Situation: Be’Chol Lashon Diverse Jews Birthright Trip

If you are a Jew of diverse origins (AKA: not Ashkenazi), you probably have heard of Be’Chol Lashon, hebrew for “In Every Tongue.” It is an organization dedicated to advocating for the diversity and growth of the Jewish people. Its Mission consists of growing and strengthening the Jewish people through ethnic, cultural, and racial inclusiveness. I have been following them on various social networks since my Jewish discovery in 2011. A few weeks back, I got an e-mail from the organization about a Birthright Israel trip for diverse Jews. My ears perked up, eyes got big, and forgot what I was doing in that moment. My full attention refocused on this Israel trip for diverse young people. The only caveat is the age criteria; 18-26 year olds only, and I discovered my “Jewishness” at 29. Now it is 2014, do the math, and I’m way over the maximum age according to Birthright’s rules.

Undeterred, I sent an e-mail to Lindsey Newman, program coordinator for the trip. I explained by situation, shared this blog and asked some advice about my situation. After all, it is unfair to impose an age limit on someone who discovered Judaism at a later age. Lindsey wrote back and suggested I email Birthright directly; as they do grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis. She also shared Be’Chol Lashon’s blog and asked if I would be interested in contributing a piece. The blog is hosted on MyJewishLearning, a leading transdenominational website of Jewish information and education. I responded with an affirmative yes and Lindsey connected with Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder to work out the logistics. Rabbi Ruth is Be’Chol Lashon’s Rabbi-in-Residence and is based in San Francisco, California. I have been following her on Twitter for almost 3 years and reached out when I was researching Judaism sects. My next step is to brainstorm an interesting and engaging topic. 

I sent Birthright a message explaining my unique situation and ask for their advise on the diverse Jews Israel trip. It is rare and difficult to meet “diverse Jews” in Asia. This trip would be a great way to know other Jews in my situation-while seeing and experiencing the beautiful Israel. It’ll also be a great way to expand my knowledge of Jewish people’s diversity, outside of China and Asia. I’m awaiting a response from Birthright and will keep you all posted on my progress.

In other news, I have finished my Masters of Arts in China Studies. I am job hunting in Hong Kong while freelancing for various small businesses. So glad to be free of school! It feels so good to finish writing research papers and essays. I have realized that I have no interest in being a scholar–writing academic papers aren’t really my thing. My core skills are marketing, communications, and consulting. Teaching, writing, and editing round out the top of my interest list.

I will finished here. Will keep you all posted on my progress. I’m sure all will work out alright, G-d willing. Until next time.

love,

Xiaoming

A Successful #MakeitHappen

Earlier this month, my #MakeitHappen project with the Schusterman Family Foundation came to life.

The School of Architecture at the Chinese University, a brand new state-of-art campus, hosted the event. Participants woke up extra early on a Saturday morning to learn about the intersections of Chinese and Jewish history. I was really amazed by the diversity of the audience, it really shows that many are interested in Jewish history in China and Asia on a larger scale.

A video of Founder Lynn Schusterman and President Sandy Cardin speaking on Schusterman’s core mission and values opened the event. The audience learned about the core theme of inclusion that drives the foundation and their philanthropic giving to better the Jewish world and in turn, the broader world. After that I briefly introduced myself, the speakers, and flow of the event to the audience.

Next I presented an overview of the major Jewish immigrations to China. For the Kaifeng segment, a video of a Kaifeng Jew Shi Lei. I couldn’t invite Shi Lei, a descendent of Kaifeng Jews to speak, so I did the next best thing and purchased a DVD of him speaking. The history of Jews of China can be traced back to the Song Dynasty when China was at the height of its ancient empire. Jews came to China for business reasons, similar to today.

Brian Skerratt, a Harvard PhD and lecturer of Chinese poetry at the university presented on (half-)Jewish identity in America. He also worked in various Yiddish words and taught the audience some Ashkenazi Jewish vocabulary. The audience said the new words out loud for practice during the interactive talk. The event concluded with a screening of the award-winning documentary by Dana Janklowicz-Mann and Amir Mann, Shanghai Ghetto. It tells the harrowing tale of 20,000 Jewish refugees without a place to go during Nazi Germany during World War II, where Shanghai was their only hope. A delicious catered vegetarian lunch buffet and open networking brought the event to an end.

The content available for the Chinese and Jewish topic is rich and diverse. This first event is only scratching the surface.

Soundbites and Feedback

“The event was great, interesting, inspiring, educational and well-organized,” said Hong Kong Chinese participant Sherry Ha.

“I really didn’t know what to expect so I came here with a big open mind and I was impressed with the wide range of people in the audience and the diversity of the things we saw” said British-Jewish participant Catherine Ben-David.

Event Flyer
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My Tikvah Center Application for Jewish Study

February 15, 2014 is known to the world as the day after Valentine’s Day. To me it was the deadline to apply to study at the Tikvah Institute. This past Saturday, I compiled my application into one PDF file that included my CV, a personal statement, an essay on the 20th century figure whom I admire, and my thoughts on a significant challenge faced by the Jewish people. I logged into the Tikvah website, attached my supporting documents, swallowed and pressed send.

According to the Tikvah Fund website, “The Tikvah Fund is a philanthropic foundation and ideas institution committed to supporting the intellectual, religious, and political leaders of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.” The Tikvah Center for study is based in New York City, in midtown Manhattan. I discovered this learning treasure trove a little over two years ago, when I googled for ‘Jewish learning’. At the time, I had just started writing this blog and was relocating to Hong Kong, so I thought I would wait before I applied. Now, more than two years later, I feel more than ready to tackle New York City and the intellectual rigor and challenge of this program.

I applied for three Spring Advanced Institutes. My first choice is the Jewish Idea of God, followed by The Future of the Family and War and Human Nature. Three incredibly interesting topics in my opinion. I also plan to apply for the summer semester as well. Topics like Is Judaism a Religion?, Jews, Power, and the Bible, Reason, Revelation, and Jewish Thought, Zionist Statesmanship: Ben-Gurion and Begin, Divine Justice and Human Creativity  in Jewish Literature, and The Rabbinic Mind and Divine Law. There, I just listed all of them! :D

Will keep you guys updated on my progress!

Keep fingers crossed for me that I will be accepted!
love,
Xiaoming

Yom Tov – Tu B’Shvat

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Thanks to Chabad’s creative photo, I like to wish everyone a Yom Tov Tu B’Shvat.

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Jewish Shanghai: The Moller Villa Story

If you plan to visit Shanghai, there is a building that you should not miss. Its official name is Moller Villa, named after Eric Moller, a Jewish resident of Shanghai in the early 20th century. When I had a seventeen-hour layover last week, I decided to stay there overnight—it has since been converted into a hotel. Located on South Shanxi Road in the former French foreign concession area, Moller Villa is a sight for sore eyes. It may seem out-of-place to the virgin traveler. In the midst of modern apartment buildings, shopping centers, and a lot of traffic noise—this villa is a tranquil place of relaxation.

According to local legend, Eric Moller built this Villa for his beloved daughter in 1936 after she had conveyed her dream of having a fairytale castle. Moller was a Swedish-British merchant who first came to Shanghai in 1919. After much success in the shipping business, he became well-known in Shanghai elite circles and a member of the notorious Shanghai Race Club. He invited many different architects to design the Villa to become his own private residence. The end product is a hybrid-fusion style that includes Western and Eastern architectural elements.

The building today still stands in its original condition, protected by the local Shanghai government. At the entryway to the villa, there is a plaque that explains its current status in Shanghai. The plaque states in English and Chinese that it is an “Important Monument under the State Protection.” Not bad for an almost-decade old foreign structure. The villa itself is a mix of browns and reds intermixed with a layered-brick feel. The pointed rooftops give the boxy rectangular structure a much-needed softness by drawing the eyes from the ground to the Shanghai skies. Two traditional Chinese lions flank the front steps providing an interesting mix of East and West styles.

A small garden covers the area to the mansion’s immediate side and back area—easily accessible from the front door and back porch of the restaurant area. A small creek flows through the miniature garden flanked by tall hundred-year-old trees. The wooden foot-bridge takes you from one side of the garden to the other—transporting you through the world the Moller family built.

Once you step inside the main hotel area, if feels as if you are living in Europe. The tall stained-glass windows are covered in nature designs of greens, pinks, and shades of gray and black. Elaborate crystal chandeliers reflect the outside sunlight throughout the check-in area. Lush upholstered couches lay opposite of the wooden check-in area—welcoming guests to a villa fitting for a gentleman and lady. Photographs of the Moller family, his horseracing, and the villa’s stories in Shanghai history line the walls.

Next time you are in Shanghai for a 24-hour layover or longer ;-), try exploring Moller Villa and add it to your itinerary. It is a gem of a sight for the modern age.

Moller Villa — A Small Piece of Jewish Shanghai

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A quick greeting from Shanghai, China! I’m checking out the Moller Villa part of Jewish Shanghai.

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Project allofasuddenpartJew: 2013 Recap

As the year 2013 comes to a close, I would like to reflect on the milestones this year for allofasuddenpartJew. From Limmud conferences in Hong Kong and Shanghai, traveling to Japan to visit the Chabad house, and walking around Jewish Lower East Side–I feel I have furthered my understanding of the Jewish people and beliefs.

  • Limmud - A Hebrew word that means learning, I attended my first Limmud conference in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Made a few valuable connections from the Jewish philanthropy and non-profit space.
  • Jewish Japan – Traveled to Japan (My new favorite Asian country) and spent Sukkot at the Chabad House of Tokyo. Many Japanese people are interested in Jewish people. Some Japanese believe they are descendents  of the lost tribes.
  • Melton Mini-School – After an initial Intro to Judaism course at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong, I felt I needed to go deeper. I enrolled in the Melton Adult Mini-School course at Ohel Leah Synagogue and have enjoyed the teachings from Rabbi Oser.
  • Chinese Studies - Continued my studies in relevant topics. I started to pursue an MA in Chinese Studies at CUHK to deepen my knowledge of China.
  • Jewish New York City - Visited NYC to visit Jewish enclaves like Williamsburg and the Lower East Side.

I have to be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with my social media as much as I would like. My social media stats for as of December 2013 are:

  • Blog – allofasuddenpartJew (83 posts)
  • Facebook – page under the same title (480 Fans)
  • Twitter – account under the same title (285 Followers)

Looking forward to 2014–the year of the horse in Chinese astrology. The horse is a highly respected animal in Chinese culture–one that symbolizes strength, agility, and endurance. Even the German carmaker BMW’s brand name in China is 宝马(Baoma), which literally means treasure horse, contains the character for horse.

Happy New Year 2014!

Chinese Year of the Horse

Chinese Year of the Horse

Jewish Lower East Side

Eldrige Street SynagogueSynagogue and MuseumAnother AngleClose upIntroduction of buildingAngel Orensanz Foundation
Inside OrensanzBluish LightsYours Truly InsideFrom the second floorInside the SukkaChabad of Tokyo Sukka Mobile
Front ViewInside the Chabad HouseView from outside inBooks at the Chabad HouseHarp Emblem of King DavidMe at City of David sign
Live Archeology at City of DavidTower of David at NightChandelier Fixture inside Tower of DavidOld City ArchwayOld City architecture close-upView of City of David at hills of Jerusalem

allofasuddenpartJew1′s photostream on Flickr.

Starting at Katz Deli, I walked around the Jewish areas of the Lower East Side in New York City. So much history and so much to see, so little time.

Merry Christmas to Christian friends worldwide

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On this Christmas Day, December 25, 2013, I would like to reflect on the power of one man’s birthday. Jesus was a great Jew who brought together many people to the one true G-d.

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Brooklyn Hasidics, Jewish Lower East Side, and Rambam’s 13 Principles

Only a few days until Christmas! First and foremost, I would like to wish my Christian friends a Merry Christmas 2013. In addition, I like to wish secular friends from around the world a happy gift-giving holiday. Christmas these days has become such a capitalist tradition, even in China where Christians are the minority.

Now back to NYC….

I made the short journey out to Williamsburg Brooklyn to survey the Hasidic community of NYC. Women wore head wraps and dressed in all black. Men wore black suits and had long curly sideburns. I walked around Lee and Division Street enclave areas and saw lots of kosher markets and restaurants. It was like a step back in time where clocks stopped turning. I would pass homes and the young children would turn to look at me, as if they are wondering what’s she doing here….

After a visit to Brooklyn, I took a Jewish walk around Lower East Side of Manhattan. I stopped at the Tenement Museum and took a food tour–boy was that a great decision. Likely, the best tour I have ever been on. I got to taste pickles, cheese, bialys, and green-tea puff pastry. The guides at the Tenement were awesome and friendly–they made everyone feel at home and super welcome. A bit later, a few friends joined me to walk around a few key Jewish institutions around LES. We met at the Katz’s Delicatessen, a place so famous there were lines wrapped around the next block. We stopped at the Eldridge Street Synagogue right before Shabbat and walked over to the Angel Orensenz Foundation after. Two exquisitely beautiful synagogues in Lower East Side’s Jewish history. My friends and I stopped to refresh at a local diner. I made my way to Jewish Queens later that night–and to the La Guardia airport the next morning.

Last but not least, Maimonides or Rambam passed away today in 1204. He is a famous Jewish philosopher and scholar who changed the course of Judaism forever. It was he who created the Mishneh Torah, the widest and broadest Jewish Law available. It was also he who created the 13 principles of faith of Judaism. If you call yourself a Jew, per Rambam, you should believe in the following: (Source: Wikipedia)

  1. The Existence of G-d
  2. G-d’s unity and indivisibility into elements
  3. G-d’s spirituality and incorporeality (sorry Christians!)
  4. G-d’s eternity
  5. G-d alone should be the object of worship
  6. Revelation through G-d’s prophets
  7. The preeminence of Moses among the prophets
  8. The Torah that we have today is the one dictated to Moses by G-d
  9. The Torah given by Moses will not be replaced and that nothing may be added or removed from it
  10. G-d’s awareness of human actions
  11. Reward of good and punishment of evil
  12. The coming of the Jewish Messiah
  13. The resurrection of the dead

I left New York City yesterday and am now in the southern USA spending the holidays with family.

Until next time, let’s memorize these 13 principles! :-)

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