Even before she became Jewish, Kristin Eriko Posner was already quite used to navigating a mixed identity. The daughter of a Japanese immigrant mother and third-generation Japanese American father who grew up in Hawaii, she never felt fully American, nor fully Japanese.
Posner, 35, recalls the common immigrant experience of bringing food in her school lunch that was unfamiliar to her classmates.
“I was made fun of for bringing seaweed,” she said. “Times have changed, and now people love Japanese food. If I had grown up now, my lunch might actually be seen as cool.”
After a path of self-discovery that included stops in interior design and public relations, she turned her multiethnic identity into a business and lifestyle brand.
The Nourish Co.’s goal is to help people “to heal, connect to their lineage and remember their rituals — whatever they may be,” and support those who are looking to combine traditions and, along the way, become cultural innovators.
That would perfectly describe Posner, who co-designed a “Racial Justice Passover Seder” that was in part a tribute to her Japanese ancestors, developed a self-guided, downloadable walking tour of Japantown, and created Japanese-inspired Jewish recipes. Now she is adding another branch to her growing business, an online shop on the Nourish Co. website where she is selling three Judaica-inspired items that she designed: a Kiddush cup, a challah cover and a tray for candlesticks.
Her desire to create her own line came from what she saw in the Judaica market when she got married. “So much of what’s on the market now is mass produced,” the San Francisco resident said. “On the one end of the spectrum, there are these incredible Judaica makers, but their products cost thousands of dollars and are inaccessible for the majority of young Jewish couples. I wanted to create heirlooms that were hand-made, high-quality, limited-edition and were still accessible for the average couple.”
With her background in interior design, Posner had been keeping a list of artisans she wanted to work with. Her style incorporates a Japanese aesthetic with modern, clean lines. The ritual cup is in the style of Kintsugi, which means “golden joinery,” in which gold or another metallic lacquer is used to repair a crack. The challah cover has the seven species from the Bible hand-embroidered on Irish linen. And the tray, which Posner thought to design after realizing she was putting her Shabbat candlesticks and menorah on a piece of foil or junk mail, is in the shade of cherry blossoms. She hopes to continue to create two collections a year going forward.
Posner grew up in Los Angeles and began her career in public relations. From 2008 to 2010, she lived in Japan where she taught English and learned to cook Japanese food. After her return, she moved to San Francisco and studied interior design.
She came to embrace Judaism after meeting her now-husband Bryan, a secular Jew. She eventually converted, had a bat mitzvah and got married at Congregation Emanu-El in a ceremony that reflected both cultures.
“I think I had always been longing for some sense of spiritual navigation, but I didn’t know what I was looking for because I didn’t grow up with it,” she said, noting that her grandparents identified as Buddhist. “I had gone to church with friends but nothing felt right until I started learning about Judaism. I fell in love with the rituals and traditions that are so well preserved. In many ways, Judaism has created more of a desire for me to learn more about my own Japanese American heritage.”
The seed for Nourish Co. was planted when it came time to plan her wedding and she couldn’t find any resources about Jewish and Japanese couples.
“I did not initially set out to tell my story,” she said. “But when I was wedding planning, I didn’t see many examples of people who look like me and my husband. I started writing more about my experience through my blog, and started hearing from all of these people who weren’t Japanese and Jewish but were also trying to incorporate multiethnic traditions. They told me they were really inspired by my story. Until that moment, I didn’t realize how universal my experience is.”
Around the same time, she invited some friends over for dinner. On the menu was what she called a “Jew-ish donabe” (clay pot). She put smoked salmon over white rice, with Everything Bagel spice mix on top.
“I hadn’t thought that much about it,” she said. “But everyone loved the idea of combining the two traditions, and food was such an easy way to do that.”
She doesn’t know quite where else the Nourish Co. business will take her.
“The ultimate vision is for this to become a go-to place for people who are both looking back on their histories and into their futures, and to help them create a new conversation about what culture, religion and spirituality can be in the modern world as we’re all trying to redefine that for ourselves,” she said.
“For so many reasons, like assimilation and living in a different country, it felt like my own culture had gotten really diluted. It’s really powerful to reclaim your own culture, so I hope that what I’m doing inspires other people to do something similar with their own.”