Culture On The Rise In Jericho

Amanda Yan, Yimei Cui and Dabbie Lee of the Chinese Association (Photo by Chris Boyle)

A major source of pride within Jericho’s rich ethnic diversity is its steadily growing Chinese population, and the organization responsible for blending their unique and wonderful culture together with the rest of the local community is the Chinese Association of Jericho.

Informally starting in approximately 2009, the Chinese Association of Jericho (CAJ) began to grow and gain traction in the community, and in 2012, was officially registered as a nonprofit organization. Their goal is to maintain and encourage an open relationship between the community and its Chinese families, according to CAJ past-president Dabbie Lee.

“In the beginning, it started only with several moms. They liked to help newcomers to know the school system and the area. There was no president or board or organized meetings, it was basically just a group of friends,” she said. “When I got involved about three years ago, more and more people were joining us—we currently have about 100 families—so we decided to make it official and register the name.”

Culture_030216BCAJ co-president Amanda Yan notes that the CAJ serves several vital roles, functioning as liaisons to new arrivals from China into the Jericho community—promoting acclimation to their new home and introducing them to the local school system and the Jericho Public Library—while also helping to preserve their heritage and culture at the same time.

“We create a bridge for the new families when they come here and we introduce them to the school and the community,” she said. “That’s very important, because when we say ‘new families,’ we don’t just mean domestic. Many families are moving here from China and they have language and cultural barriers. It’s all brand new and very frightening. So we hold their hands, get them involved and help them to acclimate.”

Jericho is widely known for its expansive and growing Asian population, particularly in regards to its Chinese residents. CAJ co-president Yimei Cui said that the reason the area is very attractive to newcomers is due to its excellent educational pedigree.

“Jericho is one of the number one school districts in the nation as ranked by publications such as the U.S. News & World Report—number one high school, number one elementary school,” she said. “That drives people and families to come here, so their children have good educations, and that’s why the Chinese Association has flourished for the last few years, because we keep it school and community related only—not business-based—which makes things easier and simpler.”

Culture_030216CIn addition to regular monthly meetings, the CAJ awards annual scholarships for graduating high school seniors and holds several high-profile events throughout the school year, including an introduction and overview to the Jericho district for new families in September, as well as an end-of-the-school year picnic and barbecue in June.

However, the biggest CAJ event by far is their annual Lunar New Year Celebration. Set this year to take place at Cantiague Elementary on March 5, the event features a multitude of performances by Jericho students and parents, highlighting both traditional Chinese cultural elements—such as music, dance, martial arts and yo-yo performances—as well as more Americanized aspects such as hip hop.

The annual Lunar New Year Celebration is a beautiful way for the CAJ to pay homage to their rich Chinese heritage while bringing the Jericho community together as one, Cui noted. The CAJ is not an exclusively Chinese group; Cui said that, due to being approached on a regular basis by people of different ethnicities who are interested in their culture, the CAJ is open to allowing anyone of any ethnicity into their ranks in the spirit of inclusiveness harmony.

Culture_030216D“It’s been a great experience, being a part of the CAJ,” she said. “From its start it’s become bigger and stronger, and it keeps growing. It’s a great resource for the new families coming to Jericho and by helping these families I’ve learned so much myself that I then use to help some more.”

“We want to include everybody in the community—not just the Chinese—because that’s how you make friends,” added Lee. “When I first came here, the Chinese population was very small and then I met others and got involved with the Jericho PTA. The Jericho School District has been wonderful to us—we have a great relationship with them—and it’s a wonderful experience, being so involved with the community.”

The Chinese Association of Jericho is currently in the process of constructing a new website. In the meantime, anyone wishing to contact them can do so via email at jeri


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