“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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California Attorney General Announces Run for Senate

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-01-13 18:53Z by Steven

California Attorney General Announces Run for Senate

The New York Times
2015-01-13

Adam Nagourney, Los Angeles Bureau Chief

Kamala Harris Makes Bid for Barbara Boxer’s Old Seat

LOS ANGELES — No exploratory committees here: Kamala D. Harris, the California attorney general, announced on Tuesday she was running for the Senate seat that is opening up with Barbara Boxer’s retirement at the end of the year.

Ms. Harris’ announcement, posted on a new campaign website, came a day after the California lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, who was widely viewed here as the other major contender for the seat, announced that he was not going to run. Friends say that Mr. Newsom is more interested in running for governor when Jerry Brown retires in four years.

Democrats here have long suggested that Ms. Harris and Mr. Newsom would avoid running against each other, because they are both such strong candidates, with their own fund-raising bases and they both come from Northern California.

Ms. Harris, who is 50, is the daughter of a Jamaican-American father and an Indian-American mother.

She was re-elected to a second term as attorney general last year…

Read the entire article here.

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Racism And Redemption At The Tournament Of Roses Parade

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-02 02:59Z by Steven

Racism And Redemption At The Tournament Of Roses Parade

Forbes
2014-12-31

Andrew Bender, Business Travel Blogger


Joan Williams holds the portrait from 1957, when she was Miss Crown City. On January 1, 2015, after 57 years, she will finally get to ride in the Tournament of Roses Parade. (Photo credit: Savannah Wood)

The theme of 2015′s Tournament of Roses Parade is “Inspiring Stories,” and the person leading it has a doozy: a tale of racism and redemption from a 57-year-old injustice involving the parade itself.

Riding on the first float in the 126th edition of this New Year’s Day tradition, before some 700,000 spectators in Pasadena, Calif. and an estimated 70 million television viewers, will be 82-year-old Joan Williams. She was first slated to ride in the parade in 1958 as Miss Crown City, but later denied the honor because she was African-American.

In 1957, Williams, her husband and two daughters had just moved to Pasadena (about 10 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles), where she worked for the city’s Department of Water and Power. She didn’t even know there was a Miss Crown City – a Pasadena city employee who appeared at civic ceremonies and rode on the city’s Rose Parade float – until her colleagues had nominated her for the position…

Read the entire article here.

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Woman rides in Rose Bowl parade almost 60 years after being snubbed because of her race

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-02 02:06Z by Steven

Woman rides in Rose Bowl parade almost 60 years after being snubbed because of her race

The Washington Post
2015-01-01

Diana Reese
Overland Park, Kansas

Racism “was a fact of life,” Joan Williams says about 1958, the year she was supposed to ride on a city-sponsored float in the Rose Parade of Pasadena. The 27-year-old account clerk had been named “Miss Crown City,” with all the attendant duties of ribbon-cuttings and appearances at official functions. The city even paid for Williams’ portrait to be painted while she was wearing a tiara, gown and corsage.

“It wasn’t anything I sought,” Williams told me Wednesday. “My name was submitted unbeknownst to me by someone I worked with.”

She was chosen by the judges to represent the city employees. For someone who’d grown up watching the world-famous parade, it was “a joyous occasion.” But she was so light-skinned no one suspected her African-American heritage until a reporter met her dark-skinned husband and children. That was a game-changer in the late 1950s.

As Jet magazine reported, “Mrs. Williams did not ride on a float, because the City of Pasadena neglected to include one in its own parade. Too many others were already entered, explained an official.”

“Once they learned I was African American, I wasn’t the person they wanted representing the city,” Williams said. “I sure didn’t dwell on it because I had a life to live. That was their problem, not my problem.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Joan Williams in Rose Parade after nearly 60 years, but some wonder why she wasn’t in broadcast

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-01 20:48Z by Steven

Joan Williams in Rose Parade after nearly 60 years, but some wonder why she wasn’t in broadcast

Pasadena Star-News
Pasadena, California
2015-01-01

Christina Gullickson, Reporter


Joan Williams, 82, right, rides the theme banner float Inspiring Stories, along Colorado Blvd. during the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on January 1, 2015. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/ Pasadena Star-News)

Joan Williams, the 82-year-old Pasadena, Calif., woman who was named “Miss Crown City” in 1957 and didn’t get to ride in the 1958 Rose Parade after word spread of her African-American ancestry, finally had her chance and was on the lead float in the Rose Parade on Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. Some viewers were left wondering why Williams didn’t make it onto their TVs…

Read the entire article here.

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Pasadena, Calif., Negro Queen Snubbed At Rose Bowl Festivities

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-01-01 00:27Z by Steven

Pasadena, Calif., Negro Queen Snubbed At Rose Bowl Festivities

Jet
1959-01-15
pages 50-51


Mayor J. Miller gifted Mrs. Williams at August ceremonies

For 26-year-old Mrs. Joan R. Williams, first Negro ever crowned queen in the Tournament of Roses’ 12-year history, Pasadena, California’s biggest event was anything but a bowl of roses. Although picked last August from a field of 15 to reign over Pasadena and ride on the city’s official float New Year’s Day, the petite mother of two was in fact a queen without a domain.

For when word spread that light-complexioned Mrs. Williams was a Negro, fellow employees in the municipal office where she works as an accountant-clerk suddenly stopped speaking to her. Mayor Jeth Miller, who crowned her at the city employees annual picnic, neither participated with her in later civic events nor rode with her in the Tournament of Roses parade.

And Mrs. Williams did not ride on a float, because the City of Pasadena neglected to include one in its own parade. Too many others were already entered, explained an official. She did not extend the city’s traditional welcome to the visiting Rose Bowl Queen because officials failed to introduce her. She did not occupy a special place of honor at the Rose Bowl football game, because there was none.

In fact, the only recognition Mrs. Williams received as queen were six free tickets—two for the reviewing stands along the parade route, two for the Coronation Ball and two for the game, where she and hubby, Robert, sat in the end zone as anonymously as other fans. Queenship had been an embarrassing affair both for her and her family, lamented Mrs. Williams. Said she at week’s end: “If I had to do it all over again, I would refuse the title.”

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Pretty Mother Of 2 Is Pasadena Queen

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-30 02:48Z by Steven

Pretty Mother Of 2 Is Pasadena Queen

Jet
1958-09-18
page 62


Association president Jack Barnes presents Mrs. Williams’ trophy.

In conservative, dignified Pasadena, Calif.,—a city whose traditional reserve is normally broken only once annually by the famed New Year’s Day “Tournament Of Roses“—a tawny-complexioned mother of two broke the tranquility ahead of schedule.

Mrs. Joan Roberta Williams, the first Negro chosen “Miss Crown City” in the 12-year history of the contest, will be the reigning beauty at official city ceremonies and will perform her first duty in November when she opens the Pasadena branch of Sears. Come New Year’s Day, she’ll grace the city’s float in the “Tournament of Roses” parade.

Bolstered by the faith of her sales representative husband, Bob, and armed with the double weapons of good looks and an engaging personality, Mrs. Williams overcame what she considered great odds—15 other pretty nominees—to capture the title.

“My husband was confident all the time, and because of him, I really wanted to win. He was so elated, he bought me a new wardrobe,” she smiled. A city-employed accountant-clerk, college-trained Mrs. Williams is one of a handful of Negro white collar workers employed by the city. Nominated by fellow employes, she was crowned at the annual Pasadena municipal picnic.

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Woman turned away from 1958 Rose Parade because of race to ride in 2015 parade

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States, Videos, Women on 2014-12-29 03:27Z by Steven

Woman turned away from 1958 Rose Parade because of race to ride in 2015 parade

Eyewitness News, KABC 7
Los Angeles, California
2014-12-27

Leanne Suter, Reporter

PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) — A woman who was denied the honor of riding in the Rose Parade in 1958 because of her race will finally get her chance in 2015.

Joan Williams, 83, was named Miss Crown City in 1958, representing Pasadena. It was an honor she received after being nominated by her coworkers at city hall.

However, she was denied the honor after city officials discovered she is African American. She said it was devastating to be told she wasn’t worthy because of her race…


A woman who was denied the honor of riding in the Rose Parade in 1958 because of her race will finally get her chance in 2015.

Read the entire article here.

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Rose Parade 2015: Woman to ride float 60 years after she was denied because of African-American heritage

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-12-28 18:49Z by Steven

Rose Parade 2015: Woman to ride float 60 years after she was denied because of African-American heritage

Pasadena Star-News
Pasadena, California
2014-12-27

Sarah Favot, Pasadena Star-News


Joan Williams, 82, of Pasadena, holding a portrait of herself wearing a crown from when she was selected as “Miss Crown City” by her colleagues in City Hall in 1958 and was supposed to ride on the city-sponsored Rose Parade float. When city officials found out she was black, they took that honor away saying, the city couldn’t afford a float that year. Now nearly 60 years later, Williams will ride on the opening banner float during the 2015 Rose Parade. Walt Mancini/Staff Photographer

PASADENA >> Nearly 60 years after she was promised a seat on a Rose Parade float, only to have that honor taken away when city officials found out she was African-American, Joan Williams will be seated at the head of the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day as it cruises down Colorado Boulevard.

Williams, 82, was named “Miss Crown City” in 1957, an honor bestowed upon one City Hall employee who would ride on a city-sponsored float during the Rose Parade on Jan. 1, 1958. The honor was like the Rose Queen title — Miss Crown City would attend numerous events leading up to the parade, representing the city.

Williams, then 27 years old and a mother of two young children, was thrilled.

“I was young and it was exciting,” Williams said.

A couple of months later, however, she experienced a grave disappointment, according to Jet Magazine.


Source: Jet Magazine

“For when word spread that light-complexioned Mrs. Williams was a Negro, fellow employees in the municipal office where she works as an accountant-clerk suddenly stopped speaking to her,” the magazine reported in January 1959. “And Mrs. Williams did not ride on a float, because the City of Pasadena neglected to include one in its own parade. Too many others were already entered, explained an official,” the article continued.

Williams said she never bought that reasoning. If the city didn’t have enough money, it wouldn’t have named a Miss Crown City months before the parade, she said. The city had even paid for a portrait of Williams in a gown, corsage and tiara.

Williams attended a city employees picnic at Brookside Park where a photographer from Jet wanted to take her picture with the mayor at the time. The mayor refused, she said.

“It was one of the first times, as an adult, I began to grow up and realize what racism is,” she said…

Read the entire article here.

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Transforming Three Sisters: A Hapa Family in Chekhov’s Modern Classic

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-12-08 04:01Z by Steven

Transforming Three Sisters: A Hapa Family in Chekhov’s Modern Classic

Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies
Volume 3 (2012): Special Issue: Mixed Heritage Asian American Literature
pages 130-146

Elizabeth Liang

“All right, let’s agree that this town is backward and vulgar, and let’s suppose now that out of all its thousands of  inhabitants there are only three people like you… But you won’t simply disappear; you will have some influence. And after you’ve gone there will be six more, let’s say, like you, then twelve, and so on, until finally people like you will be in the majority. In two or three hundred years, life on earth will be unimaginably beautiful, astonishing.” (Vershinin in Act I of Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, translated by Paul Schmidt)

It is an act of courage or foolhardiness to produce theatre in the heart of the film world, depending on your point of view and how large the houses turn out to be. In the fall of 2005, I produced Three Sisters in a 60-seat theatre in Burbank, California (home of Disney and Warner Brothers). The odds were stacked even higher against the show’s success when my assistant producer and I stipulated that the main characters, the upper-class and highly educated Russian Prozorov siblings, had to be played by Hapa actors. I chose to foreground mixed heritage Asians because I am Hapa and wanted to see something akin to my own family on stage. The play had never been cast this way anywhere according to my research. Meanwhile, I assumed that our audience would be largely European American, because that is usually the case whenever I attend the theatre. Thus it was difficult to predict if this production would spark any interest in the average L.A. theatregoer, since people tend to flock toward stories to which they can relate. I hoped that they would be intrigued by our unusual “take” on a play with which they were likely familiar (as it is one of Chekhov’s most popular works), but I also worried that they would feel the ethnic “layering” was forced and unnatural, or that we were trying to teach them something they had no interest in learning. My reasons for casting the siblings as Hapa were manifold:

  • To deliberately represent a section of the population that is normally under- and misrepresented. Census 2000 proved that over 6.8 million or 2.4 percent of Americans considered themselves multi-ethnic. 25 percent of those people resided in California. (And Census 2010 discovered that over 9 million or 2.9 percent of Americans considered themselves to belong to two or more racial groups. Among those, Asian and white are the third most common pairing.)
  • To allow the actors to interpret legendary roles in which they might not normally get cast.
  • To further emphasize the difference of the Prozorov family from others by adding race to Chekhov’s division based on class and education.
  • To tell the audience a mixed heritage story without making it feel like a classroom lesson…

Read the entire article here.

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