16 February 2012 - 23 Shevat 5772 - כ"ג שבט ה' אלפים תשע"ב
A medal to Commemorate 1000 years of Jewish Life in China E-mail

By Philip Jay

As director of The Jewish-American Hall of Fame, over the past 40 years, Mel Wacks has overseen the creation of what is now one of the longest series of art medals in the world. The organisation is a not-for-profit establishment and all the proceeds of the sale of the medals go towards the organisation.

One of Wack’s proudest accomplishments is the creation of the official medals commemorating “350 Years of Jewish Life in America” in 2004. An example was presented to President George W. Bush at a gala Washington dinner, in which Bush concluded his remarks by saying “All of America is grateful to the Jewish people for the treasures you have given us over the past 350 years.”

While visiting his daughter and her family in Hong Kong, as a birthday present, she gave him the book The Jews in Kaifeng by Chan Sui-jeung, published by the Jewish Historical Society of Hong Kong.

Wacks was fascinated and did further research at the library of the Hong Kong Jewish Community Centre. Brenda Yi, the librarian, provided him with additional resources and that is when he had the idea, to create a medallic tribute to over 1,000 years of Jewish life in China. Jewish Times Asia first featured Mel Wacks and his minicrusade in the February 2007 issue.

Artist Jamie Franki—who designed the new United States Jefferson Nickel in 2005—was commissioned to create this medal. Franki based his design on the drawings of Father Jean Domenge, made when visiting Kaifeng in 1722. Domenge’s drawing of the synagogue was used to construct a model at the Beth Hatefutsoth Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv, and is depicted on the medal.

A maximum of just 488 bronze, 188 silver and 88 goldplated silver medals are being issued later this year, each individually serial numbered on the edge. The medal is an impressive 3-inches diameter, weighs a full half pound, and comes in a gift pouch with a Certificate of Authenticity. Prices will start at just US$88 for the bronze edition.

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