Sometimes you just need to share what you live with people who will get it.
That’s why two bicultural Bay Area Jews — Gen Xia Ye Slosberg and Jenni Rudolph — have started Lunar, a video project that aims to bring together Asian American Jews to build community and share experiences.
Lunar’s short videos will feature content made by Asian American Jews for Asian American Jews … and for others who might seek to understand their lives and issues.
“First and foremost, our philosophy as a team is: ‘This is for us’,” Slosberg told J. “To see ourselves represented.”
Lunar, loosely named for the lunisolar calendars used by Jewish and many Asian cultures, is launching with a series of video conversations. The first, on the topic of food, is set to be released on Feb. 12. After that, videos will roll out weekly revolving around topics such as language, media representation, antisemitism and racism.
The videos were made by getting together groups of Asian American Jews (virtually, of course) and letting them talk about their lives.
All kinds of Asian American Jews participated, including Filipina American Jews, Indian American Jews, Vietnamese American Jews and others. Some have parents from different countries; some were born in different countries. Some have converted; some are far from their Jewish roots.
But they are all part of a story that has common threads.
Slosberg said that by listening to the stories of others, she found a lot to relate to — like the person who talked about living in China while trying to follow Jewish dietary rules.
“I connected with that,” Slosberg said. “It’s not super feasible to keep kosher [there], either. Half the food my mom cooks — she’s Chinese — has shrimp and pork.”
In the group dialogues that form the core of the videos, many of the participants also shared feelings of being rejected or alienated from Judaism. Some recalled being asked “why are you here?” in synagogues or other Jewish spaces.
“We had people talking a lot about their college experiences,” Slosberg said, such as one person who recalled going to a Hillel event and being asked if they were only there for the free food.
Those experiences aren’t uncommon.
“In the Jewish community, many of us don’t feel that we belong,” she said.
Born and raised in China, Slosberg moved to the United States as a teen. “I struggled a lot with not feeling Jewish enough,” she said, something she also described in a 2019 essay for J. in which she talked about the importance of spaces for Jews of color. At UC Berkeley, she was executive director of the Mixed@Berkeley group for bicultural students, but she said she didn’t always feel that space was right for talking about the Asian American Jewish experience.
“It felt like I would be taking up space if I focused on my experiences as an Asian American Jew,” she said.
A Cal graduate who now works at Jewish Youth for Community Action, Slosberg said she and Rudolph participated in a group chat for Chinese American Jews and found the experience “transforming.” They decided to expand on that with Lunar, getting help in the form of a grant from the Bay Area–based Jews of Color Initiative and S.F.-based Be’chol Lashon, which is now the project’s fiscal sponsor.
Slosberg hopes Lunar will be appreciated and shared by Asian American Jews across the country and become a place to foster and affirm connections between them, no matter who or where they are. As a secondary goal, she hopes the larger Jewish community can learn something from the personal stories in the videos about why some people feel pushed away.
“What I’m hoping the impact will be is [that] Asian American Jews won’t feel alone,” she said.