Havurah posed several questions to Asian-Jewish couples who are both believers in Y’shua. Below we excerpt some of their answers. For the full responses, go to http://www.jewsforjesus.org/asianjewish

Oded and Bimini Cohen

Havurah: What are some aspects of your spouse’s background that you found challenging?

Bimini (Chinese): The Israeli culture is quite the opposite of the Chinese culture. In our culture, we express our needs by hinting. We are much more subtle. But I tried subtlety in our first few years of marriage and didn’t get very far. I had to learn to be much more direct. I couldn’t just say, “The garbage can is getting a bit full,” or “The grass is getting kind of tall.” In fact, it took about four years of marriage to learn that when Oded asks a question, he really wants to know the answer! For example, if he says, “Why did you need to buy that?” he is not saying he is unhappy I bought it or objecting in any way, he just wants to know why we need it. I think it is his tone of voice that used to make me think he was complaining or objecting.

Havurah: Has being an Asian-Jewish couple given you unique opportunities?

Oded (Jewish Israeli): We find that we are able to relate to many mixed-marriage couples. This is especially the case when one is a believer and the other one is not, since we were in the same situation for a time. And it is also easier for the couple we are ministering to, to relate to us. And then—aside from Bimini’s sweet personality!—there is the fact that Bimini, being Chinese, is really disarming to many people simply because in the eyes of the typical Jewish person, Chinese people don’t have the same baggage that a Caucasian Christian comes with. The Chinese people don’t have any history of persecuting and mistreating the Jewish people. That has enabled us to enter many doors that otherwise would not be open.

 

Michael and Jin*

*At their request, their real names have not been used as they are planning to move to a sensitive location in the near future.

Havurah: What are some aspects of your spouse’s background that you found challenging?

Michael (Jewish): Jin was committed to supporting her parents with X amount of dollars. That’s an expected part of the culture: you support the parents. When we were talking about marriage, I was working in a youth hostel making $500 per month with no other income. As Jin continued to talk about supporting her parents, I would try to give her a sense of the financial reality. And I thought the subject was dead, until two weeks later it would come up again. I came to the conclusion that this was a non-negotiable for Jin, like paying your taxes. It’s something you would never consider not doing. I think it wouldn’t have been a clash if I had been making a “normal” living like everyone else.

Havurah:  In terms of culture, how are you raising your children?

Michael: For theological reasons we’ve committed to instilling a Jewish identity with our children.  You know, Romans 11:1: “I am an Israelite.”  And Jin understands theologically that their Jewishness is an important God-given identity that we don’t want to lose. So when they communicate with people they’ll never say they’re half-Chinese, half-Jewish. They’ll say, “We’re Jewish. My mother’s Chinese.”  And we value Chinese culture.  Our children are fluent in Chinese and they don’t speak Hebrew yet.

Jin (Chinese): Because in our family the father’s side is Jewish, I feel like there is more of the Jewish kind of feeling or atmosphere with the children. We do celebrate the Chinese holidays, and the children speak Chinese. Yet they feel like they are more Jewish and also more connected with the Jewish holidays and traditions.

Karl and Kristen deSouza

Havurah: In terms of culture, how are you raising your children? 

Karl (Jewish): Kristen and I have three children. We expose them to both Jewish and Korean cultures and they identify as both. Our son, Nathanael, is currently a blue belt Tae Kwon Do (Korean martial art), where he also learns some Korean words and phrases. Since Kristen is vastly more proficient at speaking Korean than I am, I encourage her to teach our children Korean. I think she’d agree that this is more important to me than to her. I think Kristen is slightly more inclined to Jewish culture and expressions than Korean. We strive to teach and expose our kids to some Korean and Hebrew phrases and culture. Both Kristen and I want to expose our kids to the heritages they come from. Our oldest daughter, Elizabeth, enthusiastically initiated a class presentation on Hanukkah with her Jewish friend. She even played one of the Liberated Wailing Wall songs for her class! I was very proud of her. She openly identified herself as a Jew.

Havurah: What are some characteristics of your spouse’s ethnic background or culture that attracted you or that you feel have complemented your own background?

Kristen (Korean): Before I met Karl, I had been exposed to Jewish culture while working at a Jewish hospital in Toronto—learning about the holidays, about the Holocaust from survivors, as well as a few key words in Yiddish like meshuggeneh. I was also interested in learning more about the Jewish background of my faith. After I met Karl, which was in seminary, I gave him some Messianic music I had been listening to and brought him to his first Jews for Jesus Passover Banquet. When Karl told me that he was an Indian Jew, I was curious to know more about him and his culture. Like other Korean Christians, I respected the Jewish people as God’s chosen people through whom God shows his love and faithfulness.

Gary Hsia and Bethany Bond (engaged)

Havurah: Do you feel as a couple that you are more inclined in one cultural direction than another?

Gary (Chinese): I think we both identify ourselves more as being “American” in terms of how we relate to language, culture, music, politics, etc. Our relationship doesn’t lean strongly towards either culture. However, that being said, we do both enjoy each other’s cultural foods and learning about different traditions and beliefs. I am definitely more aware and conscious about things that affect Jews, from things in the news/politics on a national or international scale to smaller events that are going on in the community.

Havurah: What are some aspects of your fianc?’s background that you found challenging?

Bethany (Jewish): One of the things that I have found challenging is Gary’s assimilation to American culture. When we were first getting to know each other he described himself as an “all-American boy.” At the time I stifled a laugh, but I’ve come to see that it is true. How this is a challenge to me is when it comes to relating to his family. I want to develop good relationships with them, so I ask Gary about Chinese traditions or customs we can incorporate into our wedding to honor them. But he has never been to a traditional Chinese wedding before!

The above interviews have been condensed for print.
For the full text along with Stan Meyer’s interviews, go to http://www.jewsforjesus.org/asianjewish