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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…

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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 …

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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 guess) boy. An Italian family opted to dress a son like a Chico Marx style paesano. (Chico was a 20th century Jewish comedian born in NY as Leonard Marx. What about the Pope, Michelangelo, or da Vinci?) We saw a sombrero on a head of pixels, a Dominican Day tee shirt on a toddler boy (or girl), and just one Rutgers tee. Nobody dressed like a Pilgrim, a Colonial, or a Delaware, the Indigenous tribe of Jersey.

            My granddaughter, above, wore a traditional Chinese design outfit and topped it with a yarmulke.

            Discussion question: The Chinese are people who “come from” China. Are the Jews a nation, “coming from” a specific place, Israel? Or are Jews a religious group existing in minds, hearts, and books, coming from anywhere?

            Some folks in my Chinese family asked when we came over from Israel. My bloodline left the Levant a thousand years ago, having migrated, with or without duress, from somewhere in the “Holy Land”. They spent a millennium isolated in the farming villages, shtetls, of greater Russia, or in urban ghettoes. The deepest roots I know of are in eastern Europe-Lithuania and The Pale of Settlement. My children’s roots are in the Bronx and Queens. Dress them like the cast of Fiddler, or Hassidim, but that ain’t us.

            For now, I’ll opine that Israel is not the place I “came from”.

            The Chinese in my family could say medieval Cathay is where they “came from.” Most, like my son-in-law and his parents (my machatunim) don’t follow a religion. Some, like Tina’s parents, adopted Christianity before they left northern China. Others follow Buddhism, but that’s more about lifestyle and good personhood. Judaism, with its old man on a throne in the sky, writing commandments with lightning and deciding who’s gonna make it to next Yom Kippur, that’s a religion.

            Today, there are about a thousand Chinese of Jewish ancestry living today in Kaifeng, Henan province, China. Every spring, you can find pictures of their Passover seders on the Internet. Same for the Jewish Taiwan Cultural Association in Taipei. Ask them to dress like where they think they “came from.” Don’t get involved in the whole China / Taiwan issue.

            Thousands of Jews fled the Nazis to Hong Kong and Shanghai, where they got along okay. But they left after the war, saying, Thanks for your hospitality, China, but the road (to Ellis Island, or Palestine, or Galveston) is my middle name. Will be in touch. BTW, love the food.

            While Ethnic Day was a fun exercise for Julianna and her daycare pals, and sent a positive message for diversity in central Jersey and America, it failed to address an inevitable question my granddaughter’s cohort will ask: If where we “came from” so memorable, why are we here?

 

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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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