Forward Thinking

How Jews Built New Life in 'Shanghai Ghetto'

By Gabe Friedman


(JTA) — The neighborhood in Shanghai that was home to approximately 20,000 Jewish refugees during World War II may be added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

While the Nazi-fleeing refugees who settled in Shanghai certainly fared better than the family and friends they left behind in Europe, life in the so-called “Pearl of the Orient” was nonetheless turbulent.

Things in Shanghai looked bright initially, when the first German Jewish refugees, many of them doctors and dentists, arrived soon after Hitler’s rise to power.

The local community was apparently so grateful for the professional skills these refugees brought that JTA headlined a 1934 article “German Jewish doctors cause China to be grateful to the Nazis.”

In that article, JTA reported that an American journalist working in China said approximately 100 Jewish doctors had set up practices in Shanghai: … during the short time they have lived in the city they have come to be regarded as “Hitler’s gift to the Far East” by virtue of the medical skill they have contributed to a territory which has long suffered from inadequate medical attention.

“German Jewish doctors,” said the newspaperman, “have already established themselves as being among the most expert surgeons and general practitioners of Shanghai. None of them seems to be suffering from lack of patronage, while most of them have already established themselves as commanding figures in the city’s public health service.”

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1 Billion Chinese. 1 Jew. So Many Questions.

By Steven Windmueller

Illustration by Lior Zaltzman

One month ago, I returned from China, where I was the guest of the Guilford and Diane Glazer Center for Jewish and Israeli Studies at Nanjing University. The Glazers are not the only Jewish philanthropic connection — many American Jews have made commitments in support of China’s ten academic centers of Jewish study. Yes, you read that right — there are no less than ten centers for studying Judaism in China.

The Chinese have a fascination with Jews, you see. It’s partly because of mythologies related to perceived notions of “Jewish political influence” in America, but it’s also connected to the significance of Jews in Western history and culture. As the “other” great ancient civilization, Jews enjoy a level of respect and admiration among the Chinese.

My hosts at Nanjing made a conscious effort to expose me to scholars and students not only at that university but also at two other higher educational centers. Over a 12-day visit, I was invited to offer presentations on everything from the Israel-Diaspora partnership to the uniqueness of the American Jewish experience. My audiences included Jewish studies majors, academic officials and students from an array of disciplines, as well as ordinary Chinese citizens simply interested in the material.

So what did the Chinese want to learn about Jews in the United States? They were mostly focused on these questions: Why did such a community within the U.S. feel it important, even essential, to be politically engaged? Why did American Jews have a particular connection to Jews worldwide and especially to the State of Israel? What did Jewish peoplehood represent, and how did Jews maintain their connections across continents?

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How China’s Lost Jews Celebrate Passover

By Anna Goldenberg

Tsuri (Heng) Shi, far left, with Michael Freund, right, and Kaifeng Jews. / Shavei Israel

A new Passover destination is being added to the maps this year. Those bored of celebrating the holiday in Florida or Israel can now head to Kaifeng, a city of four million in China’s central Honan province. For the first time in more than 150 years, the city’s small but ancient Jewish community will hold a communal Passover celebration.

Nearly a millennium old and thought to originate from Persia and India, the Jewish community of Kaifeng numbered up to 5,000 people at its heyday between the 14th and 17th century, but fell into decline during the 19th century due to intermarriage and assimilation. Over the past decade or so, with the help of the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, members of the community have started rediscovering their roots through Shabbat gatherings and study sessions.

This process culminates in a Passover ceremony to be held on April 14, which will be led by Tzuri Shi, a 28-year-old member of the community who immigrated to Israel in October 2009, where he underwent conversion and studied at a yeshiva. According to a press release by Shavei Israel, Shi was sent back to his hometown together with Passover items, ranging from matzoh and haroset to Hebrew and Chinese Haggadahs and kosher-for-Passover cakes. Of the estimated 500–1,000 Jews in Kaifeng, 100 are expected to attend.

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UK Report: 10.8 Degree F Warming by 2100

By J.J. Goldberg

The Guardian cites a new report from Price Waterhouse Cooper Consulting saying the world is on track for an average global temperature increase of 6 degrees C (10.8 F) by the end of the century at current rates of carbon emission, with catastrophic implications for human life.

New research by consultancy giant PwC finds an unprecedented 5.1 per cent annual cut in global emissions per unit of GDP, known as carbon intensity, is needed through to 2050 if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change and meet an internationally agreed target of limiting average temperature increases to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Such deep reductions in carbon intensity would be over six times greater than the 0.8 per cent average annual cuts achieved since 2000.

The report also confirms that greatest rises in greenhouse gas emissions came from the emerging E7 economies of China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia and Turkey, whose cumulative 7.4 per cent annual increase in emissions swamped record levels of reductions in the UK, France, and Germany.

PwC warns sustained economic growth in these countries could “lock in” high carbon assets that will make it significantly harder for them to decarbonise over the coming decades, a point likely to be raised at the UN-backed Doha Climate Summit when it kicks off later this month.

It also warns that industrialised countries must accelerate their partially successful efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

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Sheldon's $60M Waste of Time

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

getty images
Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson’s libel lawsuit against a Democratic Jewish group has little chance of success because the casino billionaire is a public figure and the claims in question appeared in court documents, two media law experts told the Forward.

The $60 million lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in New York accuses the National Jewish Democratic Council of defaming Adelson with accusations that he personally approved of prostitution at his Macao casino.

Experts noted that the NJDC is likely protected by the fact that Adelson is a public figure, and that the prostitution allegation came from another court case.

“I suspect that this lawsuit will die a quiet death,” said Robert D. Balin, co-chair of the media law practice at the law firm David Wright Tremaine and adjunct professor of publishing law at Columbia University Law School.

Balin and Charles Tobin, chair of the media practice group at the law firm Holland & Knight, based their analysis on a description of Adelson’s complaint by the Forward.

Adelson’s status as a public figure makes any defamation claim particularly difficult to prove, the expets said. Adelson would need to prove that the NJDC acted with “actual malice,” a high bar that Balin said would essentially mean that Adelson would need to show that the NJDC published the claim knowing it was false.

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