Erica, where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Edison, New Jersey and lived in the same house until I left for college. My parent had moved in several years before I was born. I had the same rabbi for my baby naming, my bat mitzvah and my wedding (this was a first for him). My husband and I even brought our daughter back to my old synagogue for her naming.
After law school graduation, I got married and my husband and I moved to New York City where I assumed I would live for many years. Who would ever have predicted that shortly after we would move to Hong Kong? We have lived here since 2002.
What do you do for a living?
After a brief stint as a lawyer for a large insurance company, I began to write. In addition to founding and running Asian Jewish Life- a journal of spirit, society and culture, I freelance as a writer (including a column for The Magazine) and edit for a number of publications, usually writing about Jewish Asia but also about culture, identity, travel, history and parenting. I am currently working on my first novel (fiction, middle grade-young adult). I also do consulting work and serve a regional consultant for the JDC.
How did you get started in writing?
I left my law job when we moved to Hong Kong for my husband’s work in 2002. My intention was to return in two years. Since we were moving with a 7 week old and a 19 month old, we decided that it didn’t make sense for me to work while we were there. It would take a long time for me to settle the children and find a place to live. Two years rolled into three and when we started to discuss staying long term, I was eager to work again. I told my husband I would contact my company in New York and ask them to find me a position in their Hong Kong office.
My husband’s response: “You are a NY qualified attorney from a top law school who has a great reputation within the company. If you make that call, you will likely be working by the end of the week. If your greatest passion in life is to be lawyer for a large insurance company, go for it. If not, you have a window of opportunity to figure out what you are most passionate about.”
I had always wanted to be a writer. I had studied English Literature and Judaic Studies in SUNY Albany’s Honors Program. My thesis was a creative piece. I would frustratingly search the New York Times and announce, “Oh surprise. No job adverts for Jewish poets today,” close the paper and put it down. Now I had the chance to do what I always wanted.
What types of readers do you hope to reach?
I hope that Asian Jewish Life will reach the broadest set of readers possible. The Jewish communities of the Far East (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, India, Korea, Nepal, Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand) are unbelievably diverse in terms of background, nationality, denomination, Jewish learning, etc. We try to provide something for everyone. Additionally, our online readers tend to live outside the Far East (the majority are in the US and Israel but with growing readership in Australia, the UK and France), this also requires us to broaden the scope of the magazine.
What about your column in The Magazine?
For The Jewish Press, I tend to write memoir-type pieces that offer a glimpse of Jewish life in the region and what it is like to raise a Jewish family off the major arteries and in a third culture. My pieces are usually personal and weave in stories about my children, with quotes from them as well. Memoir, like biography and autobiography, has always appealed to me. I thrive on personal narratives. Everyone has a story to share.
Since I was a child, I was a natural storyteller, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I had a writer friend tell me to start putting down on paper (or computer) any story I find myself repeating three times. This was invaluable advice.