Hong Kong: ‘Asian Jewish Life,’ spring issue online

On my recent Hong Kong visit, I met with editor-in-chief Erica Lyons of “Asian Jewish Life: A Journal of Spirit, Society and Culture.”

The new AJL spring 2010 issue is now online with stories covering India, Shanghai, Cambodia, foodies, book reviews, film and more.

“Asian Jewish Life is a contemporary journal of Jewish diaspora life throughout Asia. As Jews in Asia we are but a tiny minority unified by tradition, a love for Israel, common contemporary concerns and shared values. While Asian Jewish Life is a common media forum designed to share regional Jewish thoughts, ideas and culture and promote unity, it also celebrates our individuality and our diverse backgrounds and customs.”

Here’s the table of contents (read each online or download the PDF at the link above):

— Inbox: Your letters
— Letter from the Editor
— India Journal- Life with the Bene Ephraim (Bonita Nathan Sussman and Gerald Sussman)
— Eating Kosher Dog Meat: Jewish in Guiyang (Susan Blumberg-Kason)
— Through the Eyes of ZAKA (Jana Daniels)
— Interview: Ambassador Yaron Mayer

— Replanting Roots in Shanghai: Architect Haim Dotan’s journey (Erica Lyons)
— A Palate Grows in Brooklyn: Birth of a foodie (Sandi Butchkiss)
— Poetry by Rachel DeWoskin
— The Death Penalty: What Asia can learn from Judaism (Michael H. Fox)
— Learning to Speak: A cross-cultural love story (Tracy Slater)
— Book Reviews (Susan Blumberg-Kason)
— Places I Love
— Expat Diary: Raising a Jewish Child in Cambodia (Craig Gerard)
— Film in Focus

Each article provides a diverse look into life in Asia, with a Jewish “hook.” Tracing the Tribe will always remember the line “tenderloin of my heart,” from Tracy Slater’s “Learning to Speak.”

Readers and writers with Jewish Asian experiences are invited to submit articles; click here for more information.

If you enjoyed this issue (the winter issue is also online), let Erica know, and tell her you learned about AJL at Tracing the Tribe. Feedback is always welcome.

A great issue, Erica!

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Hong Kong: On a clear day….

Doesn’t it always happen like this?

You visit a new place and weather conditions are such that you can’t see more than a few buildings down the road. Then, on the last day, everything is beautiful and clear.

On both my visits, I could barely see the harbor from the hotel window. Today, I could see the hills on the far side.

At least I have this great shot!

Hong Kong has been a great experience and I am grateful to the Jewish Community Center events committee for making it happen. Mira, Tara, Erica, Howard and everyone else were most gracious and very kind.

This trip afforded many opportunities to talk genealogy with so many diverse individuals and I hope that they may go on searching their own ancestry, whatever it might be.

My visit to Australia was a dream come true as well. Ziva and Sam Fain were very caring hosts and it was hard to tear myself away from them (and the two dogs); the conference was excellent and I thank everyone on the committee who made it possible.

Meeting my Melbourne cousins from Bobruisk (Alex, Jenny, Nelly, Leon, Fleur) was a wonderful experience, and my Sydney cousins Bob and Di were delightful, as usual.

Meeting up with geneablogging colleague Randy Seaver and his wife just added to the overall good memories of Sydney. That’s Randy and me on beautiful Manley Beach (right).

It was a great pleasure making in-person connections with gen colleagues Kerry Farmer and Carole Riley in Sydney, and finally meeting Linde Wolters, a member of MyHeritage.com’s farflung family.

I will always remember the great people I met on this trip, talking genealogy in two countries and with fellow passengers. I’d like to travel there again for the Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival in November. We’ll see!

For now, it is back to Tel Aviv tonight, attempt to get ready for Pesach, and to catch up on a huge pile of work for upcoming conferences and other events.

Tracing the Tribe wishes a Happy Pesach to all readers who celebrate this special holiday.

Hong Kong: The Shabbat experience

Although Tracing the Tribe is now in Melbourne, I wanted to report on my Shabbat in Hong Kong.

I attended Friday night services with Garry Stein (an old Jewish genealogy friend from Toronto) at the United Jewish Congregation (liberal). Melodies were a mix of old, new and nostalgic There were Jewish faces and Asian faces, but most of all, there were singers. This is a singing congregation.

UJC’s premises were carved out of space in One Robinson Place (70 Robinson Road), which includes two tall residential towers, the multi-floored JCC and the original Ohel Leah historic synagogue.

Following services, we went up to the Sabra Coffee Shop in the JCC for Shabbat dinner. The large space was transformed into separate dining rooms for two groups. The food was excellent and the company – a real mix of individuals – even better. One Chinese woman who attended is studying ethnomusicology at Hong Kong University and focusing on Jewish music, another young man is Brazilian; there are Americans and other nationalities.

On Shabbat morning, Ohel Leah was my choice. This wonderfully restored synagogue is across the courtyard from the JCC’s Garden Terrace function room. The courtyard also has a playground well-used by the young children.

As OHL is an Orthodox congregation, women sit upstairs; the mechitza is an openwork grill surrounding the three-sided balcony. The acoustics are excellent, and the Torah scrolls in their silver Sephardic cases (tik) are masterpieces. The congregation uses the ArtScroll siddur and Stone chumash.
Everyone who read or participated had beautiful voices – it was a pleasure to be part of this Shabbat service. A sit-down kiddush followed. Among the familiar faces of people I had spoken to all week wasa new one: Howard Elias, who is both the Jewish cemetery warden and Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival organizer. Tracing the Tribe bets you didn’t know there was one!

Kiddush included baked salmon in a delicious sauce, Chinese cold noodles, dressed cucumber salad, tomato salad, even hummus and eggplant salad. The community’s excellent challah is superb; dessert was a strudel-ly pastry. Howard said this was regular kiddush fare, adding that I should see it when there’s a simcha!

Howard grew up in Toronto, was a USYer, and lived very close to my TALALAY cousins.

During the zemirot singing after the meal, visiting Rabbi Jackson – from Ireland – offered a melody for one popular song that sounded very much like the Mighty Mouse cartoon theme. I won’t forget that one very soon.

Over the past week, I’ve received many private comments from readers who have visited Hong Kong but never knew about the Jewish community, the JCC or attended a Shabbat service.

If this destination is on your radar screen, do try to visit, attend a Shabbat service, check events and meet the community – I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience.

Don’t forget the 11th Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival, set for November 13-21, 2010.

I am looking forward to my return trip March 21-25 to this diverse, welcoming and interesting community.

Hong Kong: Workshop report

Following the cruise, it was back to the hotel to get ready for the workshop and go to the JCC for dinner.

After a few technical glitches – I definitely need a course in hooking up computer projectors – we got everything squared away and everyone was connected to the JCC wireless system.

There were about 20 people, all with laptops, and others looking on. I went through a short PowerPoint which discussed some generalities and also showed examples of documents from my own family research and then we began some actual accessing of sites.

One woman, with roots in Rhodes, had a very unusual name. When we went to Jeff Malka’s SephardicGen.com not only did the name pop up in several book indexes, but there were a number of burials in the Rhodes Jewish cemetery along with photos of the gravestones.

We accessed some Polish and UK records and resources, as well as features of JewishGen, SephardicGen, JRI-Poland, Ancestry and other sites.

As most readers know, even in a two-hour workshop, one barely gets into the amazing resources of so many sites. But participants received a list of major websites to look around (links to more links!), and were advised to register on JewishGen and add their information to the Family Finder.

I will be back in Hong Kong on March 21 and we’ll have at least one more session. It was an enthusiastic group, and we even had a member of the younger generation attending – I was very happy to see that.

There are so many resources out there, and we barely touched them. The time flew by and everyone understood how easy it is to spend hours on finding clues to our families.

I think there may be a JGS of Hong Kong soon. Where do we sign up for the T-shirts?

Tomorrow (Friday), I’m planning to visit the Jewish cemetery and meet with the Jewish Historical Society.

Hong Kong: Victoria Harbour


Finally made it down to Victoria Harbour today. I had wanted to take the ferry across to Kowloon and visit the markets, but time was limited, so I settled for an hour-long cruise.

I love lake and harbor cruises. When I travel through Zurich and change planes there, I always build in a half-day so I can take the train into town, and tram or walk down to the lake and enjoy a relaxing boat trip. All the stress seems to melt away. I highly recommend it if you have a chance.

It wasn’t a bad day for the ride today. The sun kept trying to break through the cloud cover and I did get some nice shots. See below.

Star ferries leave from Central Pier:

The terminal and adjacent building offer some food outlets, like Subway, a deli, a Burger Box, and Haagen Daz, where a featured flavor is green tea (a favorite). I had green tea and Belgian Chocolate in a waffle cone.


Views of the Harbour before leaving the pier:


There were some smalll fishing boats:

Colorful waterfront:

Here comes the sun – or tries to:

All too soon we were back at Central Pier, and I returned to the hotel to get ready for the hands-on getting started in Jewish genealogy.

Hong Kong: A desire for dimsum

Dimsum have been on my mind since I arrived.

Traveling means enjoying good food with great people. Hong Kong has provided several opportunities this week to do just that. And we did it again today!

Today, vegetarian versions were on the menu at Pure Veggie House in Coda Plaza. The same building also holds other restaurants serving hotpots, regular dimsum and more.

Here’s their card:

Here’s the regular menu (the dimsum menu is a printed list, something like a sushi order sheet, where you check off the items and how many of each dish):

We arrived at around 12.30, only one other table was occupied. By 1.15pm, every table in the place was filled; 1pm is lunchtime in HK.

We sat at a large round table with a revolving glass center.

Every dish looked delicious, but this group has gone there often and knew exactly what to order.

We started off with what turned out to be fried bean curd skins. They tasted a bit like vegetarian bacon bits – chewy, crisp, interesting.

The other dishes began arriving in bamboo steamers, small platters and bowls: transparent wild mushroom dumplings with black truffle sauce, steamed vegetarian BBQ buns (these were fantastic), turnip puffs (a yellow fried shell surrounding soft melting turnip), pure veggie siu mai, noodles in soup with sesame sauce and peanuts (very delicious), and wonton in red chili soup. Of course, green tea and jasmine tea were on the table. For our group of five, we ordered two of most items and stuffed ourselves silly. The bill? About US$10 per person.

We could also have had other deep-fried pastries – such as wild fungus spring roll, vegetarian cake, pan-friend pumpkin cake or vegetable turnover – or other steamed offerings – fried rice in lotus leaf, steamed eggplant with bean paste, bamboo fungus bundle or steamed rice flour pancakes with vegetables or mushrooms, or another 15 rice or noodle dishes.

Frequent diners get a 10% off card, which one of our group had today.

I learned that there are two types of vegetarian restaurants. One serves dishes that look, smell and taste like various meat products but aren’t – such as platters of roast “pork.” The other type doesn’t try to imitate meat products, like Pure Veggie House.

How did I enjoy it? A simple one-word answer: YUM!

There were some interesting dishes on other tables and asked about them. One was a delicious looking spiced bean curd. Next time.

We didn’t have dessert, but if we had room, we could have had sesame pudding, red dates and snow lotus seeds, red date pudding, or sweet rice dumplings.

Back to the hotel to prepare for tonight’s talk. More later.

Hong Kong: A walk through the market

Even genealogists need a break occasionally.

This morning, Erica Lyons and I walked through the lanes of a market. Here are some shots.

Dried snacks and candies:

A vegetable stand:

Here are the fishies:

Lots of nuts:

And this was before lunch!