Gen Slosberg was scrolling through Facebook when she found a video by Jubilee Media called, “Do All Multiracial People Think the Same?” In the video, Los Angeles-based songwriter, vocalist, and music producer, Jenni Rudolph, discussed her mixed background of being Chinese and Russian-Jewish. Coincidentally, Slosberg has the same background. The instant recognition of that specific identity led her to reach out to Rudolph to discuss their respective experiences.
In May 2020, they met with three other women of Chinese and Jewish heritage—identifying diversely within that intersection as some are adoptees, or mixed, or have various degrees of religious affiliation—to record a candid conversation.
The participants spoke about their identities, what it was like growing up, and how they related to Asian and Jewish communities. As Slosberg recalled “it was a deeply healing and nourishing experience.” Afterwards someone connected Rudolph and Slosberg to a grant to keep the videos and conversation going.
LUNAR was offered the grant by Jews of Color Initiative and partnered with the organization Be’chol Lashon to act as the project’s fiscal sponsor, for support with networking and promotion.
The short film series showcases 23 different voices in the Asian-Jewish community. With season one officially launched (premiering in February 2021) the six 10-minute episodes focus on different aspects of their identities—looking at cuisine, probing the idea of being “Jewish enough”, and how both cultures are stereotyped as “model minorities.”
The co-creators are part of a team of four and have committed fully to the work in their spare time; Slosberg is a recent graduate from the University of California at Berkeley, working at the Bay Area non-profit Jewish Youth for Community Action, and Rudolph graduated from Berklee College of Music at the start of the pandemic; she is currently pursuing music and production.
I spoke to LUNAR on the success of the project, the gaps it fills in the Asian and Jewish communities, and how deeply the work has resonated with many who have crossed its path.
Why did you feel the need to start LUNAR?
Rudolph: We wanted to see what niche we could fill in the Jewish community. Our idea was exploring the intersection of Asian and Jewish identities which is a gap in itself. We also wanted to ensure that our content was accessible to the entire spectrum of Jewish identity and for those who haven’t felt Jewish enough.
Slosberg: When we were creating LUNAR I was struggling with the idea of wanting to have something more specific. . .so when I came across Jenni’s video and she was talking about specific aspects of her experience I don’t think she would have otherwise. It was that specificity that allowed us to really have these in-depth conversations I felt I couldn’t typically have with others.
Can you tell more about the name LUNAR and the meaning behind it?
Rudolph: The surface level meaning is that Jewish and many Asian cultures use the lunar calendar. There aren’t many aspects of Asian and Jewish culture that overlap, but that’s one of them. And the moon is symbolic of how I feel about my identity as a mixed person. It’s fluid and fluctuates—some days I feel more Asian, other days I feel more Jewish. Sometimes I feel my identity internally, sometimes it’s external. There are also many phases of the moon which relates to code switching, and how I shape myself to fit into different groups and environments. Lastly, the moon reflects light and this might be a bit cheesy, but this community has been a light for me.
That’s really beautiful. The work appears to resonate with so many. It seems that LUNAR has gotten a lot of traction. Can you tell me what the response has been like so far?
Slosberg: It’s been kind of insane, but a good insane. I don’t think any of us fully internalized how many Asian Jews there are and what the needs are. I knew maybe 15 Asian Jews which is a lot in comparison, as most in our community had never met another Asian Jew before. Our email list is almost 150 Asian Jews—when you think about it, that’s huge! But we never set out with the intent to reach so many people. . .our core goal has been to help Asian-American Jews.
It seems that you’ve managed to make a strong community, during a pandemic, when many have felt incredibly isolated. What was it like to create LUNAR during this time?
Rudolph: It’s a net positive. It’s allowed us to connect with people from all over the U.S. and around the globe. The time zones can be a bit limiting and one of the drawbacks is we’re not able to film in-person. But I’m excited to meet people in-person one day—we have pockets of people in the Bay Area, New York City, L.A. and all over.
Slosberg: Had it not been for Zoom and the widespread use of virtual programming and virtual community, I don’t think we would have been able to do this nationally and recruit participants from all over the country. The fact that we met on Zoom meant we could realistically build out and sustain a national community.
For you both, what have been some of the biggest challenges, and conversely, what have been some of the biggest rewards of this project?
Slosberg: One challenge that I didn’t anticipate from an emotional standpoint is how much of a weight on my shoulders this has become because of the way Jews of Colour are marginalized. Failure is a high stakes game and if you’re a Jew of Colour, and you fail, that’s not just going to be on you, you failed an entire community. Of course that’s not actually true, but that’s the construct. The stakes are huge, because this is a community that has never been seen this way. And the reward is just people coming together and sharing their experiences by having these conversations with each other.
Rudolph: The whole process of seeing myself as Jewish and having a valid place in the community is such a positive development. There have definitely been growing pains in this process, because I’d been distanced from my Jewish community for so long. But meeting other people because of LUNAR, I’ve been comfortable in finding my voice as a Jewish person.
Header image courtesy of LUNAR.
Clarrie Feinstein is a journalist based in Toronto where she is currently a reporter for Toronto Star. She previously was a reporter for Metroland Media where she covered education in Peel Region. Her other work can be seen in Daily Hive, Business Insider, Salon, and Bedford + Bowery. Clarrie earned her M.A. in journalism from New York University.