Five Jewish AAPI Movers and Shakers

May 10, 2024Alex Graaff

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month as well as Jewish Heritage Month. Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and the Jewish people are all diverse cultural groups from many different nations and cultures. As we know, no culture is a monolith! Here are just a few notable people whose AAPI and Jewish roots have inspired them to contribute to their communities. Read on to learn more about these amazing rabbis, authors, journalists, and actors!

Cantor/Rabbi Angela Buchdahl (she/her)

Cantor/Rabbi Angela Buchdahl

Cantor/Rabbi Angela Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a rabbi in North America and has been the senior rabbi at Central Synagogue in New York City for 10 years.

Raised in Tacoma, WA, Rabbi Buchdahl was born in South Korea to a Jewish American father and a Buddhist Korean mother. Her influential work in the Jewish community has been recognized by Newsweek, who listed her as one of "America's 50 Most Influential Rabbis." She also appeared on an episode of PBS's "Finding Your Roots," where she explored both her Korean and Jewish ethnic backgrounds. Buchdahl has even found her way onto "Jeopardy," where her name was used as a clue to the winning question: "What is a Rabbi?" 

Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin (she/her)

Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin

Working as the senior rabbi of Temple Sinai in Oakland, California Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin is the first Chinese American Rabbi. A San Francisco native, Mates-Muchin has dedicated her career to serving and recognizing the ever-changing American Jewish community.

Among her many contributions, Mates-Muchin serves as a representative of the Central Conference of America Rabbis on the Board of the Union for Reform Judaism and has contributed to the blog.

Zachary Noah Piser (he/him)

Zachary Noah Piser

Bay area native Zachary Noah Piser is making waves on Broadway. Born to a Jewish mother of Chinese descent and Ashkenazi father, Piser has been cast in multiple Broadway and off-Broadway shows, including "Dear Evan Hansen," "Rent," "Wicked," and "Sweeney Todd." He is the first AAPI to have taken on the title role in "Dear Evan Hansen."


Connie Chung (she/her) 

Connie Chung

Connie Chung was born in Washington, D.C. less than a year after her parents and four siblings immigrated from China. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in journalism, Chung went on to make history as the first Asian American and second woman to co-anchor a major network news program. She's earned three national Emmys and a George Foster Peabody Award. Throughout her career, Chung has worked at NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN.

Chung converted to Judaism shortly after marrying her husband, Maury Povich, in 1984. In 2007, the pair established a weekly newspaper, The Flathead Beacon, based in Kalispell, MT.

Susan Choi (she/her)

Susan Choi

Author Susan Choi has found success in the literary world, publishing five novels over the course of her three-decade-long career. Born to a Korean father and a Jewish mother, Choi was raised in a Jewish neighborhood in Houston, TX. She is currently a member of the English faculty at Yale University.

Choi's first novel, "The Foreign Student," won the Asian American Literary Award for fiction. Her second novel, "American Woman," was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in literature, and her latest novel, "Trust Exercise," won the National Book Award for Fiction.

After reading this, perhaps you've discovered a new book to read, play to see, or divrei Torah to study, all of which are great ways to begin centering AAPI Jewish voices. Listening to the experiences of those in our communities with intersectional identities helps center voices that have been historically marginalized as we continue to build communities of belonging and pursue justice for all people everywhere.

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