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Lily got her Hebrew name “Lilach” at Temple Emanu-El in Beverly Hills, California, and her Japanese name “So-me” at the same service.
So-me was one of our first Japanese relatives to come to Honolulu around 1890.
Both invitations had the same cover design, with the words “Mohala ka pua, ua wehe kaiao,” which translates as, “The blossoms are opening for dawn is breaking.” This Hawaiian saying is a reference to youth from Proverbs and Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui, the Eleizer ben Yehudah [“father” of modern Hebrew] of the Hawaiian Language.
The Honolulu reception included Jews and non-Jews in a vegetarian meal made up of local favorites: dim sum, look funn noodles (for long life), vegetarian bao; an ear-splitting concert of Japanese taiko drummers; and flower leis for our out-of-town guests.
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By contrast, at the Philadelphia reception we ate lox, cream cheese, white fish and bagels at my sister’s house after a Thanksgiving Day minyan (quorum of ten Jews needed to read from the Torah) at Temple Sinai, one of the best daily minyans in the Philadelphia area.
One of our friends pointed out to us that we had created a ceremony in Philadelphia to honor the past and a ceremony in Honolulu that looked to the future.
Lily has been a camper at Camp Swig/Newman for four summer sessions, and is a madrichah (helper) in our religious school. This allowed our Pennsylvania family to be included.
It is common to have a multi-ethnic child in our School of Jewish Studies who identifies as a Jew and also as Japanese, Chinese, English, etc.
Lily Some Bender, my daughter, is that kind of person, having an American-Japanese mother, Valerie Hashimoto, who is a fourth generation “local”; and a Caucasian father, myself, who came to Honolulu to be a Jewish educator.
The Philadelphia minyan included my dad and my brother, and honored my family.
The Honolulu service was made up of the community of my daughter’s friends, our local family, and temple congregants.