Does anyone remember Amy Chua, the Tiger Mom (married to a Jewish dad) who sparked our righteous indignation few months ago, before we found ourselves judging the Anthonies (Weiner and Casey) to escape the news of wars, deficits and depressing budget cuts?
Well, I just discovered that Amy’s oldest daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld (the good one who practiced piano as per her mother’s prescribed regimen) is (gasp!) going to Harvard. She also has a blog — I suppose so she can snag a lucrative book contract of her own.
I wonder if she (little sister Lulu — the rebel — is still too young to be eligible) will be interested in participating in a new study of Asian-Jewish kids.
Husband-and-wife team Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt, both professors at Whitman College are looking for :
a wide range of participants, ranging from ages 18 to 25, including those who are more religiously involved, and those who are less involved, and individuals from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other Asian backgrounds. Participation will involve an interview spanning about an hour and half and the interviewee will be compensated for their time.
The research, according to the call for participants “covers a wide range of subjects including childhood and adolescent experiences, family dynamics, religious and cultural practices, and community involvements.”
Kim and Leavitt have already completed a study of 37 Asian-Jewish couples, described here; I still have to read it and arrange an interview with them.
For more on Asian Jews, check out “Asian Jewish Life”, although I think their focus is more on Jews in Asia than on the products of Asian-Jewish intermarriage.
Incidentally, I just had a chance to more closely read Sheila Gordon’s op-ed in the best Jewish newspaper ever and I am even more impressed with it. I especially like these points:
The increase in interfaith marriage — in large part a product of the swirl of societal changes — is viewed as a major challenge to sustainability. Yet it seemed that the reality of these families was missing from our conversation. I was the only one who raised the topic — and my comments seemed to gain little traction.
Was I the only one of the 50 participants who had non-Jews in my family? In the course of the conference, I gradually discovered that many of the participants did in fact have interfaith stories of their own. Some were themselves the children of a mixed marriage; others had siblings who were intermarried, or themselves had a non-Jewish spouse.
Whether or not they are always acknowledged, interfaith families are a growing piece of the bigger picture. And they are alive, well and interested in things Jewish. Interfaith families can, and should, be part of the Jewish future.
Today’s interfaith families, unlike those of 20 or even 10 years ago, are typically comfortable in their identity, and proud of their non-Jewish spouses and extended family.
Many participants in the conference bemoaned, appropriately, the contemporary sense of entitlement and “pick-and-choose” style of many Jews. But intermarried Jews are not necessarily less connected to Jewish tradition than are many Jews in wholly Jewish marriages.
We cannot control the future, but we can be confident that if the intermarried are not acknowledged in the conversation, today’s intermarried couples and their children will be less likely to retain a lasting sense of connection with Judaism.
It goes without saying that there are many reasons for the Jewish community to welcome interfaith families — from the biblical injunction to welcome the stranger, to our commitment to Jewish peoplehood, to the importance of Jewish continuity.
What may not be recognized is that interfaith relationships offer a unique perspective on being Jewish today. This perspective can be a source of insight and strength for the Jewish community. Perhaps most powerfully, many Jews in interfaith marriages rediscover the richness of their heritage precisely because they are intermarried.
It is through the lens of the interfaith experience that many of us decipher what are the most enlivening elements of Judaism today. There is no more powerful way to learn about and experience one’s own religion than to do so in the presence of the other. The Jewish community will benefit if interfaith families are part of the continuing conversation.
Now, go read the whole op-ed. And then you can get back to those moms we all love to hate: Casey Anthony and Amy Chua.