Article Discussion: How We Raise Children in Our Chinese-Jewish Family

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This topic has 3 voices, contains 10 replies, and was last updated by  Schvach 8 months ago.

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April 10, 2009 at 4:14 pm #1524


Click here to read the article: How We Raise Children in Our Chinese-Jewish Family

September 7, 2010 at 9:58 am #5025

Paul Taylor

It is wrong to attempt to brainwash your children into a particular religion. in any event you cant simply make it up as you go along, had you wanted Jewish children then you must marry a Jewish female, By marryinga non Jew you made a decision. Therefore your a la carte version of religion is a nonsense

by the way I am agnostic and would never dream of forcing my children to adopt my absurd religious background

This article is not like affirming at all

September 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm #5028

Debbie B.


Your comments are inconsistent. Your criticism does not focus on this couple bringing up their children with a religious education (“brainwashing”, as you call it), but rather on the initial intermarriage, and you ignore the fact that the wife converted to Judaism. The article does not show an “a la carte version of religion”: their Chinese observances are cultural, not religious, and their previous explorations of other religions were only their path to Judaism, not what they do now with their family. I think that perhaps once you read that Belinda was not Jewish when the author married her, you read the rest of the article with that bias and misunderstood parts of the story accordingly.

It seems to me that although you call yourself an agnostic, you have strong views on who is “Jewish”, and seem to be one of the people the rabbis were thinking of when they told the author that “there would always be some Jews who, out of ignorance of Judaism, look down at converts and their children as being ‘not really’ Jewish.”

You could change the details so that Belinda converted before marriage or was even a Jew by birth, and your post would still be critical of them. And yet if you are against religion altogether why are you most critical that Belinda was not Jewish initially? Also, why do you imply that this couple is forcing their children to adopt a particular religious background unless that is what you think of the joyful celebration of holidays.

September 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm #5029


Oy Veh and Ayaaaaa, What a wonderful home. For the children, the gift of learning 4 Lanugages. Crossing borders as the enter the home of many relatives. Mozeltoff

November 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm #5265


Best wishes with your family. Your wife’s family name, is it another variation or the Chinese Zhang/Chang surname? If it is there could be a possibility of her being from the Kaifeng Chinese Jewish Community as Zhang/Chang were used by one of the 7 clans among the community. Most of the Chinese Jews assimilated, but descendants have been found in Penang, Malaysia, Taiwan, etc. So, you never know.

March 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm #5595


I enjoyed the article. However, I wish the introduction had used the term “Asian woman” instead of “Oriental woman.” The word “oriental” is appropriate for objects and ideas originating from
Asia but not people. Some Asian people find the term “oriental” derogetory. I probably would not know this myself, had I not adopted a daughter from China.

April 13, 2011 at 4:11 am #5710


Unregistered, Zhang and Chang (those are two different names, by the way, though Zhang could hypothetically be romanized as Chang) are such common names in China that the idea that the article author’s wife could be from Kaifeng due to having one of those names is laughable. It’s rather like saying that because someone is named Smith, they must be related to the Joe Smith you went to high school with. Perhaps more importantly, the Kaifeng Jews follow patrilineal descent, so if his wife is in fact related to Kaifeng Jews, the chance that she’s halachically Jewish is basically zero (note that the American Jews who accent patrilineal descent require children to be raised as Jews in order to be considered Jewish, so the author’s wife wouldn’t count due to that). The knee-jerk reaction to declare everyone Jewish is really quite offensive. There are people who are capable of being attracted to or respectful of Judaism without having any Jewish ancestry. Born Jews really need to get over this.

April 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm #5712

Debbie B.


Although you are right that the Chinese names probably do not indicate a connection to Kaifeng Jews, you could also say that given the number of Jews in China 1000 years ago and the fact that they assimilated well into the population, a lot of Chinese are likely to have some (small) amount of Jewish ancestry even if it would not make them halachically Jewish.

I think you need not be quite so critical of the desire to find some Jewish ancestry of a convert. I’m a Chinese-American Jew by conversion myself, and I have at times wished that I knew of some family connection to the Jews in China. But alas, there is none that I know of. I know of a number of converts who were very excited to find some remote Jewish ancestor. It can be hard to become a part of a group that sees lineage as important if you don’t having any familial connection. I know for myself that when I first became involved in Judaism, the peoplehood aspect seemed like such a barrier. And then when many years later I found that I did feel myself to have become a part of the Jewish people, I couldn’t help wondering if I was simply crazy. I’ve heard this same feeling expressed by other “Jews by choice”. And so it is understandable why it may be reassuring to find any small ancestral connection or to look for the connection that may or may not exist.

June 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm #5858


But what is not clear to me:
Is the father Jewish? I mean, is his Italian mother Jewish by birth or a convert? Did his wife convert? If not, the children are not Jewish at all! Eating Chines cholent is a great idea…but what really counts for a Jewish family is if hey are a Jewish family, ethnic background is only a plus, not what counts. Being in a torah observant community means both are Jewish (birth, convert, whatever?)

June 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm #5861


Sorry, read the article again and see the wife did convert. Fine, so she is 100% Jewish. Having such interesting roots I think is an advantage. Whoever looks down on converts is ignorant indeed. Converts have a Jewish soul which they affirm with their conversion, we better call them baal teshuvah’s afterwards like other people who did not grow up observant but found their Jewish souls later and (re)connected.

November 24, 2011 at 2:03 am #6317


Debbie B: Firstly, please accept my hardiest mazel tov on your inclusion in Klal Yisroel. Secondly, I appreciate your remarks – they are well thought and expressed. I have, on a number of previous occasions, and on several different blog sites, expressed my own opinion concerning the inclusion into the Jewish community of Jews who, to quote the old cliche, ‘don’t look Jewish’. About this, all I have been able to say is that Jews do not come from Europe; the jewish community originated in the Middle East, and quite frankly, I haven’t met very many Ashkinasim who look as though they derive from the Middle East. I certainly don’t. Ashkinasim constitute about 80% of the world Jewish population, and quite frankly, I have no idea how we wound up as Jews. So welcome to the tribe, and please, get comfortable with us, despite the ubiquitous presence of the dreaded ‘klaftah’. Regrettably, you’ll always have to contend with them – that’s just life in the Tribe.

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