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Book Reviews

From the CHINA JUDAIC CONNECTION, Newsletter of the China Judaic Studies Association , January 1997:

New Books and Articles Worth More than a Second Glance

China Dreams: Growing up Jewish in Tientsin, by Isabelle Maynard, University of Iowa Press, 100 Kuhl House, Iowa City, IA, 52242-1000, (319)-335-2008 ($13.95).

As the only child of Jewish refugees fleeing from the Russian Revolution in 1919, Isabelle Maynard, was born in Tientsin in 1929. She lived the typical, segregated life of many stateless Jews who then, and in later, Holocaust years, found asylum in China—never learning the language, never speaking to the Chinese servants except to issue instructions, living in a “concession” carved out of and segregated from the larger (and poorer) Chinese world. The Jews of Tientsin had their own school, club, organizations and businesses.

Through the eyes of her childhood, Maynard describes a community that no longer exits. She tells series of vivid stories about sharing her home with family, friends and strangers, including a tragic displaced person; taking French lessons from relatively unfriendly nuns at the local Catholic convent; dining and listening to anti-Semitic comments at an Orthodox Easter dinner in the home of a classmate—all the while stressing her sense of alienation in China as both a Russian and a Jew.

While Maynard immigrated to Californian in 1948, and now lives in Emeryville, she appears haunted by her memories of China, returning for a visit in 1981 where she became completely flooded by the memories of her childhood that occasioned this book. She says, “I have carried China all my life. I do not claim accuracy of history—only accuracy of the heart.” Meeting Descendants of Kaifeng's Jews, by Ray Kaplan. Kulanu, Autumn, 1996 (1211 Ballard St., Silver Spring MD 20910). Report of a 2-day visit.

An Un-American Childhood, by Ann Kimmage University of Georgia Press ($29.95)

At age 7, the author was torn from her American home to flee into exile in Europe—and for a short time in China—with her communist parents, Abe and Belle Chapman. This was in 1950, following the arrests of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, during the time when the American Communist Party was under government siege.

In 1958, the Chapmans moved from Prague, Czechoslovakia to Peking (Beijing), believing that China might offer an even truer Communist vision than could be found in Europe. They got more than they bargained for, arriving at a time of severe government repression and xenophobia, finding a strange, frightening world.

While the book primarily deals with the family’s stay in Europe, the brief section on China is interesting, especially for the depiction of the family’s close friends: Israel and Elsie Epstein.

Jewish Continuity in Beijing, by Letty Cottin Pogrebin. Tikkun, November-December 1995, p. 51 Roberta Lipson and Elyse Silverberg have been living in China for 16 years. They have been keeping Jewish traditions alive against great odds and have served the needs of Jewish travelers from various parts of the world.

Ten Years of Kaifeng

This special supplement, published for the (Kosher, Chinese) Kaifeng Restaurant by the Jewish Chronicle, London, August 2, 1996 contains three articles on the restaurant, a menu, one article on the history of Kaifeng, and a review of Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng (which is being sold in the restaurant).