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Prof.Pan Guang's lecture in US

Time:2014-07-31 00:00 Source:未知 Writer:cjss read:

This is  published as the cover story of  The Jewish Home on Feb.13,2014 by Susan Schwamm.


http://issuu.com/jewishhome/docs/current_issue_3224ed8664b61a


I find it fascinating that the foremost expert on Jews in China is not a Jew himself. He is a Chinese man who was born in Shanghai and is now the Director of the Institute of European and Asian Studies at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Pan Guang has spent decades researching Jews in the country and has written dozens of books on the subject. When I met the professor this week, we spoke about his interest in the Chosen People. There aren’t many Jews in the country now—only about 12,000—but Guang says that children growing up in China are always told the story of the Jews. It’s not necessarily taught in school; these are stories and messages that are passed down from parents to their children. What attracted him to spend his life dedicated to learning about the Jews in China? Guang points out that Jews and the Chinese share common values. The importance of family, education and business are central in both cultures. Additionally, he says, the philosophy of Confucianism focuses on being good to both man and being righteous and humane. He says that the Chinese see the Torah as mirroring those same values. In China, Guang notes, Jews have never felt any anti-Semitism. They were and are always welcomed and valued for what they contribute to society.
THE FIVE WAVES
Jews came to China in five waves, much like other immigrants coming to other countries. The earliest group of Jews who came to China came by land via the Silk Route in the seventh century.They moved to Kaifeng and established a famous Jewish community there. Although the community was vibrant, after many years, they eventually assimilated into Chinese society.
The second wave of Jews primarily consisted of those of Sephardic descent and came in 1814 when the British opened China up to foreign trade. Many British businessmen came to China then to do business and a group of Sephardic Jews came from Mumbai to engage in trade. The famous Sassoon and Kadoorie families came to China at the time and were more than just businessmen. They helped develop the Jewish and Chinese communities, building shuls and schools for the community. The first shul in Hong Kong, the Ohel Leah Synagogue, was donated by the Sassoon family. It is now the center of the Jewish community in Hong Kong. The Ohel Rachel Synagogue was the first Sephardic shul to be built in Shanghai, and it is still preserved there. HSBC bank (which stands for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) has its origins in the Sassoon banking days. And the Peace Hotel, which is open even today, was built by the Sassoons. The third wave of Jews to immigrate to China came from Russia. It was a small group of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Siberia and ended up in Harbin, China. Interestingly,former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s grandfather, Yosef Olmert, was one of those who came with this group. He is buried in Harbin.
The main synagogue in Harbin was built in 1907. The Jews experienced no anti-Semitism in China, a relief after being persecuted for their beliefs for years in Russia. Unlike Jews in the previous wave, Russian Jews engaged in commerce on a smaller level. They owned small businesses, like fur shops, as opposed to the Sephardic Jews who came earlier who focused on banking and real estate. Interestingly, in 1932 there was a Jewish unit in the army called the Jewish Company of Shanghai Volunteer Corps that consisted of four officers and 100 soldiers. It was the only Jewish fighting unit in the world (aside from in Israel) and several books have been written about the unit. The fourth wave of Jews is probably the most famous. These Jews were refugees escaping Hitler’s wrath. China was the only country to open its doors to them. In fact, Shanghai at the time did not require visas to enter the country. Many of those who came were considered “stateless,” but were welcomed nonetheless. It was only because the Nazis required visas in order to leave the country did these Jews scramble in order to obtain the golden visas. The fifth and final wave of immigration to China is the wave of Jews in the country today. There are only about 5,000 Jews in Shanghai—12,000 in the whole China. Most of them are businessmen and teachers who have come for opportunity to a country that welcomes them with open arms.
A CITY FOR THE STATELESS
November 1938 changed everything for the Jews in Europe. Rumblings of Hitler’s craziness were felt by Jews in Germany and the surrounding countries for many months, but most thought they were the ramblings of a madman. Kristallnacht rudely shook the Jews out of their reverie and gave them a terrifying glimpse of what Hitler and the Nazis were planning against the Jews. Those who were able to leave fled Susan Schwamm Cover Story CHINA and the Jews Chiune Sugihara handed out visas A young Jewish refugee playing with her Chinese friends in Shanghai to Lithuanian Jews even as he was being taken away Elly Kadoorie and his sons, Lawrence and Horace Professor Pan Guang, the foremost expert on China and the Jews their countries while others were left behind scrambling to find refuge. Every country slammed their doors in their faces, echoing Hitler’s sentiment that the Jews were not wanted. All countries, except for China. Shanghai was open to all—and did not require a visa or a passport to enter. From 1933 to 1941, 30,000 immigrants poured into the only city that accepted them.
Eventually, Shanghai took in more refugees than Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, South Africa and India combined. Consul General Feng Shan Ho in Vienna was known to many as “China’s Schindler.” As a graduate of University of Munich, he spoke German fluently. He risked his life to issue thousands of visas (the Germans required them in order to leave the country), saving thousands of lives. Within the first three months of him holding office as consul general, he issued 1,200 visas. Although it is unclear how many Ho issued, it is known that he issued nearly 2,000 visas during the first half year of his post; it’s understood that he may have issued thousands of visas while in office. One person came to Ho begging for his help in securing eleven visas for her family. Ten of her family members were in concentration camp and she was told they would be released if they had visas. He readily agreed to give her the visas after she brought him their passports. After his death, Ho became the first Chinese to be honored in Yad Vashem as one of the “righteous gentiles.”
THE MIR YESHIVA
Ho was not the only diplomat to save thousands of lives by issuing visas to refugees. Consul Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania. He issued almost 6,000 visas while risking the lives of himself and his family, spending 18-20 hours a day writing the visas. Even while being led away from his office, he was signing visas on the train and flinging them out the window to the desperate crowds below. He too is remembered in Yad Vashem as a “righteous gentile.” The most famous group to benefit from Sugihara’s benevolence was the Mir Yeshiva. It was the only yeshiva to have escaped intact from Hitler’s clutches. The yeshiva stayed in Japan for several months and after trying unsuccessfully to obtain U.S. visas, left to Shanghai. Once there, the bochurim spent their time learning. BeisAharon Synagogue fit the yeshiva perfectly—with just enough seats—and so they were able to learn during the rest of the war years. Most of those in the yeshiva were orphans—their whole families were exterminated by Hitler’s minions—and the yeshiva became their family. The “Alter Mirrers” shared a bond of closeness that was unparalleled.
LIFE IN SHANGHAI
The Ohel Moshe Synagogue became the religious center for the Jewish refugees at the time. The refugees received food and shelter and schools were established for their children. Shanghai at the time was under Japanese rule and the Germans tried to influence the Japanese to establish concentration camps to annihilate the Jews. The Germans suggested a mass arrest on Rosh Hashana in September 1942 of all Jews in the city. Colonel Josef Meisinger, chief representative of the Gestapo in Japan, proposed a “Final Solution in Shanghai” to the authorities. Fortunately, the Japanese did not heed the Nazi’s whisperings; they weren’t interested in killing the refugees. At the time, the Japanese military governor of Shanghai asked the Amshinover Rebbe, Rabbi Shimon Shalom Kalish, why the Germans hated the Jews so much. Some say that Rabbi Kalish wisely replied in Yiddish, “Tell him because we are Orientals.” The governor smiled at his answer and did not hand over the Jews to the Nazis’ hands.
On February 18, 1943, a “Designated Area for Stateless Refugees” was established. All those who immigrated to the city after 1937 were moved to a one-square-mile “ghetto.” Contrary to what they experienced in Europe, the Shanghai Ghetto did not have walls, although curfew was enforced and food was rationed. Those entering and leaving the ghetto needed a pass. Interestingly, there were many Chinese people who lived with the Jews in the ghetto. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, American citizens were unable to send food and money to those living in enemy-occupied areas. As such, the Jewish community in the United States couldn’t send provisions to their brothers in Shanghai. Food was scarce and life was hard in the ghetto. Outbreaks of disease were common. By 1944, though, those in Switzerland were able to send aid and the situation dramatically improved. After the end of the war and upon the establishment of the State of Israel,most of the refugees left Shanghai to the United States and Israel. When the Cultural Revolution took place in 1966, all the Jews left the country. But today, Jews are coming back to China to engage in trade and education. Those who lived in China previously still harbor a deep sense of gratitude towards the country that opened its arms to them in their time of need. Indeed, many of us are descendants of those who survived through the benevolence of the China and will forever appreciate the goodness of our Oriental brothers.The famous photo of the Mirrer Yeshiva learning in Shanghai. It was the only yeshiva to escape the war intact. The grave of Yosef Olmert, grandfather of Ehud Olmert, in Harbin, China A Jewish girl and a Chinese girl playing together A frum school for Jewish refugees in the Shanghai ghetto, 1944 David Sassoon and his three sons In the ‘ghetto’ in China

(Author:cjss)