I had only met Arnold a few times, but I felt he was as familiar as the soy cafe au lait I held in my hands. He and I bonded over China one evening at the gym, and pretty soon we went from lifting weights to lifting coffee cups over at the Starbucks just down the street from me. I liked Arnold because he was this huge espresso shot of an African-American, the kind of guy who wasn’t afraid to say — or ask — anything.
“Are you Jewish?” he asked me, after I sat down.
“No, I’m not, actually. I was raised Catholic. Why do you ask?”
“Because you have a Chinese husband. You usually see Jewish women married to Chinese men.”
“Really? How would you know?”
I was so stunned, I still I can’t remember what he said. Maybe it was because he had lived in this city (which I like to think of as Jewish as Woody Allen) his whole life. Or maybe he heard it growing up.
But later, when I left Starbucks, I wondered if I really was out of the mainstream, as a shiksa with a Chinese husband, Was it true? Were Jewish women more likely to marry Chinese men?
If you want to talk of marriage between two cultures, well, the Jews and the Chinese have tied the knot — figuratively — for a long time. Kaifeng became home to a community Sephardic Jews during the Northern Song Dynasty, and they thrived there for more than 700 years. Jews found refuge during the Holocaust in a visa-free Shanghai. For many Jews, Christmas and Chinese food go together like Beijing duck and those thin pancake wrappers. There’s even a magazine called Asian Jewish Life. You might call it, like the website devoted to this group of cross-cultural families, Chinese and Chosen.
So it’s no wonder that this study on interracial marriage among Chinese American/Japanese Americans had this to say:
…it appears that there is a propensity for our interviewees to meet and date Jews in college or in their professional fields and marry them. Eighteen percent of the Chinese and Japanese American women and men we interviewed were married to Jewish partners. Five described how they shared a cultural affinity with their Jewish spouses; most often they mentioned how both cultures valued strong family ties and educational achievement. Interviewees also described their Jewish spouses as having a sense of “ethnic tradition” and an immigrant legacy found lacking in non-Jewish whites they had known or dated.
I thought about Rachel DeWoskin, Anna Sophie Loewenberg, and Susan Blumberg-Kason. They’re all Jewish, and all not afraid to tell the world — through words, or video — that they love (or once loved) Chinese men. Maybe Arnold was right?
But then I thought about all of the Western women I’ve discovered across the Internet, who love Chinese men like I do. I’ve met Catholics (and lapsed Catholics, like me), Lutherans, Baptists, Buddhists, Muslims and Atheists. I’ve heard from women from Bosnia and Bulgaria to Costa Rica and New Zealand. Not everyone is white either, as Jo Kelly-Bai reminds us.
So was it just all a stereotype? Even with the evidence I found, Arnold’s conclusion seemed too simple to believe.
True or not, one thing is certain: that the community of Western women who love Chinese men — is far more diverse than Arnold ever imagined.
What do you think? Do Jewish women tend to love and marry Chinese men much more? Or is it just a stereotype?