Lorraine Gershun lives on the leeward side of Oahu and is an active member in the local Jewish Community.

The interesting experiences of over 30 years teaching in the community where she lives, adapting to the local style, combined with a lifetime of being Jewish have led her to appreciate the unique experience of Being Jewish in Hawaii and inspired her to write about it in this blog.

Lorraine lives with her handsome husband, spoiled dog and intriguing desert tortoise in “The Second City,” Kapolei, Hawaii.

44 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Audrey
    Oct 14, 2010 @ 12:30:38

    Hey Lorraine,

    Checked you out when I got home, cool blog!

    Audrey (Renee’s jewixh friend from Boston)


    • Lorraine Gershun
      Oct 14, 2010 @ 17:15:20

      Hi Audrey, It was sooooo great to meet you. I’ve been hearing about you all of these years. We sure had a fun time at the wedding. I have a few nice photos of you that I will send. Thanks for checking out the blog. Aloha, Lorraine


  2. Micah
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 07:06:43

    Aloha Lorraine,

    Interesting website I wish you success with your blog. I think Hawaii is a very fascinating place culturally. I also think the Jewish community in Hawaii is also a very unique one. Although the Jewish community is small there, there maybe more hidden links to the Jewish people that most people are unaware of there. In Hawaii some of the main ethnic groups there have a Jewish related past. I recently read of several people that returned to Judaism that came from the Bnei Anousim (Jews that were forced to convert during the Inquisition) and mentioning they had ancestors that came to Hawaii from the Azores was from a Sephardic Jewish background. Many of Hawaii’s Portuguese come from the Azores and many of them that have family names of plants and animals in Portuguese which are usually indicators that their families back in Portugal were from the Bnei Anousim. Some descendants of the Bnei Anousim may have also reached Hawaii by another route, most people are aware that the Americas and Latin America was a favorite destination of escape for Jewish families from the Spain and Portugal in wake of the Inquisition, but many are not so aware of another Spanish colony at the time that also had Jewish refugees from the Inquisition. It was the Philippines, in fact from the 1590s there were Spanish court cases of some Rodrigues brothers and also other New Christians (Jews forced to convert to Christianity) arrested in the Philippines for religious crimes related to their Jewish background. Today most Filipinos have Spanish surnames and Spanish ancestry, and some of that ancestry may have been Jewish.

    Many Native-Hawaiians today are usually mixed Chinese-Hawaiian. I know of one family believed to have come to the Kingdom of Hawaii from Southern China, but before that having ancestral roots from Kaifeng and the Chinese Jewish community there that assimilated. The Kaifeng Jewish patriarchs were well received by the Chinese Emperor, when Kaifeng was the capital of China almost a millennium ago and had many opportunities for advancing in society, in fact many even received high government posts, which unfortunately lead to their demise and assimilation. In Hawaii the Chinese-Hawaiians also were well received and had a very good relationship with the Hawaiian monarchy, even today many prominent Chinese-Hawaiians have filled many important positions in government and society. The Chinese-Hawaiian group is also an ethnic group where today some of them are more Hawaiian than Chinese, but the descendants of Chinese men that married with Hawaiian women. Similarly, the Kaifeng Jewish community was of Jewish men that married Chinese women, and in the end were more Chinese than Jewish. It is interesting too, that many Chinese-Hawaiians have Hawaiian surnames, which are actually hybrid Hawaiian-Chinese family names that they adopted in the Kingdom of Hawaii. In China many of the Kaifeng Jews only used seven Chinese surnames given to them by the Chinese Emperor. So if someone has original family names of one of these seven names or its variation (Zhao/Chao, Li, Ai, Gao, Jin, Shi, Zhang/Chang) there is a chance that their Chinese ancestors may have been from the Kaifeng Jewish Community, but they were also surnames used by many Chinese that were not Chinese-Jews as well.

    Finally the Japanese Community, which is quite a large and prominent part of Hawaii’s society may also have some links to ancient Israel. In the last couple of decades there have been much research on peculiar aspects of Japanese society and culture linking them to the lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and today in Jerusalem there are some respected rabbis and a couple of Jewish organizations that believe that some of the Japanese are from the lost tribes. So if some Japanese-Americans in Hawaii have ancestors that were Shinto priests, according to the beliefs of some lost tribe scholars in Jerusalem, they may be descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.

    I hope I did not write too much, but I thought it may be interesting for you to know that even though the Jewish community is very small there it may have more of a shared past with the Hawaiian community in general. And if you have someone that does not look like the typical American Jew, who is searching for Judaism, he or she may in fact be actually returning to Judaism from a distant ancestral past.



  3. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 16:59:27

    Hi Lorraine,

    I was just sucked in by the name of your blog. I went to UHM and have lived several places where my being Jewish added interesting challenges. I look forward to reading more.



    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Oct 14, 2011 @ 17:13:34

      Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for checking out my blog. I hope you join us often. I hope to post more often! That’s one of my unspoken New Year’s Resolutions. I checked out your blog and also look forward to reading it. You said that “I am a woman in the middle of reconfiguring her life.” I hear you on that one.


  4. marilynmendoza
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 23:13:58

    Hello Lorraine.
    I live in Makaha and am a published author and am Jewish. We have a lot in common already. I am feeling down because my mother’s anniversary of her death is tomorrow and I couldn’t find a Yahreit candle in the usual places Safeway Beretania and I have agoraphobia so I couldn’t get it if it did have one. I was not prepared so it is my fault. Your thoughts for my mother Edith Chalfin Mendoza would be greatly appreciated. Tell me more about how you manage being Jewish on the leeward side. aloha Maya Masha Pia


    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 06:23:08

      Hi Maya. Thanks for reading. I got my candles on ebay. Maybe that will help. I will have good thoughts for your mother. I think about mine every day. It’s hard to have them gone. Being Jewish on the leeward side suits me just fine. We have a small community in the Kapolei area that networks to carpool our kids to Religious and Hebrew school at the Reform Jewish Synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, in Nuuanu. We also have a Jewish home which you can do living anywhere. We light Shabbat candles, celebrate the holidays and talk about being Jewish with our kids. We said we’d start observing Havdalah and hope to add that to our family ritual as my mother had a beautiful candle holder, wine glass and spice box that now sits in my cabinet. I look forward to hearing more about you and reading your blog. Shaloha, Lorraine


  5. Kate
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 15:32:29


    I actually live in Colorado (Born in Hawaii) I am a christian that celebrates our Hebrew roots and I love Torah and the appointed times with G-d. I am considering relocating to Hawaii and one my main concerns is finding a community that supports a life walked in Torah. I am very excited to follow your blog. If my relocation does not work out eventually.. I am happy to follow either way. Much love from Colorado!


  6. Being Jewish in Hawaii
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 17:59:41

    Hi Kate, Thank you for following. I hope you find your way back to Hawaii. Although I hear it is beautiful in Colorado. Aloha.


  7. Leslie Galloway
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 01:37:09

    Hey Lorraine, Great Blog! Very interesting topics and you ARE a great writer (of course). Oh, and who knew – all those years working together – we share a bond so deep. Love seeing your happy smile again.
    Much aloha,
    Leslie Galloway


    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Feb 14, 2012 @ 02:32:39

      Hi Leslie, I am so happy to hear from you. I hear that you retired? Congratulations if that is so. I always think of how positive and happy you are. Who could be grumpy inspecting an owl’s hair ball anyway? I am looking forward to keeping in touch…. here, there or anywhere. Aloha,


  8. Christina
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 05:40:14

    Hi Lorraine,
    I have a ‘technical’ question 🙂 Is there somewhere to buy hamantashen in Hawaii?


    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Apr 03, 2012 @ 15:42:55

      That’s a great question. The only place I have ever bought them in Hawaii is at the Purim carnival at Temple Emanu-El. The Gan makes them every year and sells them as a fundraiser. It is definitely seasonal. If I hear of anything else, I will certainly let you know. Aloha….


  9. Naomi Weiss
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 06:10:10

    Hi Lorraine,
    I was actually googling kosher spam musubi recipes and came across your blog… My ex-husband was a Japanese-American/Hawaiian and his mom made the most amazing kosher hot-dog musubis for me many times… I also found Hallal “spam” made from chicken which, if you can find it, makes a musubi that almost tastes like spam… I was just craving local food and wanted to see if there were any other ways of making musubi out there… Just wanted to share! I love your blog!!
    Naomi Weiss, in chicago


    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Nov 20, 2012 @ 15:27:11

      Hi Naomi,
      So nice to meet you. Thank you for reading and commenting. I have to admit that I have eaten my share of musubis, but have never had a kosher one. Perhaps it is time to try. Maybe chopped liver would be good on rice! Let us know if you ever come to Hawaii. Aloha, Lorraine


  10. KEVIN
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 22:35:54

    Bette Midler the Jewish entertain was raised in Hawaii


  11. Bar Zel
    Feb 20, 2013 @ 20:16:14

    We are a family moving to Lana’i soon…and there will be menorah lights in the window on Hanukkah. I believe Larry Ellison was adopted by Jews in Chicago, although I do not know his personal religious beliefs, of course. It seems his parents did a good job raising him.

    We are looking forward to representing ourselves, and our heritage, in Hawaii.


    • EdwardS
      Mar 21, 2013 @ 02:41:53

      Hi – My 18 year old son is on Lanai over Spring Break and we are looking for a Seder on Monday night. Do you know of any families we could turn to? Thanks


      • Being Jewish in Hawaii
        Mar 21, 2013 @ 20:55:33

        I wish I knew of something on Lana’i, but I am not familiar with the Jewish community there. If he can come to Oahu there are several community seders and I can help with info on that. Aloha and Chag Sameach.


  12. Bar Zel
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 21:16:20

    If he’s still in Lana’i this weekend he’s welcome to have dinner with us.


  13. EdwardS
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 06:37:14

    Thanks so much – Jordan left on Thursday back to reality. Enjoy the rest of Passover. Ya Sha Koa Ed


  14. nadav tzadok Yair
    May 06, 2013 @ 08:16:41

    Shalom Lorrain’

    I am Hawaiian japanese and part chinese as well. I live in Israel, have converted to Judaism one year after i got here in 1982, and have been a religious jew ever since. I’ve been back to visit with my kids who all have promised to stay religious if we could only stay in Hawaii. Of course the answer was no, but they enjoy the life style very much. During my conversion i descovered many similations between the two cultures which made my conversion very easy. I live on a hilltop, the ones that are always on the news, without electricity and have finally got running water and enjoy myself emensely! Hawaii is always on my mind of cours but tere is no place like home, which for me is now in Israel!! I’ll be in touch!

    Nadav Tzadok Yair


    • Matan Rudner
      Nov 19, 2022 @ 15:27:29

      Shalom! My name is Matan and I am a tour guide in Jerusalem and I would love to hear more about your journey to Israel and Judaism!


  15. Kathi
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 17:05:08

    Hi Lorraine,
    I am a chef, Jewish and my have Orthodox clients looking for Kosher Foods. Do you know where I am going to find a selection of these? My best guess is the Safeway on Kapahulu but that is it. You must be in the know!



    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Aug 04, 2013 @ 18:01:36

      Hi Kathi, If you have access to the commissary I find a lot of kosher food there. While I don’t keep kosher myself, I understand that you can get kosher chickens at Costco. You can also try Times markets. I hope this helps. Aloha, Lorraine


  16. Julie
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 06:27:13

    Hi, Lorraine. Thanks for your blog. My husband will be coming there for work (and maybe eventually the rest of us), and we don’t have any idea which part of town to start looking in for an apartment. although we’re not frum, still it would be nice to be near at least some other Jewish folks and not to far from Temple if it makes sense to do so. He will be working in “downtown” Honolulu. Suggestions? Very much appreciated.


  17. Josh
    Dec 25, 2013 @ 03:53:58

    Hi. I have always wanted to live in Hawaii and HGTV has had an all day marathon of Hawaii Life which I’ve been watching all day. So out of curiousity I thought I’d google Hawaiian Jews and found your blog. I think it is an interesting read. I’ve lived in the Carribean before which was quite a challange because of the lack of Kosher food, especially meat. Had to go vegetarian for the entire time. So if I ever end up moving to Hawaii I now know who to contact. Happy New Year!


  18. Toby Harris
    Jan 27, 2014 @ 21:49:14

    Aloha, Lorraine:
    Anything Jewish & innovative going on in Honolulu for 20-somethings? My daughter is moving there and being a good Jewish mom, I’d like to find her a Jewish community. I’m not sure I can get her to the Reform Temple but maybe an event or two – especially around Passover.
    Mahalo, Toby


    • Being Jewish in Hawaii
      Jan 27, 2014 @ 23:15:32

      Hi Toby. Three cheers for us Jewish Moms! There is a Seder the first night of Passover with the Aloha Jewish Chapel and there are spaces for civilians. Many people from the community attend. There are a few on the second night sponsored by other groups. Please have her contact me around Passover and I can give her the details. There’s also a Hillel group at UH Manoa that has a range of ages involved.


  19. Mathew Hauanio Jr.
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 07:53:52

    MedAloha Shalom Lorraine I go to Rabbi Vargas’ Messianic Shabbat services on Friday’s on Ahua st. I’m really into the Jewish aspect/roots of Christianity , actually my interest in Jewry/Judaica began in the mid- ’90s I met this zOrthodox fella named Menachem Omiel he taught me all about Israel & the zHebrew language/writing he was one of my best friends I think he’s gone back to Israel or NYC, anyway Shalom L’hitraot Laila Tov Baruch Hashem Amen!!!


  20. Ursula
    Jun 03, 2014 @ 23:30:34

    Hi Lorraine,
    My name is Ursula Schwarz and I am the Associate Project Director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Echoes and Reflections Holocaust education division. As it turns out, Hawaii is the only state where this outstanding FREE professional development for educators has not been presented. The program gives teachers the tools to deliver accurate and authentic Holocaust education to today’s students. Do you know who is responsible for teacher training on the islands? I’d appreciate an introduction if you do. Thank you!


  21. Ursula
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 16:55:53

    Thank you, Lorraine!


  22. gary rosenthal
    Jun 16, 2014 @ 21:27:13

    hi lorraine, my studio creates judaica and i was looking for a fine gift shop/gallery or sisterhood in the islands that might carry judaica so i can get in touch. any suggestions? thanks. gary rosenthal


  23. didacus900352015
    Jul 11, 2015 @ 22:24:29

    My father’s family arrived in Hawaii on March 4, 1886 aboard the SS Stirlingshire (British flag) from Madeira. I’m actually a Sephardic Jew directly from my mother’s side. Much of the population in Madeira are descendants from Belgian Sephardic Jews who were kidnapped as children and sent to populate the plantations of Madiera. They were Conversos. I suspect that my Madeiran family were part of this lot, but am short on proof. The SS Stirlingshire carried a Sephardic family who wrote a book in the mid-1900s about the passage. If anyone knows the name of that family and how to contact them, I’d much appreciate that. The passage came around the Horn from Madeira to Australia and on to Hawaii. Passage was 112 days–hardy souls, indeed.


  24. Rebecca
    Aug 09, 2015 @ 08:10:05

    Hi Lorraine, I’m visiting from socal as part of a school program at UH Manoa and will be leaving this upcoming sunday. I’ve been really disappointed to have not met anyone Jewish let alone experience a community. I realize there is one but it seems unaccessible. I’m here by myself and would really like to have one shabbat dinner before I leave, is there a place you recommend? Also is Jewish center or area I could visit? This is a shot in the dark since my time here is so short but if you reach me back in time it would be HUGE for me! Thanks in advance & shavua tov 🙂


  25. Kimber
    Sep 17, 2015 @ 02:37:13

    Love your site.. Do you know where on Oahu I can get a good chopped chicken liver sandwich?


  26. Lisa
    Apr 18, 2020 @ 19:19:26

    Is this blog still going?


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