Battle Hymn of the Asian-Jewish Power Couple
02/02/2011 - 11:05

This summer novelist Gary Shteyngart told New York Magazine that he is engaged to a Korean-American woman. (Sadly, when I e-mailed him, playing up our shared alma mater Oberlin  and hoping to feature him in a column, he declined to be interviewed, writing “I'm totally down with intermarriage and would love to talk about it, but my fiancee is very publicity-shy and I swore not to bring her into any media light.”)

Soon after, the New Yorker reported that Facebook Emperor Mark Zuckerberg is expected to marry Priscilla Chan, a Chinese-American medical student.
And then Tiger Mom Amy Chua jumped into the media spotlight, with Jewish hubby Jed Rubenfeld and their bat mitzvahed, sleepover-deprived daughters Sophia and Lulu in tow.

As The New York Times (yes, I apparently only read publications with “New York” in the title) observed, Chua is “one half of the kind of Asian-Jewish academic power couple that, as she notes, populates many university towns.”

On the off chance that you didn’t yet know this, both Chua and Rubenfeld are Yale law professors when they’re not writing best-sellers, appearing on TV or forcing their children to revise birthday cards.

I clearly have not written enough about Asian-Jewish power couples, perhaps because I encounter so few of them, living as I do in a neighborhood populated by teachers, journalists, architects, artists, graphic designers and other low-lifes who occasionally got grades below A’s. 

I am eager to learn more about this important intermarried demographic (including whether there are a sizable amount of couples in which the woman is Jewish and the man is Asian, and whether any of them have only mediocre careers) and am excited about a forthcoming book authored by husband-and-wife team Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt, two Whitman College sociologists who have conducted in-depth interviews with 37 Asian-Jewish couples.

According to preliminary findings they presented in 2009 at the Association for Jewish Studies (summarized on the Whitman College website), all the couples they interviewed who have children are raising them as Jews; there is little tension among extended families and one of the main factors they identify as bringing them together is a similar value system rooted in education, hard work and strong family ties.

I’m not sure if the couples are supposed to be a representative sample or not, and when I get an opportunity to interview Kim (who is Korean) and Leavitt (who is Jewish), I’ll provide more details.

But in case you are worried that all Asian-Jewish couples impose three-hour piano-practicing regimens on their children and call them “garbage,” Kim told JTA reporter Sue Fishkoff that, “We talked to a lot of different kinds of families — Chinese and other Asian, straight and gay, East Coast and West Coast — and we found nothing close to the way Amy portrayed the way she mothered. We met a number of their kids, and they didn’t complain about anything like that.”

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My husband is Jewish and I am Asian American. The Asian and Jewish cultures are quite similar in terms of morals, values... with a heavy focus on academic excellence and professional success.
Prior to being married, my prior relationships were with Jewish men as we shared similar values in being intellectually and academically driven and professionally accomplished .
Jewish men do make very good husbands and do respect and encourage their wives/spouses' success in their professional and academic achievements .
Dr. Alexandra Chan Katz

I happen to be a Chinese woman who is married to a non religious Jewish man. I do think some type of asian women and Jewish men are very good fits. Besides the obvious reasons of similar social and family values, Jewish men tend to be quite accepting of strong minded women (perhaps they get used to their mothers' dominance in the family), this works very well with headstrong, highly educated asian women who might find such quality less appreciated in the asian marriage market. I am not very sure about losing the loss of asian heritage in such marriages though. In our own case, our family is more culturally inclined to be Chinese American. We never obeserve any Jewish holidays. We take trips to China and plan to have our kids speaking mandarin when we have them.

I see mention of Jewish men married to Asian women. Will there ever be a case of an Asian man married to a Jewish woman? *sigh*

Wow. Im an Asian American woman who had a conservative conversion BEFORE meeting my now hubby. I find the above postings to be a little hurtful. I consider myself a Jew . A proud one at that!

Wow, a whole comment thread filled with paranoid racists - lovely!

Anon, Of course many of these Jewish men are self-haters and have anti-semitic attitudes toward Jewish women. I don't care about these losers but I do care when they want to pretend to have Jewish families. THEY DON'T! This article mentions that many of these couples claim to be raising their children "Jewish" but that couldn't be further from the truth. These children are not Jews. You need a Jewish mother to be Jewish. These children are Asian gentiles with self-hating Jewish fathers who hate Jewish women. These couples should never be welcomed into the Jewish community.

I don't think Jewish men intermarry because of issues with Jewish women or self hatred. Jews make up less than 2% of the US population. Most of these Jews are non observant, and very assimilated - sharing the same values as their non Jewish neighbors, classmates, acquaintances and friends. It's therefore "natural" that they would date and marry non Jews (the 98% others around them). Nevertheles this assimilation is a tragedy and leading to the disappearence of American Jewry. There are only two solutions to this problem: encourage Jews to become Torah observant or move to Israel.

Wow. So you know that Jews make up less than one percent of the world's population, right? Just because you seem to have some deep issues doesn't mean the rest of us do. Btw, my mom is Jewish, and so is my dad, who is also Asian. My family and I keep kosher, pray regularly, and are deeply involved in our Jewish community. Our cultures in which. We were raised have many similar values, and I consider myself extremely comfortable with both my faith and my race. People like you make Jews look bad. Perhaps you should consider a different faith...Scientology maybe?

Well put - if you were looking for reasons to hate jews.
This has been going on at least since the mid-1980s. It actually came up on all things the Dr. Phil show. People over the age of 50 are unfamiliar with it. Jewish men go out with and marry Asian women to spite Jewish woman. I know a guy who actually makes out with Asian girls at Jewish singles events just to be mean. I know a Korean woman who will not go out with Jews because she 'doesn't want to be a fetish.' Asian woman, especially the American born, are far from passive. I think these guys like to be controlled without actually giving into their parents. Then these Asian women want to join synagogues to spite their husbands. We have a Chinese woman and her daughter come for the seder. Her husband is a self-hating Jew and doesn't come but the mother wants her exposed to her "Jewish side."

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