Being Happa

By Hana Rubin, Seattle Foundation, Senior Operations Manager

Hana RubinI remember flying by myself and sitting next to a really nice man. We got to talking, and after a while, he asked me: “What tribe are you from?” While I’m not of Native American descent, it was actually a really eye-opening experience for me—as a ‘happa’—half Japanese, half Jewish woman, I have had many life experiences where the people around me have assumed that I shared their racial background—whether traveling in Latin America, living and traveling in Asia, or growing up in the U.S.

That flight was one of the many eye-opening experiences I’ve had over the years that have shaped my worldview. I really do believe that the luxury of not being treated as ‘other’ in so many different situations has made me gravitate toward work and life experiences that foster open and cross-group communication.

I spent a number of years studying and working in Japan in my 20s and 30s, and now, with two children of my own, I encourage them to stay connected to our Japanese heritage. We made our first visit to Japan last year as a family. I know that while I didn’t necessarily appreciate it when I was younger, I’m really glad that my parents encouraged me to learn about my Japanese heritage—and I’m seeing that same thing with my kids now. They definitely feel a connection with Japan—and hopefully they will appreciate it when they are older, too!

My work at the Foundation during the past 10 years not only cuts across departments, I have the opportunity to work with a variety of different audiences, and leveraging my operations problem-solving skills and communications expertise. I’m always looking for ways to foster and encourage those open lines of communication, trying to think of the bigger picture.