I’ve met some amazing people through my older son, Jake. And this weekend was no exception.
For the last six summers, Jake has gone away to a Jewish overnight camp.
And for the last few years, he’s talked about a group of Chinese Jews, or as they call themselves, Chews. So yesterday when I took Jake to a bat mitzvah for one of his camp friends, I shouldn’t have been too surprised that she, too, was a Chew.
Today at the party, I met her father and had a quick, but wonderful discussion with him. Like me, he studied abroad in Asia in 1990-91. And like me, he returned again for four years after graduating college. He also speaks Mandarin and met his spouse in Asia. His home in Asia was Taiwan, whereas mine was Hong Kong.
I did make it to Taiwan for a week in 1991. (Sometimes I wonder if the heyday of studying Mandarin in Taiwan has passed, as study abroad programs in China continue to expand. But that’s a post for another day.)
Jake and his Asian Jewish friends got me thinking. As their parents, we not only strive to expose our kids to their Asian culture, but also hope to give them a solid Jewish upbringing. It’s not easy being a minority two times over, although as parents we try our best.
And while Asian Jewish kids are by no means a new phenomenon, they are more prevalent now with the growing numbers of cross-cultural relationships and international adoptions.
I’ve always been somewhat of a shadchen–matchmaking or at least thinking about who I could set up with whom. But just as I made my own decisions in that department, I will give my kids that same privilege. Still, it’s somewhat reassuring to know that Jake and his friends can feel proud of their heritage and know that they’re not alone.