Met Rabbi Wein and Memorizing the 613 Commandments

Hi Everyone,

Shabbat Shalom! It has been exactly two years since the inception of my journey into Judaism. Time flies when you are learning lots!

This week I want to write about two topics. Rabbi Berel Wein and the 613 Commandments.

Rabbi Berel Wein

Rabbi Berel Wein
[Source: http://www.rabbiwein.com

Last night for Friday night services, I made my way to Ohel Leah Synagogue in Mid-Levels Hong Kong.  The special guest of the week was Rabbi Berel Wein and his wife from Jerusalem Israel. Rabbi Wein, known in the Jewish world as “The Voice of Jewish History”, is an expert in all things history for Jews. His many videos, books, and lectures has made it to millions of Jewish and non-Jewish homes teaching and educating. For Shul, as in the Orthodox Jewish tradition, I sat upstairs at Ohel Leah with the women and the children while the men sat downstairs. After Shul, everyone made their way to the Shabbat dinner held at the Jewish Community Center next door. Rabbi Wein was to speak during dinner and I wanted to be front and center to hear from the expert himself. After the Rabbi and his wife sat down at the reserved table, I moved there too as I noticed it was not full. In addition to Rabbi Wein, our table consisted of the Assistant Rabbi Ariel and his wife Ayelet with their children, Cantor Mohel and his wife from Israel, and me.  Hebrew was the language they all shared – Rabbi Wein finally said we should speak in English, realizing I couldn’t understand Hebrew. I chatted with Rabbi Wein’s wife about my upcoming trip to Israel, plans to convert to Judaism, and hopes to speak Hebrew in the future.  She seems pleased of my research into Jewish culture and history. We moved topics to traveling and I offered her some sightseeing recommendations in Hong Kong.

After much chatter, some food, it was time for Rabbi Wein to speak.  The theme of his speech was the resilience of the Jewish people. Throughout history, Jews have been persecuted everywhere. The Jewish resilience should be applauded and respected.  With over a billion Christians, over a billion Muslims, and over a billion Hindus, Jews are a lonely group in number in comparison. The Rabbi reaffirmed that though the Jewish numbers are small, that’s what makes the Jewish people special.  Each and everyone count no matter how you look at it. It is the Jewish responsibility to model a higher moral ground for others. The country of Israel can be used as a model for other countries of the world.

The dinner came to a close and finished with dessert and song. I said my farewells to Rabbi Wein and his wife.  Afterwards, I started talking to Assistant Rabbi Ariel about conversion at Ohel Leah. Rabbi Asher, currently out-of-town, told me that I need to live within walking distance from Ohel Leah Synagogue. I inquired with Rabbi Ariel about that remark as I didn’t completely understand what it had meant. Rabbi Ariel explained that once I am serious with conversion, I will not be able to take public transportation during Shabbat. Not living within walking distance of the synagogue would be an issue.  See, I’m still learning as I didn’t even know of that rule. I was told to look into the seven Noahide Laws instead of a complete conversion. :-/

Meanwhile, been researching the 613 commandments or Mitzvahs and set a goal to memorize and practice all of it in the next month. The Chabad website has a great article on the 613 Mitzvahs. The 613 Mitzvahs are required of all Jews. Righteous gentiles are only required to follow the seven Noahide Laws that I stated earlier. Some are fairly basic while others are incredibly specific in nature. Some comes naturally to me while others will take some conscious effort to do. I committed to this exercise and will report back to you in one month’s time my progress.

Wish me luck.

Until next time! xoxo

Junks, Weddings, and Israel

Hi my blogger friends!

I’m over the flu and back to top shape. :)  I have been attending Shabbat Services weekly in Hong Kong. My research into the various sects of Judaism is an ongoing process.

Meanwhile….

JUNKS: This weekend was amazing! My friend invited me on a junk trip.  (A very typical Hong Kong thing to do) The weather was perfect, day clear, and air clean.  The waters surrounding Hong Kong was like a crystal-clear blue.  We sailed from Aberdeen harbor (South of Hong Kong Island) around Stanley and beyond.  The trip was a baby shower/going away for a friend of a friend – leaving Hong Kong back to New Zealand. There are a lot of kiwi’s in Hong Kong. (kiwi=New Zealand currency=another word for a person from New Zealand)

WEDDINGS: My friend from Middle School is getting married in Israel! I will be traveling to Israel this August to watch! I can’t wait to see her and her future husband.  This should be a fun trip.  I already booked my flight on El Al Israel, i heard it was the world’s safest airline because they do multiple background checks on everyone! Well, there goes my privacy.  They probably will be reading this blog too. ;)

ISRAEL: Well, it has finally come.  Sooner or later, I would be exploring Israel wouldn’t I? This blog is titled allofasuddenpartJew, I mean what other country would I go to? I will be in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and probably the Dead Sea for a day.  I just love anything related to history, good hummus, and King David! Destination Weddings are so much fun aren’t they? Holy Land here I come!

Until next time my friends! :)

Is there a Jewish cure for flu?

Dear readers,

I am writing this week from the comfort of my iPhone and bed. Somehow on the way back to Hong Kong, I caught the flu. I am resting now and recovering. It takes 14 days so will just be a hermit for another week or so.

Some things on my mind this week are my upcoming trip to Israel. Major issues in the Jewish world and what we can do to improve it. Lastly, how I need to recover from flu this week so I can make a Junk Trip that I signed up for next Saturday (😄). (google Hong Kong junk trips for more info)

Until next week readers!
xoxo

Let’s Celebrate the Year of the Snake: Chinese New Year 101

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

For my many non-Chinese readers, tomorrow (10th of February) is the first day of the Year of the Snake, the Chinese or Lunar New Year.

Just like the Jews, the Chinese has its own New Years based on the lunar calendar correlated on the phases of the moon. Most Chinese have about one week of holiday and most travel home to see family. On New Year’s Eve, a dinner is served with close friends and family. Children and young adults receives Hong Bao or red envelopes full of money! I used to love it but now I’m an adult unfortunately….

Are you born in 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001? You have the sign in the Year of the Snake. According to the TravelChinaGuide, people born under the Snake sign have the following strengths:

  • “…have a good temper and a skill (of) communicating (yet) say(ing) little
  • Possess gracious morality and great wisdom
  • Have tremendous sympathy for others and would like to take actions to help ther fellow human beings
  • Determined to accomplished their goals and hate to fail
  • Although they look calm on the surface, they are intense and passionate
  • Have a rich source of inspiration and understand themselves well
  • Are people of great perception

A great list of positive characteristics isn’t it?

If you are a snake, you are compatible romantically with Roosters and Oxen.

Ok, I better go pack for my trip to Shanghai tomorrow. Happy Chinese New Year from me to you!

Source: Sassy Hong Kong

Chinese New Year Carnival Snake on display in Hong Kong

 

Next Steps in Hong Kong, a New Place to Live!

So I’m looking for a new place to live. Shatin is beginning to feel a bit isolated as most of my expat friends live on Hong Kong Island. Now is the perfect time, the semester just started, my course workload is light, to search for my next humble abode in Hong Kong.

I am starting to attend Shabbat Services regularly in Hong Kong. Getting to know the Hong Kong Jewish Community on a more intimate level, I guess you can say it that way. Friday nights and Saturday mornings will be devoted to this activity. Learning another culture is not easy and I don’t want to be one of those BS types who doesn’t know what the he!! they are talking about.

On the Adult Education front, the first group of Introduction to Judaism classes has come to a close.  The next set, which focuses on the Jewish life cycle, starts in March.  I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, Chinese New Year is just around the corner, 2013 is the Year of the Snake! I love seeing the city come alive with beautiful lights, lanterns, and dragon dances.  I’ll be spending Chinese New Years with family in Shanghai.  But, don’t you worry, while I am there, I plan to attend Shabbat services at the Chabad of Shanghai.  I have met Rabbi Greenberg there, it’ll be like a mini-reunion.

I went to Gagosian Gallery of Hong Kong recently, they had a great exhibit from Takashi Murakami called Flowers & Skulls, the famous Japanese pop artist. I leave you some Instagrams from that trip.

Happy Hippy Flowers

Happy Hippy Flowers

Rainbow Skulls closeup

Rainbow Skulls closeup

Lion with Skulls

Lion with Skulls

Until next time, see you soon!

Tu B’Shevat: My Trees, Your Trees, and Our Trees.

There are so many Jewish holidays I can’t keep up with.  Tu B’Shevat was just this past weekend.  I spent my Friday evening at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong.

According to Chabad.org, Tu B’Shevat (I feel like I have to learn Hebrew just to keep up with my Intro to Judaism course), “…is the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees.”  I ate a lot of fruit Friday night, met a great Jewish family who spent 11 years in Japan, of course fluent in Japanese.  The actual Shabbat dinner was a vegetarian potluck.  I brought two Middle Eastern veggie dishes.  On Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish tradition is to eat fruit, Holy Fruit called out in the Torah. Such as figs, grapes, olives, and dates, those that grow in abundance in Israel.

For me, a Chinese, looking on at Tu B’Shevat, I can interpret this as a showering and worship of Mother Nature.*  We owe our food to the abundance of nature and should respect it.  Perfect, I already see a few similarities with Shintoism of Japan.  :)

How did you celebrate this year? Do you celebrate this minor Jewish holiday?

*I am not trying to offend any religion or religious beliefs, only am making a personal interpretation given my Chinese-American background.

2013 New Year Resolutions: Jewish Style!

So did everyone make resolutions for 2013? I want to share a few of mine, some personal, some Jewish related. Hope you all had a wonderful break! Christmas, Hanukkah, Western New Years, etc.

Some personal ones:

  • Climb higher mountains. I mean from an exercise perspective
  • Eat healthier. I mean less sugar, red meat, etc.
  • Lose my belly fat! Seriously, 2013 is the year to get rid of it!
  • Increase my self-discipline. more motivation for me.

Some Jewish ones:

  • Increase my knowledge of Jewish culture and history
  • Do independent learning of the History of the Middle East (such a complex and deep topic.)

Talk soon! Spring semester just started and I am confirming my class schedule this week.

Adios!

X

 

Project allofasuddenpartJew: 2012 Recap

Has it been already a year?! 2012 sure went fast! As I did last year, here is a quick recap of what happened in 2012.

I took a leap of faith and moved to Hong Kong, my new home. I started a Master’s Degree program at a local university in the discipline of Social Science. 2012 has been a year of learning for me in terms of “Jewishness”. I have been traveling, exploring, and meeting various Jews in Asia and will continue to do so throughout 2013.

Some major 2012 highlights:

I have been in full Jewish culture learning mode. In 2013, I plan to do the same and learn as much as I can about Jews’ culture and history. As of December 30 2012, I have the following stats.

  • Blog – allofasuddenpartJew (52 Posts)
  • Facebook – page under the same title (481 Fans)
  • Twitter – account under the same title (218 Followers)

**Any mention of Jews and Chinese in this blog solely refers to the cultural and historical aspects of both groups. I am apolitical and agnostic and do not plan to be political nor religious in the future.**

Giving Thanks on My One-Year Anniversary in Hong Kong

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it.  During my Introduction to Judaism class, I asked Rabbi Zamek at UJC Hong Kong if Jews celebrate it, he pointed out that American Jews do.  Thanksgiving is neither a Jewish or Chinese specific holiday, it is pure classic Americana.  I hope yours was filled with delicious food, wonderful friends/family, and plenty of shopping on Black Friday the day after! :-)

I can’t believe it has been one year since I moved to Hong Kong from San Francisco! I’ve changed, well sort of, maybe a better term would be I’ve adapted to Asia…

I’m excited for more upcoming holidays (non-Jewish and non-Chinese included): Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, Lunar New Years, etc.  The weather is getting cooler. I love getting bundled up in sweaters, jackets, scarfs, and boots.  Prefer being cold than being hot.

Tonight, I will attend a special Thanksgiving Shabbat service and dinner at the UJC of Hong Kong with some friends from my Introduction to Judaism class. Saturday night, a friend is having a big Thanksgiving dinner extravaganza – I am in charge of Pecan Pie (no oven so I had to buy freshly baked).  Looks like I will be stuffed this weekend! Looking forward to it! :)

Delicious Chinese Buns for Thanksgiving?! Possible!

Why Hong Kong can’t live without its Jewish Friends!

Last week was a hectic Mid-Term week at University. I am taking a Public Speaking class and had to give a short informative speech, my chosen topic was the Jews of Hong Kong: Past, Present, and Future. (Of Course!)  The audience was 20-24 year old Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese with minimal knowledge of Jews or Jewish people.  My presentation was about 8-10 minutes long and showcased the prominent Jewish immigrants of Hong Kong and their contributions to the city.  I also attempted to clarify Jews or Jewish people for my Chinese friends with a slide I created.  J-E-W-S not to be confused with J-U-I-C-E. :)

[Begin my Speech]

 

Jews began arriving in Hong Kong shortly after it became a British colony in 1842.  The wealth of trading opportunities with Chinese ports served as the main draw for Jewish immigrants over the next hundred years.  In 1872, there were about 40 Jews; that numbered quadrupled by the end of the 19th century. Shortly thereafter, the Jewish community realized that it needed to support a growing community.  To achieve that end, the first synagogue was built, named Ohel Leah, after the builders’ mother.  An additional Jewish Recreation Center was built next to the synagogue three years later. (Fellner, 2012)

At present, there is an estimated 5,000 Jews living in Hong Kong, though the number can vary due to the transient nature of the city.  Most are expatriates from the United States, Europe, and Israel on short-term work assignments. (Fellner, 2012)  The Jews didn’t just come empty-handed; they have made several significant contributions to the city of Hong Kong that I am about to introduce.

Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s premier entertainment district was just an alleyway in the 1980s.  Born in Germany to a Jewish family, Allan Zeman fell in love with Hong Kong upon arrival at age nineteen. Initially he started a successful garment exporting business and wanted to entertain his clients at restaurants with flair.  But during the 1980s, all the good restaurants were located within hotels so he decided to start his own in Lan Kwai Fong.  The restaurant spawned other entrepreneurs to open restaurants and business in the area, thus turning it into the entertainment block that it is today.  He said “Hong Kong is every businessman’s dream. If you have a dream, you can make the dream happen the next day.” (China Daily, web)

Ocean Park, Hong Kong’s premier theme park was struggling with low attendance and negative operations before 2004.  Allan Zeman took over as Chairperson and turned that around. He saw the potential of the park and worked with designers to craft a new vision, filled with creativity and innovation.  Today Ocean Park has an annual attendance of about seven million, compared to the two million in 2004 and is ranked the World’s 9th Theme Park.  (China Daily, web)

Another notable Jewish family, the Kadoories, came to Hong Kong from Baghdad, Iraq in the 1800s and has had a lasting impact on the culture life of Hong Kong.  Lawrence Kadoorie was an original “Taipan” or Tycoon of Hong Kong.  He founded CLP; the utilities company that made Hong Kong’s post-World War II industrial boom possible.  Michael Kadoorie, his son, heads the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group with the Flagship Peninsula Hotel chain.  The Peninsula Hotel of Hong Kong proudly stands in Kowloon as a famous Hong Kong landmark.  (Associated Press, 1993)

The Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden in the New Territories is another notable contribution to Hong Kong from the Kadoorie family.  After the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, Hong Kong’s population dropped to about 600,000.  It skyrocketed to over 1.5 million after Mainland Chinese refugees began to flood Hong Kong to escape the Civil War ravaging their homeland.  Farmers made up the bulk of the refugees, the Kadoorie Brothers, Lawrence and Horace wanted to help them help themselves so to speak.  They created what’s now called the Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Gardens to provide interest-free loans, training, and agricultural input to refugee farmers.  Today the farm as evolved with an environmental mission as Hong Kong moved away from farming. It provides environmental education, plant protection, and organic agriculture to local community. (KFBG, n.p)

The Golden Shopping Mile of Hong Kong, otherwise known as Nathan Road owes its name to a Jew.  His name is Sir Matthew Nathan, Governor of Hong Kong under British rule from 1904-1907.  Trained as an engineer, he was the youngest-ever Governor at just thirty-nine years old. (Jewish Times Asia: Dec 09/Jan 10)

Under his leadership, the foundation of Kowloon’s transportation systems was laid. The planning of the KCR or Kowloon-Canton Railway was underway when he took the governorship, but was full of construction challenges and pitfalls.  He combined his engineering expertise, people skills, and financial maneuvering to help overcome construction challenges.  For example, “Nathan…offered his technical advice for the construction of the Chinese section, suggesting that the railway line bypass Weichow, thus saving enormous amounts of time and money.”  (Jewish Times Asia: Dec 09/Jan 10)

He was also instrumental in persuading British Railway officials to move the proposed ferry and train terminal from Yau-Ma-Tei to the southern-most tip in Kowloon, in order to enhance efficiencies in the Hong Kong section of the KCR. (Jewish Times Asia: Dec 09/Jan 10)

[End Text] Full Text in PDF form with Works Cited page here

Some Key Contributions (Links)

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