Since May 2020, a community of Jewpanese people and Jewpanese families all over the world began to meet virtually on the second Sunday of the month in celebration of Jewish and Asian Heritage Months. This group wants to document their lived experiences and record their stories on the intersectionality of being Jewish and Japanese.
With a foot in both the Japanese and Jewish worlds, communities traditionally closed to diversity and with a long history of emigration and expulsion, we touch on the sensitive subject of whether Jewpanese people can really belong anywhere, touching on cultural identity, belonging, acceptance, and a future where Jewpanese no longer feel alone. These stories have not been told previously, outside of the Jewpanese community, and will add to the understanding of issues faced by the Jewpanese community inside the Jewish community and in the world at large.
According to UrbanDictionary, Jewpanese is defined as "an individual of mixed Japanese and Jewish ancestry. There are probably like seven of them". Not only are there more than seven of us, being Jewpanese is diverse. Whether you have one parent of each, or were adopted into, or are Jewpanese by choice, you are invited to participate in the "Jewpanese Oral History Project".
This project is being conducted by founding member of the Jewpanese community, Carmel Tanaka. Her maternal grandparents are Holocaust survivors and her paternal grandparents are Japanese Canadians who were interned during WWII. She is the founder and executive director of JQT Vancouver, a Jewish queer trans non-profit, where she designed and conducted the "BC Jewish Queer & Trans Oral History Project" (https://www.jqtvancouver.ca/jqt-oral-history-bc
). Learn more about Carmel at www.carmeltanaka.ca
As an ADL Collaborative for Change Fellow, Carmel has received funding to help support this project, specifically video equipment, travel, accommodation, as well as honoraria for Carmel to curate an online exhibit: https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-collaborative-for-change-fellowship-offers-jews-of-color-opportunity-to
Carmel has already interviewed Jewpanese people, couples and families in-person in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York, and Toronto. She travelled to Israel for the month of December 2022 and has plans to be in Japan in early Fall 2023. She also interviews over Zoom for those living outside of her travel destinations. For those who are camera shy, she welcomes written interviews (which can be filled out anonymously too). Follow the journey on Instagram @JewpaneseProject
The purpose of this form is to help Carmel keep track of all those who are interested in participating in the project and to map out the best travel routes based on number of interviewees!!
Funding is limited and to help with costs of this project, we have started a GoFundMe Campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/f/jewpanese
). If you are able to contribute (even donate airmiles or travel points to help Carmel get to everyone!), it will be greatly appreciated. Please share with extended family and community members!
Carmel's work takes place on ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sə̓lílwətaʔɬ