Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion on 2015-01-25 02:11Z by Steven

Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
January 2015
336 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-06301-1
6.6 × 9.6 in

Marie Mutsuki Mockett

How does one cope with overwhelming grief?

Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather’s bones. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, Mockett also grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly.

Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colorful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt, and finally uplift her. Her journey leads her into the radiation zone in an intricate white hazmat suit; to Eiheiji, a school for Zen Buddhist monks; on a visit to a Crab Lady and Fuzzy-Headed Priest’s temple on Mount Doom; and into the “thick dark” of the subterranean labyrinth under Kiyomizu temple, among other twists and turns. From the ecstasy of a cherry blossom festival in the radiation zone to the ghosts inhabiting chopsticks, Mockett writes of both the earthly and the sublime with extraordinary sensitivity. Her unpretentious and engaging voice makes her the kind of companion a reader wants to stay with wherever she goes, even into the heart of grief itself.

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Grappling With Today’s Realities From a Black-Jewish Perspective

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-01-21 02:23Z by Steven

Grappling With Today’s Realities From a Black-Jewish Perspective

Jewish Exponent: What it Means to be Jewish in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

David A. Love

The author with his wife, Sarah Katz, and son, Micah.

As an African-American who is a member of the Jewish community by choice — and is also raising a Jewish child of color — I have a unique experience. And yet, I view my experience as part of the future direction of the diaspora. My link to Judaism involves multiple identities, a passion for social justice and a commitment to nonviolence.

I had my first experiences with the Jewish community while growing up in the Laurelton section of Queens, N.Y., in the 1970s and ’80s. The community had several synagogues, which I occasionally visited with my friends. In addition, the house in which I was raised had a mezuzah in the front door, left from the previous family who had lived there — a foretelling of what was to come, perhaps?

At Harvard College, I studied the Holocaust and genocide with Erich Goldhagen, a Holocaust survivor. Later at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, under the late Harry Reicher, I researched the Nuremberg Laws and their connection to the Jim Crow segregation laws in the American South.

When I married my wife, Sarah Katz, we became members of Mishkan Shalom in Roxborough, marking the beginning of my introduction into the Jewish community. Mishkan is home because of its progressive social values. It has provided an open and welcoming environment for us — particularly an “outsider” such as me — and interracial and interfaith families. When we sat shiva for our first son, Ezra Malik, who was stillborn six years ago, the congregation wrapped themselves around us…

Read the entire article here.

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“Funny—You Don’t Look Jewish!”: Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Identities of Children of Asian American and Jewish American Spouses

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-19 02:09Z by Steven

“Funny—You Don’t Look Jewish!”: Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Identities of Children of Asian American and Jewish American Spouses

Journal of Jewish Identities
Issue 8, Number 1, January 2015
pages 129-148

Helen Kim, Associate Professor of Sociology
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Noah Leavitt, Research Associate
Department of Sociology
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Rachel Williams
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Who is a Jew? What does it mean to be Jewish? Often connected to these questions is the subject of intermarriage among Jewish Americans, a demographic reality that has long been understood as problematic and threatening to the Jewish people because of the supposed dilution, and possible extinction, of Jewish identity and community that will necessarily follow when a Jew marries a non-Jew. Often, the most pressing concern regarding intermarriage is its impact on the Jewish identity of the children and grandchildren of these relationships. Will the offspring of intermarriage identify as Jewish? If so, what does Jewish identity mean for these individuals? Furthermore, what impact does Jewish identification or non-identification mean for the continuity of the Jewish people?

Currently, the debate regarding the continuity of Jewish identity and peoplehood as it pertains to intermarried couples and their children is unresolved, especially within the realm of academic scholarship pertaining to this subject. Most notably, the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Portrait of Jewish Americans acknowledges that, according to its findings, support exists for both sides of the debate. In their discussion of the Pew survey, Gregory A. Smith and Alan Cooperman note that adult children of intermarriage are more likely to identify as religiously agnostic, atheist, or nothing in particular than those born to two Jewish parents. This difference may suggest the eventual erosion of Jewish religious identification as a result of intermarriage. Smith and Cooperman also note, however, an increase in Jewish identification in adulthood among offspring of intermarriage. Thus while intermarriage may be leading to a significant decrease in religious identification, it may be contributing to an increase in a different type of Jewish identification that is no less important.

Some scholars have argued that the debate and scholarship regarding intermarriage as assimilation and an erosion of Jewish authenticity stifles innovative ways to think about and encourage more nuanced conceptions of Jewish identity and, subsequently, Jewish belonging and community. These critiques often point to the importance of broadening our understanding of Jewish identity through frameworks and methods that complicate common notions of Jewish authenticity based in religiosity and descent.

Our exploratory qualitative study of adult children born to Asian American and Jewish American spouses adds to the debate regarding intermarriage and Jewish authenticity by investigating how Jewish identity is negotiated through the lenses of religion and race. We argue that multiraciality and Jewish identity are intrinsically connected for respondents in our sample. Our work derives from a larger project on intermarriage between Jewish Americans of any racial or ethnic background and Asian Americans of any ethnic or religious background.

More specifically, we seek to understand how children of mixed backgrounds experience and think about their Jewish identity in light of their position as children of intermarried spouses who are ethnically, religiously, and racially different. While our findings are not generalizable to a larger population, they do call into serious question the conceptualization and, for some, the strongly held belief that intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews necessarily results in an erosion of Jewish identity and community through children and subsequent generations. Rather, our interviews with children of multiracial intermarriages point to the maintenance of many traditional markers of Judaism and Jewish identity commonly associated with certain institutional affiliations at the same time that they challenge and offer newer understandings of Jewish authenticity through the lens of external and internal racial identification. Thus, our findings emphasize the importance of understanding these kinds of identity negotiations within a larger national landscape that is increasingly multiracial and multicultural. Put differently, the U.S. population, including its Jewish and Asian American populations, is becoming increasingly multiracial and multiethnic and is doing so, in large part, through intermarriage broadly construed. In this sense, our work highlights the importance of understanding how our respondents think about their identity, whether racial, ethnic, or religious, within a demographic landscape that is changing at a pace much faster than the debate regarding intermarriage fully acknowledges.

The data for this paper comes from qualitative in-depth interviews conducted in 2011 with twenty-two adult children, ages eighteen to twenty-five, of Jewish and Asian intermarriages, residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and in parts…

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A Jewish-Asian Couple’s Union Leads to a Scholarly Interest in Intermarriage

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-19 01:41Z by Steven

A Jewish-Asian Couple’s Union Leads to a Scholarly Interest in Intermarriage

The New York Times

Samuel G. Freedman, Professor of Journalism
Columbia University, New York, New York

One weekend night 15 years ago, a group of graduate students at the University of Chicago decided to interrupt their research long enough for a dinner party. Helen K. Kim made a chocolate tart with ginger cream filling. Her classmate Noah S. Leavitt regarded it and scoffed, “Nice use of your time, making a fancy dessert with all the homework we have.”

Ms. Kim did not exactly swoon at that snarky version of a pickup line.

Over the next three weeks, though, Mr. Leavitt kept pursuing her in more polite fashion and they eventually went out for dinner and drinks. Very quickly, the two aspiring academics found themselves talking in candid detail about the recent and untimely deaths of their fathers.

From that encounter grew not only their own subsequent marriage but a joint scholarly interest in the very trend they embodied: intermarriage between Asian-Americans and American Jews. Their major research paper on the subject appeared in February, just three months before arguably the highest-profile example of the phenomenon, the wedding of Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, to his longtime girlfriend, Dr. Priscilla Chan…

Read the entire article here.

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The Newest Jews? Understanding Jewish American and Asian American Marriages

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2015-01-18 18:12Z by Steven

The Newest Jews? Understanding Jewish American and Asian American Marriages

Contemporary Jewry
July 2012, Volume 32, Issue 2
pages 135-166
DOI: 10.1007/s12397-012-9078-y

Helen K. Kim, Associate Professor of Sociology
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

Noah Leavitt, Research Associate
Department of Sociology
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

This paper investigates how racial, ethnic and religious identities intersect among couples where one spouse is Jewish American of any racial or ethnic descent and one spouse is Asian American of any religion or ethnic descent. While intermarriage is certainly not limited to these kinds of partnerships, there is reason to believe that these partnerships may become increasingly common when investigated along racial, ethnic, and religious dimensions. This study incorporates interviews with 31 intermarried couples residing in the Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Oakland, New York, and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. In particular, we highlight participants’ discussions of two main subjects: shared values within their partnerships and racial, ethnic, and religious identities of children, if present. Our paper expands the broader sociological literature on intermarriage as well as the specific literatures on intermarriage for Jewish Americans and intermarriage for Asian Americans.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Christmas without Ramadan

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Religion on 2015-01-14 17:31Z by Steven

Christmas without Ramadan

Mixed Roots Stories

Zena F. Itani

I’ve never really liked Christmas. It was the most forced family event of the year, defined by spectacular displays of anxiety from my mother and bad temper served up by my father, always in time for guests. While that doesn’t sound much different from others’ fun family holidays, there was another layer of dysfunction in it for me. My Dad is Muslim, a fact that we ignored for the entire year, not just on big Christian holidays. December 25th highlighted particularly well the lack of Muslim traditions in my immediate family, despite the fact that Lebanese Muslims outnumbered my English mother’s kin and me and my American siblings.

Let me walk you through a typical Itani Christmas (you Arabic speakers know how ridiculous the pairing of a large Lebanese Muslim family name and the word “Christmas” is). In the morning, my siblings and I woke up way too early and tore into our presents like obnoxious kids the world over. The gifts broke along gender and culture lines. As the one with the Arabic name and the insatiable curiosity for all things Middle Eastern, I would get the “cultural” gift (a subscription to Foreign Affairs was popular). “You’re so…Oriental,” my mother would often say, perplexed, in her British accent. Um, yeah Mom, did you see the Lebanese guy you married? Just saying…

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To heal world, show solidarity with Jews of color, too

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2015-01-10 22:20Z by Steven

To heal world, show solidarity with Jews of color, too

J.: the Jewish news weekly of Northern California
San Francisco, California

Kim Carter Martinez
Oakland, California

My name is Kim. I am black, I am Jewish, and my life matters. For the last few months, our country has seen a movement growing from a wave of protests against the police and vigilante law enforcement killings of unarmed black men.

As a country we have struggled with talking about the issues of police brutality and racism — individual racism, and the systemic and institutionalized racism that black and brown people in our country fall victim to on a daily basis.

In America, a black person is killed by the police or by vigilante law enforcement every 28 hours. #BlackLivesMatter, the movement that arose out of the outrage over these killings, describes itself as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise … [an affirmation of black folks’] contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

Over and over again, I’ve heard people in the Jewish community talk about #BlackLivesMatter as if the violence and racism toward people of color is happening to an outside group we are not a part of. It’s happening to “them,” and we can only show solidarity to this group in certain ways because it is a group to which we do not belong…

Read the entire article here.

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When Being Black Is a Family Secret

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-01-07 01:44Z by Steven

When Being Black Is a Family Secret

the sisterhood: where jewish women converse
The Jewish Daily Forward

Susan Reimer-Torn

When Lacey Schwartz was accepted at Georgetown University, it was a dream come true. It also blew the lid off a tightly-guarded secret.

Along with her admission, the high school senior from Woodstock, New York received an invitation to join the Black Student Alliance. She had chosen not to check an ethnicity box on her application, but she did include a photo.

The acknowledgement that she was black ran counter to a lifelong assumption: Schwartz was raised as the biological daughter of her mother and her father, two white Jews with Eastern-European origins. The invitation led to a process of inquiry that revealed a hidden truth: Schwartz was the daughter of her mother and her mother’s long-time black lover.

The young woman’s undaunted deconstruction of an explosive family secret inspired the autobiographical documentary Little White Lie. The film is the result of Schwartz revisiting her life with an ever-present camera to record startlingly frank encounters in a home, larger family and community where once there had only been denial. The film chronicles the process of dismantling a false identity and reconstructing a new one.

Reached by phone in a recent interview, Schwartz explains why her story speaks to so many. “My case is particular in its details. But lots of people feel a gap between the person they are raised to believe they are and who they sense they might be.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Jewish girl overcomes a ‘Little White Lie’ about race

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-01-06 02:08Z by Steven

Jewish girl overcomes a ‘Little White Lie’ about race

The Kansas City Star
Kansas City, Missouri

Jeneé Osterheldt

When I look at one of her old baby pictures, I think of my own childhood snapshots.

A mixed little girl sits happily in her white mama’s lap. It’s a sweet picture of Lacey Schwartz and her mother. But unlike me, she didn’t know her true heritage until she was grown. Ironically, her last name means black in German and Yiddish, but Lacey grew up white.

Her caramel-latte brown skin and dark, curly hair stood out in her loving, upper-middle-class Jewish household in mostly white Woodstock, N.Y. The family had an explanation for that: Lacey looked like her father’s Sicilian grandfather.

But deep down, she always wondered…

…“I lived over a decade in a racial closet,” Lacey says. “Learning the truth was a relief that led to this larger search on how to integrate my two identities. I personally identify as biracial. But I look at that as a category of being black with the understanding that other biracial people may not feel that way.”…

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Why I Passed For White

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2014-12-24 17:30Z by Steven

Why I Passed For White

The Archipelago: Stories about community, identity, and the ongoing quest to belong.

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie

I erased my own heritage to feel safe. I hope to teach my children not to do the same.

When I was 16, I started letting people believe that I was white.

In 1996, my family relocated upward from the Bible Belt. We moved from the southwest corner of Arkansas to the Midwest. At sixteen, I experienced a new definition of self — which, for me, meant shedding my ethnic heritage and the abuse that came with it. My coming of age was more than an exit from youthful innocence. It was an escape.

Innocence, in this case, is a misleading term. The naivete that defines the wishful, carefree young was lost to me much earlier than 16. It began at the age of 9, the fourth year in a row I was assigned the part of Native American in the school Thanksgiving play because I “looked the part.” That year, I stood onstage dressed in a paper-bag-cum-leather-vest with an Indian-American boy. Both of us sported handmade headbands with oversized feathers. Our single spoken line was accompanied by the arcing of one folded arm upward. “How!” I shouted, having practiced the line with aplomb. “How,” my cohort whispered, barely gumming the word and ducking his head as though ashamed. Our white peers were grouped together at the Pilgrim’s table, waiting to take the giant ears of paper mache corn we handed them.

It was weeks later, during International Day, when we were both paraded once more onstage, when I began to understand my fellow actor resistance to the role of food-bearing native. After all, even though Native Americans had saved the Pilgrims with offerings of corn and hunting instruction, the Pilgrims were the true saviors; they came bearing God and civility to the dark-skinned heathen.

That International Day, we were exhorted to wear our ethnic best, and so we came to school in costume. Indian-American boy, Arab-American girl, dressed in pantaloons and tunic and ornate housedress. I came with jeans and a t-shirt in my bag because those were the items most comfortable. But the boy, whose name I cannot recall, had only his waist-tie pants. After we were questioned onstage about our weird, foreign at-home customs, we exited stage right. Just off the stage in the cafeteria’s corner, the tie must have let go. My peer lost his pants. They slipped soundlessly down around his ankles. He turned, his brown eyes meeting mine. He was not panicked. He said nothing. He simply looked resigned.

I had shifted to block him from view, but a redhead named Ashley caught sight of the spectacle. He ran toward the dispersing classes to notify everyone he knew. “Shawna was there!” he squealed. “Shawna saw it.”

Here it was: the moment that could elevate me beyond the nickname Gorilla — a nod to my hairy, Arab legs. The boy was not my friend, but neither were the children who clamored around me. I looked back into the boy’s brown eyes. He waited.

“Did you see his underwear?” someone asked. “Are they as weird as his clothes?”

In that moment I found a kinship in the brownness the boy and I shared. I squared my feet. “It didn’t happen,” I said. And then, “Ashley is lying.”

Aside from my body hair, the thing I was most known for was honesty. The story was deflated. Ashley narrowed his eyes at me. I had made an enemy. I looked around. The brown boy was gone.

I wish I could remember his name. I have thought about assigning one to him, but it feels disingenuous. Of the peers that litter my history, he is one who deserves a label other than ethnicity. Especially as he ushered me out of my innocence into an awareness of my physical self and its perception. Still, he remains nameless, like so many of our other dark-skinned brothers…

Read the entire article here.

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