Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
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.
Everyone is always looking for cute yet simple and inexpensive ideas to enhance their table at special occasions. Here are some attractive ways to create that festive look. Whether you use china or plastic, your guests will surely be delighted with your charming setup.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a chavrusa working with you, guiding and helping you in your work environment?
What made an M.I.T. scholarship student, taking time off from his doctorate in medicine, to backpack, and then decide to backtrack, chuck it all… and get a haircut? Perhaps it is easier to understand a Harvard law student becoming enamored with the logic of Gemara and settling down to struggle with the intellectual challenges of Aramaic acrobatics.
JetBlue flew an empty aircraft from Boston to JFK to assist us. The care and concern of the flight attendants was amazing. They were astounded by our group, so much so that at the end of the flight, the captain related for all to hear that he was truly impressed by the care that the HASC counselors provided for the special-needs campers – all of whom have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. We did our best to demonstrate a true kiddush Hashem.
Q: What does twice exceptional or 2e mean?
The battle over partnership minyans is just the latest scuffle in the war over women’s roles in the Orthodox community.
Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.
According to Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish scholar, “Gifts for the poor [matanot l’evyonim] deserve more attention than the seudah and mishloach manot because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes.”
Having everyone home on a snow day can be a lot of fun – the first few times it happens. Once snow day number six hits, perhaps not so much and the real creativity has to come out.
Imich was born in 1903 in Poland, where he later earned his Ph.D. in 1927, despite the best efforts of anti-Semitic professors to sabotage his thesis
Never sacrifice the people who matter for anything of lesser importance…
Hannah believed that one must learn about the evils of the past so that they aren’t repeated.
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.
In an effort to procrastinate, I occasionally like to bounce some ideas around. As I work from home with only my two cats for company, this often means waiting until my children return home from school.
Hong Kong’s Ohel Leah Synagogue recently celebrated the dedication of a new Sefer Torah. Britain’s Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Lady Elaine Sacks joined Rabbi Asher Oser and Assistant Rabbi Ariel Zamir of Ohel Leah at the festivities. Also present were Rabbi Mordechai Avtzon of Chabad of Hong Kong, Rabbis Meir Azarzar and Avner Cohen from the Shuva Israel community, and the sofer, Rabbi Yehonatan Yitzhak-Halevy. Hundreds of members of the Hong Kong Jewish community participated as well.
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:
No related posts.