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

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.


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!

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.

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