Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
It’s true. My Zionism was made in China. I grew up in New Jersey in a town that was nearly one third Jewish. Everyone on my street was Jewish. Half my soccer team was Jewish. In Synagogue, my Cantor infused every message with Zionism, as did his wife and children. To my parents this was pure mishugas.
My parents loved Israel for the refuge it provided for those other Jews who were desperate for a place to go. They spoke of how it saved Holocaust victims who had been turned away at every port in the world. They sent money to aid the Russian Refusniks as they looked toward Zion. They answered pleas to help African Jewish refugees, settling in Israel, who also had nowhere else to go.
It was a refuge for others, not for us. Our family legends were of settlers who made it to America from Russia on the eve of the Russian Revolution, with the Cossacks at their heels. We were living in the promised land of the Northeastern seaboard of the United States. On Passover we didn’t conclude our Seder with, next year in Jerusalem. “Next year in Boca Raton,” we would shout, tongue-in-cheek.
I went to Hebrew School, Jewish camps, Jewish youth groups and as a family we collectively helped raise money for Jewish Federation. The Bnai Brith Guide to University was our bible; only schools where Jewish students numbered in the double digits were relevant to us. So I ended up at school in New York where nearly 20% of the students were also Jewish. There was a Judaic Studies Department and a kosher kitchen for students who needed it. I was well on my way on the path to finding the future Jewish doctor of my grandmother’s and mother’s dreams. He was right here in New York, not in Israel plowing the fields of some kibbutz.
To my grandmother’s dismay, I never did find that Jewish doctor and instead had ambitions of my own. I went on to law school. In law school, I was president of the Jewish Law Student’s Association. I navigated through Jewish Washington D.C with ease in my Jewish world. I went on to complete a fellowship program with the Anti-Defamation League in New York.
My Zionism remained in my pocket, unexamined and unused. I never was asked, in my Jewish world, to prove my love for Israel. I never put a label on myself nor saw the need to. As a Diaspora Jew, I was fairly comfortable with the distance my family carefully formed between us and Israel.
It was not until recently, well into my thirties, that Zionism even entered the conversation. I finally made my first (and second and third) trip to Israel. We now alternate summer holidays from Hong Kong between the United States and Israel.
As editor of a Jewish magazine based in China, at every cocktail party and public event, I am asked to defend Israel (at least I can now say that I have been there). This conversation always seems to immediately follow the customary, “How long have you lived here and what do you do?” I explain that while I am Jewish, I am not Israeli. I have begun to understand that to most people here there is simply no distinction between the two. The terms are interchangeable.
Recently, at a dinner party, I was questioned about the legitimacy of the settlements. I tried to again draw a distinction between a Jew and an Israeli. I tried to explain that I was certainly not an Israeli government spokesperson. I looked at the Indian and Chinese faces around me, waiting for a response. I was a spokesperson. I began to give a carefully self-edited response. One Indian gentleman interrupted, “Are you a Zionist?”
Again, silence. I had never been asked the question before. What was his definition of a Zionist? What was mine? What impact would my response have? Everyone continued to stare, glasses of champagne in hand.
I took a deep breath and a drink. “Yes, of course I am. I am a Zionist,” I offered hesitantly. My husband glanced over just as the crowd dispersed. I tell him later that evening that I was put on the defensive. I felt funny about my declaration, unexpected and still unexamined. It is weighty and stays with me.
I hear my seven-year old daughter tell her friend that Israel and the US are her homes. I ask her why Israel. “Because Israel is the homeland of all the Jewish people,” she unabashedly responds. Being raised as an expat in a foreign country means her understanding of home isn’t bound by a definition of where you live, it can’t be. It is a place you return to, somewhere that is somehow part of you.
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Undoubtedly the greatest manifestation of his antipathy was his infamous declaration: “[Expletive] the Jews. They don’t vote for us anyway.”
Chaplain Winkler along with the other OJCB chaplains work tirelessly on a daily basis to ensure that all of the Jewish prisoners religious needs are met.
“Without a high school diploma, you couldn’t work as a garbage collector in New York City; you couldn’t join the Air Force. Yet a quarter of our kids still walked out of high school and never came back.”
– Amanda Ridley
My mother-in-law is totally devoted to her daughters and their children. Her sons’ children on the other hand are treated like second-class citizens.
The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews is designed to tell the whole thousand-year story of the Jews in Poland.
This past summer was a powerful one for the Jewish people. I will always remember where I was on June 12th when I found out that Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were kidnapped. I will always remember the look on my sister’s face on June 30th when she told me that they were found. I will […]
Avromi often put other people’s interests before his own: he would not defend people whom he believed were guilty (even if they were willing to pay him a lot of money).
The Presbyterian Church USA voted to divest from three companies that do business with Israel.
How can I help my wife learn to say “no,” and understand that her first priority must be her husband and family?
My eyes skimmed an article on page 1A. I was flabbergasted. I read the title again. Could it be? It had good news for the Miami Jewish community.
There is seemingly great pressure to orchestrate a production worthy of the Hong Kong skyline that will serve as a backdrop.
If your hero is fictional you could be crazy. And if they happen to be real, they are likely human and, unfortunately, inevitably flawed.
I left my mother a message saying goodbye and pleading with her to make sure my son grew up knowing how much I loved him.
In the quaint and picturesque Hungarian town of Szentendre (Saint Andrew), just outside of Budapest, our group of five new friends who had gathered from throughout the Jewish world bask in the sunlight, seemingly frozen in time. We weave along the cobblestone streets browsing in and out of charming little shops offering handmade crafts, delicate latticework, whimsical wooden toys and intricately painted porcelain. We sit outside and feast on pastries that look more like art than edibles and ice coffee is reminiscent of ice cream floats.
It started as my daughter’s third grade assignment: choose a person to write about, preferably an American, preferably a Jew. We were going to do just that. I intended to help my daughter choose the topic and then to back away yet, Emma Lazarus ended up drawing me in.
I met Mr. E at a poetry reading. Hong Kong’s literary scene is small and two Americans reading in one evening was an unusual event. We became Facebook friends, generally “liking” the same local literary events and book launches.
A Hong Kong symphony of sounds fills the air as local laborers shout across the shul courtyard in Cantonese while tossing bamboo in a pile for the sukkah: Filipino maids chatter in Tagalog hovering over the children in their charge, the radio of the Nepalese gurkhas, the Synagogue security, crackles and jackhammers provide the background music. The thick air and humidity within the walls of the partially constructed bamboo sukkah sharply contrasts with the crisp fall air of Sukkot in the northeastern corridor of the United States, where the sukkahs of my childhood were laden with dried fruit and autumn color. Dozens of colorful miniature Chinese paper lanterns dangle from the sukkah and here replace the burnt orange and golden gourds of autumn.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/zionism-made-in-china/2011/01/20/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: