Checking in from China

Three weeks ago I hit the halfway point through the Ralph I. Goldman fellowship -- it's frightening how quickly this year is flying by! Throughout the fellowship, I have lived in New York City, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Shanghai, China. I’ll be finishing my placement in Shanghai at the end of April and subsequently plan on heading to the Baltics and then Hungary until September.

When I was first awarded the RIG Fellowship, I knew I wanted to spend some of my time in China.

Why China?

Although I wasn’t cognizant of the JDC's involvement in the region, I became aware of a previous RIG Fellow’s survey throughout East Asia mapping out Jewish China, which sounded both fascinating and captivating.

After becoming inspired, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be placed in Shanghai, China for three months to assist the JDC, along with the local Jewish community of Shanghai, in putting on its largest event to date in East Asia – Destination Shanghai and Limmud China. During my first ten weeks in China, I’ve been fortunate enough to assist with the planning, programming, registration, and logistics of the event.

It’s been an absolute honor being a part of the team and helping assist in developing such a fulfilling event. Additionally, I have been privileged to travel to Hong Kong and Beijing in order to expand my knowledge about the Jewish communities of East Asia. The people I have encountered during my journey so far have shed an incredible light on life as a Jewish expat in China.

Destination Shanghai will kick off with two days of Limmud, which is a conference on the theme of Jewish learning. Limmud is not affiliated to any strand of Judaism and markets itself as open to "anyone interested in Jewish learning". The conference will be held at a hotel on the outskirts of Shanghai in a town called Qibao. One of the unique aspects of this event is that all 60+ presenters are volunteering their time to share their knowledge on a wide array of topics, ranging from the bilateral relations between Israel and modern China, the Jews of Cuba, to kick boxing lessons and Pickle making workshops. No matter who you are or where you come from, this conference definitely has something for you.

On the Friday evening following Limmud, roughly 200+ participants will be experiencing a local Shanghai Shabbat at one of the four established communities. Three of which are Chabad who were the first to come to Shanghai and set up a community center for Jewish life. On Saturday, in addition to Shabbat services, there will be a text study session that will highlight contemporary issues through the lens of the weekly Torah reading. This will be followed by a guided walking tour of downtown modern Shanghai where participants will be exposed to some of the highlights of Shanghai including People’s Square and Shanghai’s Jing’an Temple.

Sunday, April 7th marks the 70th Anniversary of the Hongkou Ghetto which saved approximately 20,000 Jews who fled Eastern Europe in the 1930’s.

This day focuses on Shanghai’s Jewish past to its future through a day-long conference in the former Ohel Moshe synagogue, now a part of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. We will encounter the present realities, challenges, and promising prospects for Jewish life in China and East Asia. As this day coincides with the Holocaust Memorial Day, the Israeli Consulate is organizing a ceremony to commemorate the day that will take place at the Ohel Rachel Synagogue, which was built in 1921.

I’m very excited that my girlfriend and I will be joining the Inside Jewish Shanghai Entwine trip which entails visiting Shanghai and Beijing. We couldn’t be more excited to meet the young professionals who will be arriving and we’ll all be experiencing Shanghai and Beijing through JDC’s amazing lens!

In the next few weeks I'll be writing up a post about my experiences in East Asia in more depth and detail what I've been so fortunate to be a part of!

As I've been posting photos to my instagram, feel free to follow me @ShaunGoldstone.

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