A letter from Rabbi Marvin Tokayer

Time:2015-02-12 14:50 Source:未知 Writer:cjss read:
Rabbi Marvin Tokayer
40 Radnor Road
Great Neck, NY 11023
(516)829-8595   marvintokayer@gmail.com
Dear Fellow Travellers, 
Announcing the trip of all trips… to the far reaches of the Diaspora.
For more than three decades, I have led unique trips to Jewish China, India and Southeast Asia – “through Jewish eyes.” We have visited all the major sites of each area and in addition we have added the unknown Jewish experience of each location. As this aspect of my career is winding down, I wish to describe what I consider to be the most unique and fascinating trip of all trips.
Lower Siberia in June has a temperature of 70°F, as the snows have all melted by Passover. In the 1920s, Stalin created a Jewish Autonomous Republic -- Birobidjan, between the two rivers Biro and Bidjan, with Yiddish as the official language! Birobidjan still exists today -- it is quite unknown and Yiddish is indeed still the language. Shalom Aleichem is the name of the main street, Tzimmes is the name of the taxi company, Shalom is the name of the food market, and at the main entrance to the concert hall, there is a G-clef in the shape of a menorah! The name of each government building is still written in Yiddish, and the sign above the Trans-Siberian Railroad station is also written in Yiddish. Need I say more. In fact, I have been collecting Yiddish books so each tour participant can bring a Yiddish book to add to their library. Would anyone believe that this place exists? Your photos will certainly be a topic of conversation at your dinner table.
Across the border, in China, lies Harbin, in Manchuria (northern China), which produced what many consider to be the most unique and finest Jewish community that ever existed in the Diaspora. This indeed would be a great surprise. There were 20 Jewish newspapers and journals in Harbin, two Jewish banks, a Jewish hospital, magnificent synagogues, Jewish schools, Jewish youth groups, and most of the musicians of the first Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra were from Harbin. And they negotiated successfully with the Czar, the Soviets, Chinese warlords, Japanese occupiers, Nationalist China, the Soviet occupation after World War II, and even Chairman Mao. Who would believe this? There is so much that we can learn about Jewish survival from this community of Harbin and will make for an interesting discussion. 
In Jinan, the city of Confucius, we will meet the future professors of Jewish studies for the major universities of China. Who are they and why are they interested in Jewish culture, religion, literature and history? You will be very surprised and impressed with these young and very talented Chinese students, and their professors, and I was overwhelmed by them, and the quality of their studies.
Kaifeng is the city which has a 1000-year-old Chinese Jewish community and we will have an in depth experience with Chinese Jews. You will hear the Jewish national anthem, Hatikvah, sung in Hebrew and Chinese. I do not think there will be a dry eye among us. We will visit the street of the synagogue, Teaching Torah Lane South, and meet a family that has been living on this street for 800 years. We will visit the pavilion of Chinese Jewish history at a local theme park, and we will learn the origin of the Chinese Jews and even see a copy of the oldest Hebrew manuscript, found anywhere in the world, which was found in China.
Our trip ends in Shanghai, and we will stay at the impressive landmark of Sir Victor Sassoon, visit his office and corporate headquarters, and visit the street named for a Jewish general in the Chinese army whose nickname was “Two Gun Cohen”. And we’ll be among the first to see the new sculpture listing over 14,800 names of refugees whose lives were saved in Shanghai. 
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I hope that you will join me for this unique journey to the far edge of the Diaspora. 
Best wishes,