Chinese food on Christmas: Celebrating AAPI and Jewish Heritage Month


Photo by Izzy Kofsky

The display in the library for AAPI/Jewish Heritage Month

The origins of Jewish American Heritage month began in 1980 with the creation of Jewish Heritage Week. Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month began a decade later in 1990, after President George W. Bush extended Asian American Heritage Week, according to Both have similar origins, and both are in May. On the surface, their coexistence seems to be a coincidence, but looking at the histories of these two marginalized groups, this shared month says a lot about their shared experiences. 

Both groups are plagued by the model minority myth in America. According to, in 1965, Congress passed an immigration law that removed race restrictions, but gave preference to immigrants who possessed skills that would contribute to the American economy. This resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most Asian immigrants were highly successful and educated, and the American government points to them as triumphant examples of assimilation to pit against other minority groups. The financial success achieved by Asian immigrants also allowed for the erasure of AAPI struggles and denial of anti-Asian racism.

Jewish people are perceived in a similar way. Historically, Jewish people have been forced into fields like media and banking because they were excluded from being artisans and craftspeople. Because of this, Jewish people are still overrepresented in the fields they were forced into, prompting antisemitic conspiracies about Jews controlling the banks, media, film industry, pharmaceutical industry, legal system and the government. This also prompts dismissal of antisemitism because Jewish people are perceived, even by their dectractors, as economically successful. 

There is also a history of cultural exchange and solidarity between the two groups. Jewish Americans have a tradition of eating Chinese takeout on Christmas, because Chinese restaurants have historically been the only places open on Christmas. The bond between China and Jewish people also links back to one of the greatest tragedies in world history. According to, Shanghai hosted over 18,000 Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, while other countries closed their doors. 

Many of the cultural values are similar as well. Abra Lee, who is both Asian American and Jewish, said about the intersection of her cultures, “Many of the values are the same or similar, which is wonderful. The emphasis on education is strong, and the acknowledgement/honoring of our elders/ancestors is significant in both cultures.” 

Remembering the tragedies and triumphs of both Jewish and Asian history is a major reason why WHS students and teachers observe the months. “[Jewish American Heritage Month] is a month to remember the things that happened in the past,” said junior Juliana Ripper. “It’s especially important to remember your ancestors and family members who are no longer with us.” 

English Teacher Sheryl Brindle agrees. She said, “[AAPI Heritage Month] is a great way to recognize the people in the decades who have done well for their communities.” 

Senior Em Naseth said, “As a Filipino American, sometimes we are left out of what is considered Asian, but I’ve definitely seen improvement of representation. I saw library books on display that represented all ethnicities for AAPI Month.” 

However, some people believe the school should put more effort into honoring this month. “The majority of the school is white, but I feel like the school could do more to represent everyone else who attends here,” freshman Caitlyn Lu said. 

The actual titles of these months are important to Physics Teacher Josh Garodnick. He said, “I like that it is Jewish Heritage month and not so much about religion. We’re celebrating the people and traditions, and I like that.”

Union County Vocational Technical School Junior Amanda Rosenthal explains the significance of the shared calendar space perfectly, saying,  “I think Asian people and Jewish people go through a similar plight, so sharing the same heritage month brings light to their shared experiences in America.”