|Shanghai, China Jewish Community|
Shanghai sits on the banks of the Yangtze River Delta in East China. The Huangpu River divides Shanghai, segregating Puxi, the city proper, from a newer financial district in Pudong.
It is the largest city in China and serves as one of the country's most important cultural, commercial, financial, industrial and communications centres. It is the largest cargo port in the world and the third busiest in terms of container traffic.
There has been a significant Jewish community in Shanghai since 1850. The First Wave of Jewish migration to Shanghai was marked by the arrival of Sephardic Jews from Baghdad, Iraq, and Bombay, India. During 1920â€™s and the 1930â€™s thousands of Russian Jews immigrated to Shanghai as well.Â
During World War II, the city of Shanghai became one of the few places in the world that provided refuge to the European Jews fleeing the Nazi regime. From 1938 on, some 20,000 Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria escaped to Shanghai. The well established Sephardic community set up an intricate social service system to aid these refugees in the Shanghai ghetto.
At the end of the war, Shanghai was home to approximately 24,000 Jews. By the founding of the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China in 1949, the community dwindled, with many Jews emigrating to Israel, the United States, Australia and Hong Kong.
During those years, many of the Jewish sites in Shanghai were destroyed, except the Ohel Rachel Synagogue and the Ohel Moishe Synagogue which still stand today.
The Ohel Moishe Synagogue is located in the Hong Kou district and now hosts a museum dedicated to the history of the Jewish experience in Shanghai, following receipt of the local governmentâ€™s approval to be preserved and reconstructed to its original form.
Today the Chinese government regulates the use of the Ohel Rachel Synagogue building. The Jews in Shanghai are allowed to have religious ceremonies only three times a year in there. The Jews of Shanghai patiently wait for the day when they again may pray regularly in the Ohel Rachel Synagogue and re-establish the beautiful edifice as a centre of Jewish life.
During the 1990â€™s, the opening of Shanghai to international trade and investment again attracted increasing numbers of foreigners, including Jews from throughout the world.
In August 1998, Rabbi Shalom Greenberg and his wife Dina arrived to Shanghai to serve the 150 Jews that already lived there.
Rabbi Shalom Greenberg is 36 years old. He was born in Israel. His wife Dina, originally from Ohio, also plays a key role in fostering the Jewish communal life in Shanghai. Both of their extensive educations are products of United States Chabad institutions.
The Greenbergâ€™s energy and commitment has infused new life into the growing Jewish Community. Along with their four children, they have truly created a sense of home for the Jewish expats. They have implemented Shabbat services and kosher meals, child and adult education classes, bar and bat mitzvah training and social activities.
In the start of their stay in Shanghai, Rabbi Greenberg and his wife Dina worked from an apartment in the city center, while they established the building blocks of a centralised and organised religious life for Shanghaiâ€™s Jews.
The growth of the Jewish population in Shanghai brought the need for a larger community centre to serve the needs of a flourishing Jewish institution. In 2004, Chabad Shanghai was able to purchase an impressive four storey building, with the generous financial support of Mr. George Bohbot from Hong Kong and Mr. Max Azaria from Los Angeles.
This building houses a synagogue, mikveh, kindergarten, junior education facilities, a Sunday school, Adult Education classes, a lending library. In addition a kosher restaurant, a bakery, kosher shop supplying meat and poultry, wines and other packaged items.
The Jewish community in Shanghai now provides regular religious services as well as educational and social activities. They are the central institution in the lives of the Jewish people who live in Shanghai as well as for tourists and businessmenÂ who travel to Shanghai.
During the Jewish Holidays, there is extensive activity. every Jewish festival is celebrated communally, as a family. During the last Passover festival more than 500 people participated in the Seder services.
There are now 30 children in the Shanghai International Jewish School. This preschool provides education for children between the ages of 2 through 6. The preschool programme includes art, music, language, math readiness, science, computers, dramatic play and the Jewish holidays. The curriculum is designed to enrich the childrenâ€™s appreciation of the world and the beautiful Jewish heritage in a fun and meaningful way.
The preschool is divided into four separate age groups. Each class has a qualified teacher as well as a Jewish volunteer. It is located within the Jewish center in newly renovated facilities made possible under the auspices of JE Joseph Trust for Shanghai Jewry.
Adult education and activities are also increasing in popularity. Lectures are given in different topics, from the history of the Jewish people in China to investment.
The Jewish Center consistently offers a variety of classes and lectures on topics of Jewish interest, from beginnerâ€™s basics to Jewish Philosophy and Mysticism. Group courses run on a weekly and monthly basis and individual classes are also offered daily.Â
Shabbat in the Shanghai Jewish Center is a unique experience for the local residents and for the guests from all over the world.
After the Shabbat service, all the guests sit together for Shabbat dinner, and the mixture of languages is united by the singing of the Shabbat songs.
The Jewish Community of Shanghai currently has 1500 members, living and working in the city. The membership is diverse drawing Jews from different countries including the U.S., Israel, Europe, Argentina, Venezuela, Russia, Canada, Australia and the U.K.
Younger bachelors are the dominant group in the Shanghai community. The Rabbi indicates that there is a lack of young Jewish women in the community.Â
Along with his wife, Nechamie and their two children, together they serve the 200 permanent members Jewish community who live in Pudong area.
The couple provides weekday and Shabbat services, educational activities and Shabbat dinners in their apartment in Pudong.
Like their sister community they are quickly building on modest beginnings and fostering a true sense of community and home to unite the Jewish residents in the area. The apartment serves as the synagogue and community center, with a second apartment secured as their residence.
They have quickly organised a kosher take-out service, whereby fresh kosher meals from the daily set menu are delivered to hotels or offices in Pudong. The Chabad Jewish Center of Pudong provides weekly adult education classes.
The Pudong Hebrew School, now meets on a weekly basis and combines Hebrew classes, Jewish values, Jewish history and holiday programming.
The educational opportunities for Pudong residents are plentiful, as Rabbi Avremi, as he is better known, specialises in youth and teen programming and Nechamie received her Judaic Studies Instructor certification in 2000 from Beth Chana Teacherâ€™s College in Safed.
For the High Holidays services, the Pudong community will play host to 150 guests. Services and holiday dinners have been arranged in the Sofitel Hotel.
They are currently conducting Shofar workshops on the process of creating the shofar and teaching the history, laws and spiritual meaning of blowing the shofar. A Torah dedication is also planned in the upcoming months.
Pudong continues to grow as a financial centre and home to expats, with the growth it is certain that the Pudong Jewish community will continue to grow and develop as well. Rabbi Greenberg is certain that they will witness exciting times ahead.
Shanghai Jewish Center
Chabad Jewish Center of Pudong
(Issue September 2007)