to learn about where her preschool chums “came from.”

           

 

 

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Blog Posts

Kosher Chinese Food: The Experience

 

           Many Jews love Chinese food and don’t keep kosher. Offer them “Kosher Chinese Food” and they think, “Death Row Cuisine in a Poorly Funded Prison”. I didn’t grow up in a kosher home, and while my wife’s family kept kosher, they also kept the workarounds. Cover the table with newspape…

Read more

Jews and Chinese Masking Together

 

            It’s Christmas Eve, 2016. Two masked men enter a Chinese family gathering of about fifty people at a home in northern Jersey. Their masks are not ski, stocking, or Halloween. They’re blue surgical. No one else is wearing one or is concerned about the two men who are.

Read more

Ethnic Day, Part One

           

 

The preschool’s announcement: “Wednesday is Ethnic Day! Come dressed to show the place you came from.”

            “Came from?” Okay, Julianna’s grandparents, father’s side, arrived in New York from China and Vietnam in the 1960s, encouraged by communism’s ris…

Read more

Ethnic Day, Part Two

 

 

            Okay, kids, let’s line up and celebrate America’s diversity, if only to piss off the nativists.

            After Ethnic Day, the preschool sent pictures of the costumed kids, all with faces pixilated. here’s a sari on some girls, a turban on a Sikh (I g…

Read more

Jewish and Chinese Numerology: Mishugas with Numbers

 

            Most people think eighteen is just a good uniform number for a quarterback. For Jews, the number eighteen (chai, pronounced with phlegm + eye) means “life.” Remember the song in Fiddler? “To life, to life, l’chaim!”

            Snap your fingers and dance in…

Read more

The Hassid and the Girl from Shanghai

 

            In the spring of 2014, the third-year students at U of Virginia Law School looked forward to graduation. It was a busy time as they finished their academics and sought permanent jobs. The social highlight was Prom, law school edition.

            Tina Z, a third year,…

Read more

Jewish Girl Dates Chinese Man. Why?

              As far as we knew, the boys in Sara’s life were all Jewish.

            There was a Jewish guy she dated during her vegetarian moment, senior year at Marlboro High. He challenged her to eat a hot dog and even offered money to do it. When he got up to two hundred bucks, she …

Read more

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