Magic and miracles with Dee Sanae

Dee Sanae photographed by Jim Gurganious

Entrepreneur Dee Sanae was born in the 1970s, a time where being multicultural was looked down upon. But through the years she has used this trait to bridge gaps between different communities and bring recognition to Jews of Color such as herself.

“My spirit is Black, Japanese and Jewish,” the Washington Hebrew Congregation member said. “I get to be all those things every day. When I looked at it like that, instead of it being a negative, it’s empowering.”

Now an Arlington resident, Sanae describes growing up as multicultural in Japan as isolating. This isolation also extended to the Black and Jewish communities, where she was never seen as “enough.”

But it was this experience of feeling unheard that Sanae said made her able to relate to others and unite diverse groups of people. She calls that her superpower.

As she saw diverse groups come together during the George Floyd protests in 2020, she decided to create her company Mosaic Visions, an inclusive space for underrepresented Jews of Color.

For the past couple of years, she has worked to strengthen the bonds between the Jewish community and People of Color through various events and partnering with different organizations.

“Every culture, every nationality and every person sees the world in a different way. But somewhere in the middle we have shared viewpoints. When we share our different perspectives and points of view, that’s when magic and miracles can happen,” she said.

Sanae created Mosaic Visions not only as a space for the intersection of race and Judaism, but as a bridge between the two. As someone who is able to see multiple perspectives through her identity, she found that the Asian, Black and Jewish communities were separated from one another despite their commonalities.

“Don’t hold onto singular experiences, trauma and perceptions without getting to know other people in the community,” she said.

She said that in letting go prejudices against other cultures, the world as a whole can prevail against bigotry.

“We all want the same thing at the end of the day: to show up for each other. But in terms of showing up for each other we can’t cancel each other out either,” she said.

Outside of allyship, Mosaic Visions also highlights the beauty of a multiethnic Jewish experience. Sanae said that Jews of Color don’t celebrate themselves enough. Through her upcoming art festival, “Spirit of Humanity,” she plans to recognize the talents of Jews of Color.

Her celebrations extend into her personal life as she works to create the multicultural family traditions with her two children that she didn’t have growing up. One way she does this is through fusion recipes like her Japanese Tempura Latke Cakes.

“I didn’t have that example,” she said. “So I said, ‘I’m the matriarch, and I’m going to do it for my family. My great-grandchildren will have that.’”

Sanae also serves as the D.C. metro area chapter diversity and inclusion director for her alma mater, Virginia Tech. For her work in the Jewish community and elsewhere she was recognized as one of Jewish Women International’s 2022 Women to Watch.

Dee Sanae at JWI’s “Women to Watch” Gala award photographed by Hadassah Sanae

“I never thought I would fit anywhere and I had made choices that I would never outlive. And had people try to tell me who I was or who they thought I should be,” she said during her “Pearl of Wisdom” speech at the JWI conference. “I’m living proof that once you step into your power and accept your life as a master blueprint, that your struggles and setbacks are the irritant that will produce your own pearls.”

The Jewish community has made progress in including Jews of Color, Sanae said. But she also thinks there is work to be done.

“We don’t let it die. We don’t let it become just a trend. Because that’s what happens in the world: There’s an issue, everyone takes hold of it, then another issue comes up and then we forget about it.”

She added, “This work doesn’t just happen overnight. It is a continuous, conscious effort made by the leadership and the community. Not just checking off boxes, but true systemic change.”

Mosaic Visions is accepting submissions from Jewish artists of Color until April 30 for their upcoming cultural and artistic virtual “Spirit of Humanity Event.” Head to their site for more information about this program and the organization. 

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