JewAsian: race, religion, and identity for America’s Newest Jews [Review]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Science, United States on 2018-11-01 02:37Z by Steven

JewAsian: race, religion, and identity for America’s Newest Jews [Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 40, 2017 – Issue 13
pages 2380-2382
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2017.1329544

Hasia R. Diner, Paul And Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History
New York University

Helen Kiyong Kim and Noah Samuel Leavitt, JewAsian: Race, Religion, and Identity for America’s Newest Jews (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016).

Sociologists Helen Kiyong Kim and Noah Samuel Leavitt, a married couple, he of Jewish background, presumably European, and she of Korean derivation, have, with this slim book, launched an important topic for further research and scholarly inquiry. The two authors explore here, using the conventional methods of sociological study, a trend, presumably new and emblematic of postmodernity. This trend can be accessed by even the most casual readers nearly every Sunday in the wedding announcements in The New York Times‘ Style section. Like JewAsian—obviously a neologism—The Times postings chronicle the not uncommon phenomenon of, for the most part, Jewish men, bearers of identifiable Jewish surnames, marrying women marked by their names and by the accompanying photographs identifiable as Asian, primarily individuals who themselves or their forbears hailed from China, Korea, and Vietnam.

The text of the wedding announcements, besides detailing the usually impressive occupations and educational backgrounds of bride and groom, and those of their parents, fit well with this fascinating book. Nearly all the nuptial notices indicate that a rabbi or cantor will be officiating at the ceremony, indicating that Jews, certainly the non-Orthodox among them who constitute the American majority, have embraced this emerging reality of marriages across lines of race, ethnicity, and religion. So too the fact that the brides in these marriages have chosen to have their unions solemnized by a member of the Jewish clergy, rather than by someone representing Christianity or Buddhism or any other religious tradition associated with Asian and Asian American culture, represents an important contemporary reality which Kim and Leavitt explore in their book.

The wedding announcements, like the much publicized union between FaceBook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, sweethearts since their Harvard days and like the data presented in JewAsian, point to the trend by which the non-Jewish, Asian women who marry Jewish men become integrated and absorbed into the fabric of American Jewish life. Kim and Leavitt, who for the most part leave out the details of their personal journey as an Asian and Jewish couple, focusing carefully on the pairs whom they interviewed, do appropriately indicate in the Preface that they met and fell in love while graduate students at the University of Chicago…

Read or purchase the review here.

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Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America [Review: Diner]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2011-03-05 23:40Z by Steven

Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America [Review: Diner]

American Historical Review
Volume 96, Number 2 (April 1991)
pages 624-625

Hasia R. Diner, Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History; Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies
New York University

Paul R. Spickard. Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 1989. Pp. xii, 532 pages.

Paul R. Spickard has performed a tremendous service to historians and other students of ethnicity in writing this study of the historic patterns and changing meaning of out-group marriage. In focusing on the experiences of those Japanese Americans, American Jews, and African Americans who chose to wed nongroup members, and conversely on the experiences of white, Christian Americans as they took spouses from these three minority groups, the author seeks to link social structure and cultural constructs as explanations for particular patterns.

Spickard ought to be credited for authoring the first serious historical hook on the subject and for taking this extremely important topic out of the sole domain of sociologists, who are eager to build models and are therefore oblivious to subtleties of time and place. Indeed, the sociological generalizations about who has intermarried and why provides Spickard with the departure point for this analysis. He ultimately tests the extant models and asks which ones work under which circumstances. No historian before has tackled this issue, and, where they have attempted to address it, they have subsumed it under the rubric of a study of one group without any benefit of comparative analysis. The fact, for example, that intermarriage rates and patterns for Americans of Japanese ancestry and Jews resemble one another discounts, according to Spickard, the importance attributable to color and physical appearance as a barrier to romance across group lines. On the other hand, among African Americans and Jews the dominant pattern of minority-group men marrying majority-group women—rather than conversely—indicates that out-group marriage patterns can, under certain circumstances, be linked to social and economic mobility.

This study also takes the issue of intermarriage out of the hands of group activists, leaders, and apologists who are concerned about the implications of intermarriage rates for group solidarity. By offering a dispassionate and comparative study of the topic, analyzed historically and oriented toward looking for change over time, Spickard adds a note of clearheaded rationality to an otherwise intensely emotional subject. He convincingly proves that marriage outside the group does not always mean a loss to the group or a severing of the bonds between the out-marner and the community of his or her birth. Intermarriage, according to Spickard, has different meanings under varying circumstances. Spickard in no place denigrates the passionate feelings of group members worried about intermarriage or its implications for ethnic cohesion; he offers instead an alternative, cooler way of looking at the issues.

In several other ways, this book ought to be commended and recommended. For one, he treats the issue in its complexity rather than simplicity. To really study intermarriage, the scholar must recognize that members of two groups are involved, and the behavior and attitudes of both are crucial to a thorough analysis. Second, marriage involves both genders, and a study that does not take cognizance of differences in attitude, expectations, and social positions of men and women would not adequately cover the problem. But Spickard addresses these issues and provides historians of ethnicity, gender, and race with a thoroughly researched, sophisticated analysis that should displace the usual sociologically based, model-oriented generalizations that have dominated the field.

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