This is the second part of a Jewish story with a
Taiwanese twist. The first appeared here and reported
some preliminary news about Mrs. Wandy Wang Druss who at 51 is
president of the Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education in
A ”letter to the editor” published recently in the
English-language ”Taipei Times” in Taiwan, penned by Lewis Druss, Mrs.
Wang Druss’s Jewish-American husband and a Florida attorney, explained
some of the backstory.
In a subsequent email exchange between this reporter in Taiwan and Mrs Wang Druss in America,,
more of the story unfolded, and here are some excerpts from our online chat:
“I was born and raised in Taiwan until I was 11 years
old and I know so little of its history and even less the Jews of Taiwan.
”I picked up quite a bit of Yiddish when my
in-laws were still around. They passed away a few years ago…my favorite
word is ‘schlepp’.
”My favorite Taiwanese Hoklo word for Lewis is ”Ge-Po” ( chicken
mama).. it means
someone who is overtly helpful and considerate… as in this case, I had no
idea Lewis had submitted the letter to the Taipei Times, and I am
quite shy it…
……but it is endearing that he is so proud of what I do, still a Ge-Po
”When I was growing up in Taiwan, I had no idea what Jewish meant. I don’t
think I ever met anyone Jewish until I went to University of Florida. On the
bus, a very cute Jewish boy name Steve from AEPI asked me to go on a date
with him. I didn’t say yes because I was dating a Taiwanese boy then.
”I was translating for my parents when Lewis and I first met. He was a lawyer
fresh out of law school and my parents had some legal questions that needed
his counsel. Lewis said he liked me then but I was too young, so he waited 6
years until he asked me to go on a date. My parents had gotten to know him
and trusted him by then so it was not a big problem. I was the first in the
Wang clan to marry a foreigner though. Even my grandparents on both sides
had to give their blessings.
”We often go to shul. Lewis is more observant than me, and I am very involved
in the Jewish community. We have shabbat dinner every Friday and
consider ourselves Conservative Jews.
”We expect quite a bit from our
children. To participate in academics, religious, Asian/Chinese, and musical
pursuits. They complain but still go along with what we hope they would do.
We don’t really force them to do anything, maybe the Jewish guilt (oy
”Our two daughters attended synagogue schools, went to Poland and Israel with The
March of Living and graduated Judaica High School. (These programs were run
by ORLOFF CAJE, that is how I became involved).They also attended United
Synagogue Youth Camps every summer since they were 9 years old. Meredith, my
eldest, was the Hillel President at Dartmouth College. Samantha, my
youngest, was a senior officer of the Jewish sorority D-PHI-E, and involved
in Jewish Family Services while at Brandeis.
”While at camp, they were often mistaken to be Hawaiians… in
the beginning the kids at camp were quite perplexed.. why, do they have Jews
in Hawaii? Why would Hawaiian Jews want to attend camp in Palmer, Mass?
time, I visited the girls at camp Ramah in New England. I asked the camp to
pick me up from Bradley airport. I waited at the airport a long time because
they couldn’t find Mrs. Druss at the terminal. I was there all along, they
were looking for a Caucasian mom instead of one that is Asian. They always
knew who I was after that incident.
“There is a saying in Chinese, “Marry a chicken, follow the chicken. Marry a
dog, follow the dog”. To me, it means to be loyal and devoted to whomever
one marries. My family taught me to follow this as well. No matter whom you
marry, you must give 100 percent commitment. As in the American wedding vow goes, ‘in sickness and in health, until death do us apart.’
”I had the
blessing of my parents and even my grandparents when I married Lewis. They
knew he had a kind and gentle soul and they trusted him. I was the first in
my family to marry a foreigner. (It’s kind of old fashioned thinking, I
guess.) Nevertheless, it was quite unusual almost 27 years ago for my
husband to marry an Asian and I to marry a Caucasian Jewish guy. My parents
knew there were certain “rules” to be Jewish but as Buddhists, they felt it
was a destiny that we married.
“I found it comforting to be with my Jewish
family. The holidays remind me of so many of the Chinese holidays. For example, the
High Holidays often coincide with the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in Taiwan, and Passover and L’Bohmer coincides with the Tomb-Sweeping Festival and
the Dragon Boat Festival, too.
”When Taiwanese people and Jewish people are together, everyone talks all
at once, and there is always so much food!
“Particularly, I am touched by how we as Jews honor our parents by saying kaddish for
them and light a yarzheit candle to remember them. It is very much like the
Taiwanese tradition of visiting our ancestors and lighting incense to remember
them. I feel very comfortable living in both cultures, the Jewish American culture and the Taiwanese culture, peaceful and happy
among my family and friends.
”I remember the bat mitzvah I had for my daughters when they were 12 and 13.
My parents and my sibling all went on the bima to read an
English prayer. My dad and my brother wear yarmulkes when they come to my
home for dinner, and we use chopsticks to eat kasha and gefilte fish. By the way, I make
a mean matzo ball soup! My own father said it is the best Jewish fish ball
”My family understands quite a bit about the Jewish holidays, except for the
fasting part. Every year on Yom Kippur, my mom will always call and say: ‘Are you
fasting ? Don’t be so strict, you can drink just a little soup can’t you?
Why, you will faint and get sick!’
‘I would say to my mother: ‘Mom, I’m repenting and asking
G-d for forgiveness, one has to fast for 24 hours’. And my parents would say, ’24
hours! How can you not eat for 24 hours?’ (This happens every year!)