Raising a Jewish-Chinese Daughter in North America

As Jews adopt children in increasing numbers, many of these children come from abroad.

Print this page Print this page

Our daily life is filled with references to Zoë's Chinese heritage. Her room is decorated with Chinese arts and crafts. Our home is furnished with Chinese antiques and artwork that I purchased before the idea of a Chinese adoption became a reality. I want Zoë to be proud of her dual heritage, to appreciate the history and craftsmanship that went in to making these things. I want both her Chinese and Jewish sides to feel natural and right to her, parts of what make her a whole person. I also want her to know and understand that I, too, celebrate her diversity and feel it is a natural part of who she is and what makes up our family.

We celebrate Chinese festivals as they come up. I like to draw parallels between Judaism and Chinese and American cultural celebrations, such as the harvest festivals of Sukkot, Thanksgiving, and Mid-Autumn Festival. Zoë is growing up in America. She is learning to speak for herself and base her opinions on what she is learning about American life. The fact that she can celebrate the New Year three times--American, Jewish, and Chinese--is fascinating to her. Showing Zoë the parallels of different cultures and how we are all intertwined is very rewarding.

I have made sure that Zoë has ample opportunity to meet and befriend other Chinese. We have numerous Chinese friends and we are members of a Chinese adoption group. Zoë practices her developing knowledge of Mandarin with our Chinese friends and any other Asian that crosses her path. We also participate in our local Stars of David chapter, of which I am the coordinator. Zoë has many occasions to befriend other multinational adopted children and see how their lives fit into the spectrum of being Jewish.

We eat ethnic food in our house all the time. It is fun for me to point out to Zoë the similarities between Jewish and Chinese foods. Think of dumplings and kreplach, for instance. And what about those old standbys--chicken soup and wonton soup?…

Jewish & Chinese

It has been fascinating to watch Zoë explain being Jewish to our 18-year-old Chinese exchange student. Zoë has shown her how to light the candles on Shabbat, how to celebrate Jewish holidays like Hanukkah and Purim, and has explained what foods to eat and not eat on Passover. My little 6-year-old sees her "Jewish/Chineseness" as her badge of honor.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Marlyn Kress

Marlyn Kress began her adoption journey as a young woman contemplating her future family. In May 1994, as a single parent by choice, she adopted an 8-week-old baby girl from China. Marlyn co-directs Stars of David Chaverim Chapter in the Southern NJ/Philadelphia area. She is also a member of the Adoptive Parent Leadership Coalition.