HomeCommunityShow about Asian Jewish experiences coming to the Bay Area

Show about Asian Jewish experiences coming to the Bay Area

May is both Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month. In light of both, a show centered around Jews who are Asian called What Do I Do with All This Heritage is expected to hit Bay Area theaters soon.

Produced by the The Braid and the Lunar Collective, an Asian Jewish community network, What Do I Do With All This Heritage is a diverse showcase of songs and monologues from authors of geographic and age diversity. The Asian American Jews participating hope to broadcast their existence to a wider audience.

Jenni Rudolph, the Lunar Collective co-founder and co-executive director, told Broadway World that she saw this show as an opportunity to “to collectively create a growing canon of Asian Jewish art and storytelling.”.

Lillian Mimi McKenzie, one of the actors, said that she tries to preempt people about her identity. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, she says that she adopts an exaggerated showman’s voice before she reveals her identity, and as a result, she said ‘I haven’t really gotten huge pushback.”

In the same interview, co-producer David Chiu responded by saying “That gives me hope for the younger generations.” Chiu mentioned that whenever he brought up his identity, he’d often face a lot of unflattering responses such as “Are you more Asian, or are you more Jewish?”, “You must be very confused”, or “How does that work?”.

One of Chiu’s inspirations for What do I Do With All This Heritage was True Colors, a Braid production dedicated to the experiences of Jews of color. Some of the segments include a monologue about being torn between K-pop star aspirations and your modern Orthodox Jewish parents, a story about a Chinese man who winds up on JDate, a Jewish dating site, and a comedic segment about an adult circumcision.

What do I Do With All This Heritage releases amidst a sharp uptick of antisemitic hate crimes coinciding with Hamas’s Oct.7 attacks and the ongoing invasion and violence in Gaza. While The Braid and the Lunar Collective aren’t political organizations, Chiu told the San Fransisco Chronicle “What we do strive for is to bring people together,” further saying that “The lines that divide us are blurred. We try to create these sharp lines; we try to put people into simple boxes. But we’re complex people. In those blurry places, those gray areas, sometimes that’s where some of the most magical art can come.”

Many Asian American Jews are the product of one Jewish parent and one non-Jewish parent, while some are converts. Other are adopted into Jewish families, primarily White and Ashkenazi. Other Asian jews are the descendants of longstanding Jewish communities in Asia, such as the Kaifeng Jews of China, or the Bene Israel, the Jews of Cochin, and the Baghdadi Jews of India.

Asian Jews and Jews of color often face assumptions that they aren’t “real Jews” or are just converts. An article by The Conversation, mentions how “Many families raising Asian American Jewish children face challenges that are shared with other transracial adoptive families, such as adoptive parents not knowing much, at least initially, about their child’s culture of origin.”.

Anegla Buchnadal, a Korean American Rabbi in New York’s central synagogue, has been vocal about her experiences as a woman of both Korean Buddhist and Ashkenazi Jewish descent. In many instances during her teen and young adult years, she found herself as the only person of Asian descent in Jewish spaces. There were even times where her peers did not recognize her as Jewish, such as the Chabad rabbi’s at her undergraduate campus.

Buchdahl has also talked about times when her family has blended both her heritages. During Passover, the Seder plate traditionally includes “maror”: bitter herbs to remind the Jews of the pain of slavery. While many families use horseradish, Buchdahl’s mother swapped in Kimchi one semester.

However, despite these challenges Asian Jews may face, What do I Do With All This Heritage hopes to uplift and celebrate their experiences. “People often think that mixing cultural heritages dilutes them, but the opposite is true.”, said Chiu in an interview with Broadway World. “As we read through stories that writers submitted for this show, we saw time and again next generations who had a deeper relationship to Judaism—and to their respective Asian cultures—than their parents”.

What do I Do With All This Heritage tours through Palo Alto, Los Gatos, and San Fransisco from May 18-19, and will be running online through June 9th.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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