Thursday, April 9, 2009

Passover Haggadah + Jews in Shanghai

A friend of mine, Julie, sent me this link where you can get a newly published copy of Passover Haggadah – China. It is a traditional haggadah mostly written in Hebrew and English. There is an introduction of the Passover holiday written in Chinese by Professor Xu Xin of Nanjing University. Artwork includes traditional Chinese paper cuttings and historical photos in the Chinese Diaspora.

Shanghai Jewish life began as far back as early 19th century. The first settler arrived in 1848, and the first wave of Jewish immigrants to Shanghai was Sephardic Jews from Baghdad and Bombay. They included the successful families of Sassoon and Hardoon, who built many of the city’s landmarks. In the 1870s, the community from Baghdad rented their worship spaces. In 1887, they organized the Beth El Synagogue. Established in 1920, the Ohel Rachel Synagogue opened its doors on Seymour Road (now 500 North Shaanxi Road). In the same complex were the Shanghai Jewish School, a playground, library and mikveh. The Ohel Rachel Synagogue was the first of seven synagogues built in Shanghai, and it is still standing today.

The second wave of Jewish immigrants (1920-1937) came via Sibera to the northeastern Chinese cities of Harbin, Tianjin and Dalian. When Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931, the Russian Jews move to Shanghai, numbering to 4,500 in the 1930s. The Serphardic/Baghdad Jews were substantially wealthier than the newly arrived counterparts, but they extended charitable help to these Ashkenazi/Russian Jews.
The third wave (1938-1952) comprised of fleeing European Jews during WW II. This time, the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities worked together to help these European refugees. At the time, Shanghai was the only place that did not require entry visas. Up to 20,000 refugees came from Germany, Austria, and Poland. When the Japanese occupied the area around Shanghai, these Jews were relocated to the Hongkou district known as the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto. By 1945 (the end of the war), there were about 24,000 Shanghai Jews. The community dwindled after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, when many Jews emigrated to Israel, the United States, Australia and Hong Kong.

Today, there is an active and growing Jewish community in Shanghai. They came from many different countries, living and working in Shanghai. They regularly hold Shabbat services, educational and b’nai mitzvah classes, and even enjoy kosher meals. In 1998, Shanghai’s mayor pledge over $60,000 to help restore the Ohel Rachel Synagogue. In a 1998 visit, then First Lady Hillary Clinton commented, “So, for [the Ohel Rachel Synagogue] to be restored, I think, is a very good example of respect for religious differences and an appreciation for the importance of faith in one's life."

Some Shanghai Ghetto survivors:
-Dr. Jakob Rosenfeld, who spent nine years overseeing health care for the Communist army.
-Michael Medavoy, a Hollywood executive at Columbia, Orion and TriStar Pictures.
-Peter Max, American pop artist.
-W. Michael Blumenthal, served as the U.S. Treasury Secretary.
-Eric Halpern, a cofounder of the Far Eastern Economic Review and its first editor.
-Shaul Eisenberg, who founded and ran the Eisenberg Group of Companies in Israel.
-Charles K. Bliss, whose Chinese experience inspired him to create Blissymbols.
-Rene Rivkin, Australian financier.
-Laurence Tribe, professor, Harvard Law School, Carl M. Loeb University Professor
-Gunther Gassenheimer, Rabbi, Temple Israel, Alameda, CA


MyGemStoneBox by Diane said...

Hi there Stu,
Sorry I haven't by by more frequently ; )

What a great post, It is amazing that a thing like jewelry links us and we can all take and learn from each other on so many levels! Thank you for that.


Mee a Bee said...

This is fascinating. I've learned some new stuff today. China ... you could study it for a million years and not appreciate even a fraction of the rich culture.