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.