Up Close: Ben & Meida Tolsky – Kveller
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Up Close: Ben & Meida Tolsky

1. How did you and your spouse meet?

We met at the first reading for a play that never actually happened. I was teaching English abroad in China, and for some reason I decided I should try to be in a play. Meida was helping to write and direct it.

2. Are you raising your kid(s) with one religion, both religions, or somewhere in between?

We only have one religion between the two of us, Judaism, and Meida is probably more excited than me about raising our son Jewish.

The Chinese government is officially atheist. Although to an outsider they are very religious in an atheist way. There are certainly many traditions and a very strong belief in an afterlife.

Of course there are many religions in China: Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, Christianity, and even Judaism to a very small extent. However, Meida wasn’t raised in any of these.

3. Can you think of a particular day when it felt especially difficult to be an interfaith family?

Well it’s really hard to be Jewish in China outside of Beijing and Shanghai. However for Passover we made our own matzah (though it wasn’t very edible) and we brought back some matzah ball soup mix from America.

4. What did you think would be an issue about being an interfaith family that really hasn’t been?

Meida was afraid she wouldn’t be able to eat pork anymore when she learned I was Jewish. She was very relieved when I told her I don’t keep kosher.

5. How did you choose your kid’s names?

Richard Xumei Tolsky–his first name is the name of his great grandpa who passed away a year before he was born. His middle name is Xu (Meida’s last name; last names are always first in Chinese) and Mei, which means both beautiful and America (technically it’s a girls name since it means beautiful, but Meida justifies it as meaning America).

6. What’s your word of advice to other interfaith families?

Meida suggests adding Sriracha hot sauce to your matzah ball soup.

Up Close” is a photo and interview series on Kveller aiming to put a face on the interfaith conversation. We’ll be highlighting interfaith families and hearing their stories all month.

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