Shanghai's Jews focus of DC show

Updated: 2014-06-24 11:07

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily USA)

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Shanghai's Jews focus of DC show

Evelyn Pike Rubin (right) and Jerry Lindenstraus (center), who both fled Nazi Germany for Shanghai in 1939 with their families, attend a reception on Monday in Washington for the weeklong Jewish Refugees and Shanghai exhibit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. On the left is Lindenstraus' wife, Marjeri Hadar. PHOTO BY CHEN WEIHUA / CHINA DAILY

Pointing to a teen class photo on the exhibition board, 84-year-old Evelyn Pike Rubin remembered well her eight years living in Shanghai after her family fled Nazi Germany in 1939.

"Everybody (Chinese) was wonderful. We never found any anti-Semitism from the Chinese," said Rubin at a reception held on Monday in Washington for a weeklong Jewish Refugees and Shanghai exhibit.

The photo Rubin pointed to was a class photo taken in 1943 at Shanghai Jewish School, which she attended.

It is one of the hundreds of photos and stories on display starting Wednesday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the show travelling from the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum (SJRM).

It is estimated that at least 18,000 Jews arrived in Shanghai between 1933 and 1941, many of them from Europe. At the time, Shanghai did not require an entry visa.

Rubin, now living on Long Island, New York, said the life of the Chinese was harder during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. "They had to bow while passing the Garden Bridge and the Jews did not have to," she recalled.

Rubin has gone back to Shanghai, bringing with her three of her children for the reunion in 2006 of Jews once living in the Shanghai Ghetto, known at the time as Little Vienna. One of her childhood neighbors, a Chinese, living on Shanghai's Changyang Road recognized her after so many years, and Rubin said she is looking forward to visiting Shanghai again.

Chen Jian, curator of the museum, said at the reception held by the museum and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington that many of the exhibits were collected in the last few years and have not even been displayed in the Shanghai museum.

Part of the exhibit was on display at the reception drawing a huge crowd, including several lawmakers.

Mike Honda, a Democrat House Representative from California, said such a story needs to be told. "For me, it's a great lesson. I am more educated than 15 minutes ago," he said, after visiting the exhibit at the reception.

Grace Meng, a Democrat House Representative from New York, said she is so glad that such an exhibit has been brought to the US because many Americans don't know this story.

"Thank God. If it's not for the Chinese people, I don't know if I would be here today," said 67-year-old Ellen Chaim Kracko, who was born in Shanghai. Her family of 16 also fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and arrived in Shanghai.

Jerry Lindenstraus, who lived in Shanghai from 1939 to 1947 as a teenager after nine of his family members fled Nazi Germany to Shanghai, said he has gone back to Shanghai twice. "I cannot recognize it, it's a super-modern city. I only recognize the Bund and Garden Bridge," said Lindenstraus.

Matt Nosanchuk, from the National Security Council (NSC) and Jewish Affairs Advisor to President Barack Obama, said it's a story that needs to be told and retold.

"It's a story of humanity and compassion in saving tens of thousands of lives," he said.

"In remembering the past, we also look to the future, to strengthen the positive relations between China and the United States, between China and Israel, and between the Jewish and Chinese communities globally and within our countries," said Allan Reich, a member of the AJC Board of Governors.

Lu Kang, deputy chief of mission at the Chinese embassy in Washington, recalled the long history of Jewish people coming and living in China since 1,000 years ago, especially in China's Henan province.

He said it's significant for the exhibits to come to Washington. "Here you can see a photo of Dr Ho Feng-shan, who issued thousands of visas to Jews," he pointed to one photo and then continued to talk about other stories in the exhibit.

Ho, a Chinese diplomat in Vienna, Austria then, issued thousands of visas to Jews fleeing the Nazis in the late 1930s.

(China Daily USA 06/24/2014 page2)