Last Friday, thanks to a Jewish friend of mine, I participated in my first Shabbat service in Hong Kong.
United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong was the setting, with a kosher Shabbat dinner at the nearby Jewish Community Center (JCC) afterwards. Shabbat is a festive day when Jews are freed from the regular labors of everyday life (Wikipedia).
The United Jewish Congregation Sanctuary is part of the Jewish Community Center complex located in the Mid-Levels district in Hong Kong. The entrance to the auditorium is located in at Castle steps, a small road off of Robinson road. Security was tight as the guard at the door checked our names off his list of attendees.
As I walked into the auditorium, I could hear the Hebrew language radiating throughout the complex in song and speech. My friend grabbed a book for me that contained all the songs and prayers and I followed along as best as I could.
After the service, we took a tiny elevator (all elevators in HK are claustrophobically small) to another level entering the Jewish Community Center (JCC). We sat down on family-style tables awaiting to be served a Chinese-style kosher dinner. There was Challah bread, baked lamb, roasted vegetables, and chocolate mousse (yum) for dessert. The evening was a special occasion as a couple attending the service was celebrating the birth of their first son. I met a few other Hong Kong Jews, some traveling through Hong Kong, a young British couple; some long-term residents of Hong Kong, twelve years to be exact.
The Hong Kong Jewish Community is as diverse as the world Jewish community. The first Jews arrived during the mid-19th century via Britain to Hong Kong and helped develop it as a major port city. There is orthodox, reform, and conservative as the major groups.
Next week, I’m going to a talk organized by the Hong Kong Jewish Historical Society and Asian Jewish Life. The topic is “Why are the Chinese so interested in the Jews”. Looking forward to the conversation and discussion afterwards.
Until next time, adieu!