San Francisco: ‘Jews in China’ series during March

Jews in Modern China is a series of programs touching on the Jewish experience, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee San Francisco.

The exhibit of photographs, documents and memorabilia portrays a little known chapter in Chinese and Jewish history. It follows three ethnic streams of Jewish communities that lived in harmony with their Chinese neighbors in Shanghai and other Chinese cities, 1840-1949:

— Sephardic merchants, originally from Iraq, who played a significant role in the commercial and real estate development of Shanghai. Settling mainly in the British sector of the city, they built synagogues and established Jewish social service agencies, schools and other institutions that laid a foundation for Jewish communal life.

— Russian Jews escaping czarist pogroms from the 1880s to World War I and after World War I, the Russian Revolution. This community brought Zionist organizations, Yiddish publications and other cultural activity to Shanghai’s French Concession, as well as to Harbin, further north.

— European Jews escaping the coming Holocaust. Shanghai was an open city that did not require visas or passports to enter. Despite the Japanese occupation of Shanghai when they arrived, Jews lived in relative comfort, thanks to the previously settled Jewish community. However, in 1942 the Japanese, bowing to the wishes of their German allies, confined Jews who had come from Europe since 1937 to a squalid ghetto area until the end of the war.

The program is part of the Shanghai Celebration, a year-long program for the San Francisco Bay area, with exhibitions, films, performances, lectures. and other events. It also includes the Asian Art Museum’s major Shanghai exhibit (February 12-September 5).

“Jews in Modern China” series includes:

Tuesday, March 2, 5:30pm – Officers Club, the Presidio, San Francisco

Exhibit viewing and a conversation between Professor Pan Guang, dean of Center for Jewish Studies, Shanghai; and Professor Thomas Gold, UC-Berkeley. Sponsors: American Jewish Committee San Francisco Office, Asia Society of
Northern California.

“Shanghai Jews: Art, Architecture and Survival”
Thursday, March 4, 7pm – Contemporary Jewish Museum

From the mid-19th-mid-20th centuries, Shanghai was transformed into a multi-cultural, international city. Presented by Nancy Berliner, Chinese art curator, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. Sponsors: Asian Art Museum, Holocaust Center of Northern California, American Jewish Committee San Francisco Office.

“Remembering Rena”
Sunday, March 7, 2pm – Officers Club, Presidio, San Francisco

A program honoring the late Rena Krasno, a Shanghai native whose books, lectures, and archival projects crafted a legacy of connection to the Jewish experience in China. Speakers will include colleagues, friends and family. Sponsors: The Sino-Judaic Institute, Pacific View Press.

“A Young Man in Shanghai: Troubles and Triumphs”
Wednesday, March 10, 7pm – Officers Club, Presidio, San Francisco

Author and educator Audrey Friedman Marcus, who will discuss the Shanghai experiences of her late husband, Fred Marcus, who fled Germany at age 15. His recently published diary depicts the challenges and struggles that he and some 20,000 fellow Jewish refugees encountered. Sponsors: American Jewish Committee San Francisco Office, Bureau of Jewish Education of San Francisco.

“Founders of the Shanghai Jewish Community: The Sephardic Story”
Sunday, March 14, 2pm – Officers Club, Presidio, San Francisco

Presented by Shanghai-born Leah Jacob Garrick – the fourth generation of her family to live there. She will discuss the history and legacy of Sephardic families who laid the foundation of the Shanghai Jewish community while playing a significant role in the business and architectural development of the city itself. Sponsors: China International Cultural Exchange Center, American Jewish Committee’s San Francisco office.

Lehrhaus Judaica will also sponsor the related “Jews in Modern China” lecture series, at 4pm, March 21, at Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, and at 7pm April 29, at the Officers Club, Presidio. The series features Bay area residents who represent the Sephardic, Russian and Holocaust-refugee communities of China (1840-1949). Speakers include Rabbi Theodore Alexander, Leah Jacob Garrick and Inna Mink. Moderator: Linda Frank.

For more information, visit the AJC San Francisco.

Shanghai: Polish citizen registration book online

JRI-Poland now features the 918 index entries of Polish Jewish refugees who visited the Polish Consulate in Shanghai from 1934-41.

For more on the database, click here to learn more about the records and Jews in China.

In a 1992 visit to the Polish Consulate in Shanghai, Dr. Jonathan Goldstein, then a research associate at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, and three other scholars, were shown a 200-page register listing Polish citizens who passed through Shanghai between January 9, 1934 and December 16, 1941.

This register was the standard one used by Polish diplomatic missions around the world to record their citizens who called on the Consulate, whether they were visiting or residing in the country. Typically, these records enabled the missions to provide consular services, invite its citizens for celebrations of national days, or contact them for other official reasons.

The following information was recorded in the register in Polish:
Registration number
Registration date
Full name of registrant (maiden name, if provided)
His or her profession
Religion (Mojzeszowa for Jewish)
Birth date and place
Marital status
Last known address in Poland (non-existent for most Jews)
Address in the consular region
Documents submitted (usually a passport)
Name and birth date and place of wife and children
Passport expiry date

The register covers two pages; here is a sample page:

The JRI-Poland Index includes the following fields:

Registration Number
Date entered in register
Maiden Name (if provided)
Given Names
Place of Birth as Written
Place of Birth – Current Name (if different)
Current Country of Place of Birth
Date of Birth
Marital Status

In line with the the cooperative arrangement with JewishGen, which hosts JRI-Poland’s database and website, the Polish citizen database will also be included in the All Poland Database and the JewishGen Holocaust Database.

JRI-Poland has created digital images of the register pages and will send electronic copies of the relevant pages to interested researchers. Contact Mark Halpern to obtain a copy of the page for individuals in the database.

JRI-Poland volunteer Peter Nash (of Australia) has documented and shared his knowledge of Jewish research in China. He and his parents were German refugees in Shanghai. JRI-Poland has reprinted Peter’s excellent paper (presented at the New York 2006 international conference on Jewish genealogy), “China – Unusual Resources for Family Research.” Read it here.

Projects like this cannot be accomplished without the input, hard work and cooperation of numerous individuals. Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland specifically thanks Selma Neubauer (Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia) and JGSGP volunteers for creating the database.

Former Sino-Judaic Institute president Dr. Albert Dein provided copies of the Shanghai Consulate register, Peter Nash reviewed the database and the webpages, Michael Tobias for placing the database online, and Hadassah Lipsius and her web team for creating the webpages.

Connecticut: Jews of Shanghai, Feb. 14

Learn about Shanghai’s Jewish community, past and present, at the next meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut (JGSCT), on Sunday, February 14.

The event begins at 1.30pm at the Godfrey Memorial Library, 134 Newfield St., Middletown.

JGSCT president Georgia Haken will speak on “The Jewish Community In Shanghai, China Yesterday And Today.” The meeting is free.

She’s been researching her family history for many years, especially in Germany and Austria. Since 2005, she has lived for several months at a time in Shanghai, and has researched the Jews of China.

Jewish communities have lived there since the early Middle Ages, and were cited by Marco Polo, in 1286, as an important element in the life of the country. The Shanghai community has been a linguistic, cultural, and religious mosaic, especially in the 20th century.

Founded in 1988, the JGSCT holds its meetings and houses its library at the Godfrey Library.

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut, formed in 1988, houses its library at the Godfrey.

For directions and more information, visit the JGSCT.

Sephardim: Museum of Family History exhibits

The virtual Museum of Family History also has material for researchers of Sephardim.

Holocaust Memorials in Havana and Santa Clara, Cuba

Synagogues of Asia: Burma, China, Hong Kong, India, Lebanon, Singapore, Tajikistan, Turkey [Asian side].

Synagogues of Turkey: (European side of Istanbul)

Synagogues of Spain. The photo at left is the El Transito Synagogue in Toledo.

— Postcards from Home: Turkey

Museum creator Steve Lasky wishes to include more pre-war family photos. Readers with such photos are invited to contact Steve.

Shanghai: Jewish records index

If your Jewish ancestors spent time in Shanghai, this resource may provide information for you.

Jewish Records Indexing – Poland acquired the Shanghai Polish Consular register from the Sino-Judaic Institute (Palo Alto, California) and indexed the records in this collection.

There are 1,474 entries from January 19, 1934 through December 13, 1941. Of these records, some 57% (846 records) were Jewish.

Why did Jews visit the Polish Consulate in Shanghai?

Two major incidents were likely responsible: The August 1937 Battle of Shanghai and December 1941, following the Pearl Harbor attack.

The register shows many entries for people who received Sugihara passports in Kovno, and those individuals from the Mir Yeshiva.

According to Mark Halpern of JRI-Poland, the indexing is complete, will be put into a database and soon added to the JRI-Poland database.

Index fields include:

— Registration Number
— Date entered in register
— Surname
— Maiden Name (if provided)
— Given Names
— Place of Birth as Written
— Place of Birth – Current Name (if different)
— Current Country of Place of Birth
— Date of Birth
— Marital Status

The actual register includes other information such as occupation, address in Poland, address in the consular region, documents submitted to register name and date of birth, information on wife and children, passport expiration date and other notes.

During the register’s interwar scope, Poland included territories that today are are part of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, while many Polish Jews living in Germany had Polish nationality.

According to Mark, the database includes people who previously lived in Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

If your family member was in Shanghai from 1934-1941, Mark offers a look-up before the indexes are added to the JRI-Poland database. Contact him.

New York City: Voices of the Silk Road, Jan. 16-17

Travel the exotic Silk Road at the American Museum of Natural History, during its “Living in America: Voices of the Silk Road” from noon-5pm, Saturday and Sunday, January 16-17.

The program is in conjunction with the current exhibition, Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World.

In addition to the weekend activities, other special programs will take place in January, such as “Global Kitchen: Aromatics Along the Silk Road,” at 6.30pm, Wednesday, January 20, and “Caravanserai: A Perfumed Tasting Menu,” at 7pm, Thursday, January 21. In February, there are events for students also, such as the Silk Road Camp for 2nd-3rd graders (Monday-Friday, February 15-19).See these other events here. See the special kids’ page.

The Silk Road was also followed by Jewish merchants and traders and many other travelers of diverse religions and ethnicities who interacted with the peoples who lived along the way.

The weekend program includes performances, conversations and hands-on activities. For the details of speakers and presenters, click here.

Saturday: Folk paper cutter, calligrapher, face painting, Arab folktales, Arabic calligraphy, exquisite textiles from India, Silk Road spices, cultural Central Asian treasures. Music: Ukrainian bandura, Japanese fue, Tibetan folk singer, Bukharan Jewish singer, Kyrgyz traditional musician, Iranian vocalist and qanun.

Sunday: Music, dance, acrobatics from three unique cultures with Silk Road ties. Gagaku, the oldest traditional orchestral, Chinese Theatre Works music, acrobatics, dance of the Tang Dynasty; Bukharan Jewish music ensemble Maqam performing shashmaqam, vocal performance, stringed and percussion instruments.

See the link above for more information. Sessions are free with museum admission.

Kulanu: Chinese, Indian Jewish articles

If the stories of Jews around the world in some exotic places capture your imagination, you aren’t alone.

Kulanu’s Fall 2009 Newsletter is now online. Some of the articles are:

— “French Black Jews” by Cynthia Weisfeld
— “Endings and Beginnings in Uganda” by Lorne Mallin
— “Kaifeng Descendent to Tour U.S.”
— “What I Did on my Summer Vacation” by Janis Colton (Elderhostel trip to New Mexico on Converso/Crypto-Jewish story)

Some notes on the stories:

A descendant of one of the original Jewish families in Kaifeng, China, Shi Lei spoke to our JFRA Israel group in Israel a few years ago while he was attending Bar Ilan University (2001-2002). Nearly 100 people came to hear him speak. He is now back in his home town. A spring 2010 lecture tour to the US is planned. Perhaps your JGS is interested in inviting him to speak. Email Kulanu to get details.

Colton’s story on her New Mexico trip this summer was interesting. For those who are so inspired, the Jewish Womens Archive is planning a long weekend trip to Santa Fe, NM, where some of these issues will be on the program, including a talk by Dr. Stan Hordes, who specializes in Converso/Crypto-Jewish studies.

There was also information about the Jews of India, including information on a new documentary about Mumbai’s Bene Israel community; a new website,; and a new book, “Being Indian, Being Israeli,” by Maina Chawla Singh. Near Haifa, Israel, a new Indian Jewish Community Center (called Shaare Rahamim) has been established. It will house a permanent museum displaying Indian Judaica and historic documents. For more information, send an email.

Do read all the articles at the main Kulanu Newsletter link above.