2020 has not been a kind year for us. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that is threatening the health and safety of the entire world.

Interview with Gen Slosberg, Co-Creator of LUNAR

Introduce yourself! 

Hi! I’m Gen Slosberg. My Chinese name is 夏夜. It means summer night! I identify as mixed-race, Chinese, Asian-American, and Ashkenazi Jewish. I was born and raised in China, and I moved to Southern California in the US when I was 15 years old. I then went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, and I now work in the nonprofit field with a Jewish youth empowerment organization! I am really passionate about advancing equity and belonging for communities of color. My vision for the world is a place where everyone feels safe and comfortable to express all their identities.


img-1452-1_orig.jpg

What does being Jewish mean to you?

I feel like I have a pretty atypical Jewish story. Being Jewish was all my choice! My dad, who is the Jewish one, didn’t raise me Jewish at all. We didn’t have temples, Hebrew schools, youth programs, camps, etc., where we lived in China. So I knew as much about Jews as my non-Jewish friends growing up. I had the following misconceptions: 1) you have to be religious to be Jewish. 2) Jews are all white. 

In college, my friend from class invited me to an event at the campus Jewish center. It was warm and welcoming, and I met another Chinese Jewish person! So this began to open up the possibility for me to see myself as Jewish. I got connected with a mentor who is Jewish and Mexican and a few other Jewish peers of color. These friendships gave me insight into each of those folks’ experiences, and a surprising amount of them told me they had a complicated relationship with Judaism as a religion and didn’t regularly practice. They told me that Jewishness is more a value system and peoplehood to them. When they started listing some Jewish values of theirs, a lightbulb sort of went off in my head. My dad shared those things that made my friends feel Jewish—particularly humor and valuing education. So that made me think—I have always been Jewish, so I’m just exploring something that’s always been in me and will always belong to me. 

All this helped me see myself as a Jew—the fact that Jews of Color existed and Jews who weren’t sure of their relationship to religion existed. Being with other Jews of Color made me feel seen in a deep way, and when I was with them, I never felt weird about not knowing stuff during ritual or not having deep knowledge of traditions. They would teach me, without judgment—that’s what community is about. Other Jews of Color helped me find myself as a Jewish person, and I am forever grateful! 

What is LUNAR: The Jewish Asian Film Project? 

There’s the official answer and my own spin on what LUNAR is.

Officially: LUNAR: The Jewish Asian Film Project showcases and celebrates the stories of Asian-American Jews through our upcoming video series, interviews, community events, and more!. We facilitate nuanced, honest conversations about identity, covering themes such as media representation, the model minority myth, racism, antisemitism, belonging and inclusion in Jewish spaces, family, culture, and fusion food. Stay tuned for our video series, debuting February 12, 2021!

What LUNAR means to me personally is a space where I can be myself without pretenses. As a mixed person, I find it really hard to find Jewish or Asian-American spaces where I feel I can fully belong and be seen. I am proud to be Chinese and Jewish, and no one can take that away from me. But I still feel a lot of distress and anxiety when I enter spaces for Chinese or Jewish folks because I’m often the only person with a multicultural identity. I’ve also had many people question me, so having to constantly explain how people like me exist is exhausting. I find that in those groups, I always have the fear of being told I’m not enough at the back of my mind. This makes me feel less comfortable making cultural references or trying to relate to others because what if I mess up? I feel like if I messed something up, then my Chinese or Jewish “credentials” will be taken away.

But in LUNAR, all that stress and need for explanation melt away! LUNAR is a space that normalizes and celebrates multiplicity. To us, having many identities that intersect is so awesome and deserves to be highlighted. Being multicultural to us is not being less of everything we are. It’s embracing “more.” We want to explore all the messy and beautiful stuff that comes up with a multicultural background—and no one’s authenticity will be questioned. 

What inspired the creation of LUNAR? What is its mission?  

I think me and Jenni, LUNAR’s Co-Creator, have really different pathways of how we arrived at LUNAR. I come from an organizing and political action background—I spent two years organizing mixed-race students at UC Berkeley and helping out with Jews of Color groups in the Bay Area. Both the mixed-race and Jews of Color community encompass folks with so many different identity intersections. While there are a few things we have in common, we often aren’t able to get extremely specific and nuanced because the spectrum is so broad. At the same time, I knew a lot of Asian-American Jews through my work in those communities. Many of them had expressed to me how amazing it is when they get to talk specifically about those two identities.

So I thought, why not create a space for that? While being in coalition with other folks of somewhat similar backgrounds is important, we Asian-American Jews need space to work through our own stuff and feel celebrated too! So I got a group of Chinese and Jewish women together and recorded us talking about our identities on Zoom. The fact that we had this baseline similarity in identity helped us connect really well and dive deep. Hearing those unique stories cemented in my mind how much I really needed this and how much I wasn’t getting it from existing media. 

After all, Asian-Americans, and particularly Asian-American Jews, are all but erased from the conversation. Other than a few articles in the Jewish press here and there, our stories are largely not being told. My hope is that through telling our stories in community, with one another, that we can all feel less alone, have space to process who we are, and find joy and pride in it! There’s nothing quite like showing up to a room, and everyone shares [many of] your identities. 

Why the name LUNAR? 

I came up with LUNAR randomly while sitting on a toilet at 2 AM, I think. Me and Jenni had been thinking of so many different names that just didn’t quite fit. But when I told Jenni about LUNAR, it just felt right. “LUNAR” on a surface level represents the fact that both Jewish holidays and many Asian cultural celebrations run on the lunisolar calendar. Diving deeper than that, it’s also representative of how mixed and multicultural folks navigate our identities. Just as the moon has many faces, we show different sides of our multifaceted selves to different people. And the faces change, just like our identities are fluid and ever-evolving. 

You’ve also written articles for the Daily Californian, worked for the nonprofit Jewish Youth for Community Action, and served as the Executive Director of Mixed@Berkeley—what led you to these groups and this work?  

A lot of my work in college (Daily Cal & Mixed @ Berkeley) revolved around being mixed. Growing up in China as literally the only mixed person in my community, I felt so alone in navigating my identity. My mixedness was at the forefront of everything – other than a few family friends my mom and I knew very well, every single person made backhanded comments about my “distinct features.” It consumed who I was because people refused to see deeper than that – they were obsessed over my racial identity and physical appearance. So I came to resent being mixed and felt incredibly excluded for it. I just wanted to be a normal kid, but everything I did was colored first and foremost by my identity.

When I moved to the US, I realized how normal being mixed was—I lived in SoCal, so lots of mixed kids around. This was cemented in college when I joined a mixed organization (Mixed @ Berkeley). Being in that group helped me process a lot of identity trauma, and having strong friendships with others who shared my experiences was really transformative.

I was then inspired to write a series of columns for the Daily Californian about my experience. This column taught me how to define mixedness on my own terms, to be proud of who I was without letting others’ judgments, doubts, fetishization, unfair treatment, etc., affect me. So I wanted to contribute to bringing this confidence I gained to other people.

What drew me to JYCA was the culture of the group. JYCA is a magical place! Youth get to be really vulnerable and authentic with each other outside of the pressures of high school, learn about social justice, and take action. That’s so special to me because I was super politically active as a youth and didn’t have a supportive community like JYCA to organize with. Additionally, JYCA is very inclusive to all kinds of Jews. They explain everything to you and don’t expect you to come in with a deep Jewish background. This is also important to me because I learned everything I know about Judaism as an adult, and had there not been inclusive places for me to learn, I would not feel as connected to my Jewish identity.

During this time of COVID-19, occurrences of anti-Asian racism and antisemitism have been, unfortunately, very prevalent. How has this year affected you and this project? How have you been coping? 

The upside of it is that COVID-19 meant we could film virtually, and people across the country could participate in LUNAR. Geographic diversity isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you say “diversity,” but it does make for interesting stories. Where you are shapes so much of who you are, including access to cultural foods and communities, diversity of your environment, etc. 

It has been really difficult and disheartening to watch so many instances of anti-Asian racism and antisemitism. Whenever a video of an incident pops up, I am reminded that people like me are not safe, and the belonging of ‘model minorities’ is conditional. However, I have to acknowledge my own privilege as a light-skinned, racially ambiguous person. I very rarely get read as Asian, which shields me from many instances of explicit anti-Asian racism. I have experienced it when people know I’m Asian—but I get to choose when to express my Asian-ness, which is a privilege. 

In terms of antisemitism, I am becoming more and more frustrated with the fact that people don’t include Jews in their activism. I think this stems from misperceptions about Jewish folks, including that we’re all white, so we can’t possibly experience being marginalized. Despite the fact that white supremacists wore shirts that alluded to the Holocaust, I don’t see many non-Jewish activists talking about antisemitism as a pillar of white supremacy. Hopefully, LUNAR can contribute to a more accurate, authentic understanding of who Jewish people are and help enlighten everybody about our experiences. That being said, I will let you all see for yourselves how anti-Asian racism and antisemitism affect our community of Asian-American Jews by watching our upcoming videos! 

What does self-care mean to you? How do you take care of yourself? 

I will be honest and say I am very terrible at self-care. COVID has made it so that there are so few boundaries between home and work. Due to a combination of the internalized model minority and cultural values, I am almost compulsively perfectionist. I push myself too hard sometimes, and I then feel burnt out or stressed, and it actually derails my work. So I’m working on setting clearer boundaries between work and life, getting more into yoga, and spending more time away from the screen. I need to feel like a full person outside of work – so that’s the self-care I’m working towards.

Here are some rapid-fire questions: 

Your go-to coffee shop order? 

Chai or matcha latte

Favorite time of day? 

At night, I get a lot of random ideas in the bathroom at 2 AM. Including the LUNAR project name!

Any good films/tv shows you’re watching right now? 

I recently watched Capital in the 21st century on Netflix. Interesting for those who are into Political Economy.

Ultimate comfort food?

Tomato egg noodle soup! 番茄鸡蛋面. My mom always made me this when I got sick as a kid.

What has been the highlight of your day today? 

The youth program I run at my work started! 

What is next for LUNAR and for you?

LUNAR’s videos will be published weekly from February 12 to March 26. Each video has a specific theme, like food, cultural values, relationship to language, model minority, etc. So check those out for some insightful thoughts on identity 🙂 We are aiming to host at least one hangout for our Asian-American Jewish community by mid-2021. For now, we want to focus on building a social media audience and brand and making our community feel welcome. 

For me, it’s hard to say! I have a lot of different passions—equity and belonging for multicultural folks being a big one. But I’m also a huge quantitative social science nerd and used to research Chinese foreign economic policy in Latin America. I love playing with numbers! In the long run, I want to go to grad school and pursue a career where I can use my analytical skills and data tools to help social impact organizations achieve their goals.


Gen Slosberg is a non-profit professional working at Jewish Youth for Community Action (JYCA). Her professional work revolves around organizing and building power for Jewish Youth of Color. The Co-Creator of LUNAR: The Jewish-Asian Film Project, Gen is passionate about strengthening multicultural connections and affirming the messiness and fluidity of identity. She is a writer, advocate and amateur fusion food cook. A fun fact is she speaks three languages and can code in 2 more (lol)! Gen received her B.A. in Political Science from UC Berkeley in 2020.

Social profiles:

Gen:

Instagram: @gxslosberg

I don’t have a public-facing Facebook.

LUNAR:

Instagram: @asian.jews

Facebook: LUNAR: The Jewish-Asian Film Project

Twitter: @asian_jews


LUNAR Gen post.jpg

Head Interviewer

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

My Cart Close (×)

Your cart is empty
Browse Shop