May 23, 2022 — Harrisburg, PA
This piece originally appeared in The Patriot-News.
By Stephanie Sun and Marcia Bronstein
May is both Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month. It’s only fitting. We have a lot in common, especially to the degree the Asian Pacific American community and Jewish community have enriched the fabric of our nation.
As immigrants, we brought our work ethic, our strong sense of family and community, our desire to worship as we please and our desire to excel in supporting the vision of America as a beacon for all freedom seekers.
We helped to shape America through diversity—even within our own communities--and made immeasurable contributions to the nation’s civic and community life.
But we also know the darker side of the American story. We have long been convenient targets whenever a scapegoat was needed, making it easy for us to run up against hatred and bigotry in their most vile forms.
Still, we have persevered. It’s what we do. We have never had a choice. We came to the United States for a better life, often fleeing oppression or even certain death because of who we are, what we believed in and how we worshiped. Once here, we never forgot from where we came. It is why Asian/ Pacific Islander and Jewish groups have worked tirelessly to pave the way for others; and to have each other’s backs.
After a spate of antisemitic attacks across the country, organizations like the United Chinese Americans spoke out unequivocally and affirmed something American Jews have long understood: a nation that is perilous for one minority is unsafe for all.
In turn, the American Jewish Committee has denounced racist accusations of “dual loyalty” often targeted toward Chinese-American scholars and researchers. It’s a bigoted trope Jews know all too well. It’s often uttered by anti-Zionists and antisemites opposed to Israel. It implies Jews are disloyal Americans whose true allegiance is to Israel or a hidden Jewish agenda.
Such an accusation is absurd on its face, no less so for Chinese Americans and other Asian Pacific Americans, many of whose families made it here facing great personal peril and sacrifice. Some forget Asian Pacific Americans and Jewish Americans are Americans first and foremost.
This past year was difficult as hatred festered in the U.S. at alarming rates. Anti-Jewish incidents were the second most-reported in 2021 after bias crimes against Black people. Anti-Asian incidents spiked a staggering 87% in Pennsylvania, a state that takes justifiable pride in its diversity.
But we will not let despair define us. In many cities, Jewish and Asian Pacific communities live and flourish side by side, and recent raised incidents of bullying, assault and naked hatred have shown those ties are unbreakable.
We will further cement our cooperation by forming an affinity and solidarity group, the Pennsylvania Asian Pacific American Jewish Alliance (PAPAJA), to work together on issues of common concern to the Jewish and Asian Pacific American communities. We pledge to stand with one another, speak about one another and honor the ideals that our heritage stands for. In doing so, we can help America finally meet its promise of a more perfect union, with liberty and justice for all.
Stephanie Sun is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. Marcia Bronstein is Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee Philadelphia/Southern Jersey region.