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China Judaic Studies Association 
Promoting Judaic Studies in China



THE JEWS OF SINGAPORE: History & Diaspora, Deliverance & Growth of a Jewish Community, by Joan Bieder.

Singapore has been home to a thriving Jewish community for nearly 170 years. Bieder's book examines how and why this group of Jews from Baghdad arrived and related to their Malayan, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian neighbors.

Bieder, a senior Lecturer at the University of Californian Graduate School of Journalism at Berkley, has taught television production for 17 years and been fascinated by Singapore since she came upon an unpublished photograph of Albert Einstein sitting with Singapore's Jewish community leaders in 1922. She  has done considerable work on the subject, including a video on the Jewish community of Singapore.

For further information or to purchase the book ($65 plus postage) contact Suntree Media Ptc Ltd, 47 Hill St #06-06 Singapore 179365; Telephone 65-6737-5189; FAX 6737-3190.

The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions: The Legacy of the Jewish Community in Ancient China, by Tiberiu Weisz ( 2006, iUniverse, Inc. 2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE. 68512 $21.95

Reviewed by Beverly Friend

 Disparities in the translation of even one word can mark a profound difference.
Both Anglican Bishop Charles White (author of Chinese Jews,"1942, republished in 1966) and scholar Donald Leslie (author of The Chinese Jewish Community, a Summary, 1971) translated one of the sentences in the 1489 carved stele of the Kaifeng Jews as a comment from the Emperor to the Jewish settlers, "You have come to our China." 

 Tiberiu Weisz disagrees, stating that the Chinese character gui does not mean "come," but rather "to return." This would shift meaning considerably, moving from the historical possibility that the Jews had arrived in China at that particular historic time (in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), to the possibility that they had arrived long before and were now returning. (Page 11).

 This is just one of the many interesting annotations in a book intended for scholars that proves equally intriguing to laymen. (And what makes it even more provocative is that the definition of "gui" is not clear cut. According to Al Dien of the Sino Judaic Institute, "gui in that context does not mean return, but rather to have come to one's proper place, as subservient to the state.  The word  was often used in seals given to various minority peoples on the  borders meaning they were now loyal.")

The task of translating the 1489, 1512 and 1663 carved inscriptions on the stone steles in Kaifeng, China is daunting. The language is 15th century Chinese vernacular which means no punctuation and obscure references and annotations. The material is often irreconcilable with accounts of missionaries and travelers. Inconsistencies abound. Facts can not be substantiated. Most important, the inscriptions appear to lack any trace of Judaism. 

 Weisz's background, his fluency in Chinese and Hebrew as well as his college teaching of Hebrew History and Chinese Religion, provides him with a new and unique approach to the subject. According to Weisz, when the Anglican Bishop originally transcribed and translated the steles into English (in the early 20th century) the results were limited by White's lack of a deeper knowledge of Judaism. This also limited the work of those who built their conclusions based on his work.

 Weisz notes: "Bishop White' translation highlighted Confucian and, to some extent, Christian concepts, whereas, my version identified biblical references . . . ."

 The slim, 119 page book, is divided into two sections, glossary and bibliography. The first 56 pages deal with the inscriptions themselves, a line by line annotated translation. The second historically fascinating half covers what the inscriptions tell us, with specific sections on Sacrifice and Prayers; Levites and Cohanim; the Temple; History --including Early Encounters, the Han Dynasty and the Song Court -- and ultimate Assimilation. For anyone interested in the Jews of Kaifeng, this is a MUST.

Chicken Soup with Chopsticks: A Jew's Struggle for Truth in an Interfaith Relationship, by Jack Botwinik (Paper Spider Production, Suite 8, 1821 Walkley Rd. Room B101, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6X9 Canada  1-888-266-5788, $18.18

 The road to orthodoxy can be paved with strong, possibly surprising motivations: a new baby, a new wife. In The Bamboo Cradle: A Jewish Father's Story, Avraham Schwartzbaum, a not particularly religious Jew, became more and more religious following his adoption of a Taiwanese baby girl and his desire to make her fully Jewish. Now, Jack Botwinik makes a similar journey, as he delves deeper and deeper into religious tradition and practices triggered by his desire for the conversion of his Chinese girlfriend. 

 I spite of the glib title, this is really a serious, often self-indulgent work of a young man's religious journey.  While one might expect the focus of the work to be on secular Belinda (Hang-Yee) and her transformation into Orthodox Bina Esther, Jack concentrates on himself, making only occasional references to her interior struggles and studies. So much is she the catalyst, that one must conclude Jack would have become orthodox even if she had not converted, permitting their ultimate wedding.

 We see the exterior of Bina's struggle, through Jack's eyes, while dissecting each step he takes. The result is a work too much about Jack and far too little about Bina, whose voice is finally heard in a far-too-brief, three-page afterward.

The Jews of Kaifeng, China, History, Culture, and Religion,
By Xu Xin, (KTAV Publishing House, Feb. 2003)

Why do we need another book on this subject? Because much written about these colorful, dramatic Jews of China is fantasy, polemic, or pseudo-history.  Until now, little attention has been paid to their social and religious history the internal communal organizations and lives of these Jews and their relations with native Chinese. Why China? Why Kaifeng?  Discover the answers!

To obtain a copy of this groundbreaking work, send a $35 check (including postage) made out to Xu Xin and mail to Beverly Friend, 4545 W. Touhy, Lincolnwood, IL. 60712. To obtain copies of the out-of-print Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng (KTAV, 1995) make out the check to Xu Xin for $25 (including postage) and mail to the same address. 

Books in Chinese

In addition to these books, written in English, Xu has just published a two-part text on the History of Western Culture (which includes important information on Jewish contributions). The first printing of 7,000 copies has sold out. Currently, he is working on a History of Jewish Culture. While his work, Anti Semitism: How and Why is out of print, the following titles can be obtained directly from Xu Xin, School of Foreign Studies, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China 210093:
Enclopedia Judaica: $50 (includes postage)
Martin Gilbert's Dent Atlas of Jewish History, translated by Xu Xin and Kong Defang: $25 (including postage) 

More Books

  • One Volume Chinese edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica,(in Chinese) by Xu Xin, et al.
  • Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng (KTAV), ( in English) by Xu Xin with Beverly Friend, obtainable by sending $22 to Beverly Friend, Oakton Community College, 1600 Golf Rd. Des Plaines, IL. 60016. [Reviewed by Mark Krupnick]
  • The Jews in Shanghai, (in English and Chinese) by Pan Guang, (Shanghai Pictorial Publishing House), obtainable by sending a bank draft or postal remittance of $40 for sea mail or $50 by airmail to Center of Jewish Studies, Shanghai, 622-7 Huai Hai Road (M), Suite 352, Shanghai 200020, China.
  • Chinese edition of Encyclopedia Judaica in second printing.
  • Anti-Semitism: How and Why, published (in Chinese) by Xu Xin
  • From the Rivers of Babylon to the Whangpoo, A Century of Sephardic Jewish Life in Shanghai, by Maisie J. Meyer (2003, University Press of America, Inc., 4720 Boston Way, Lanham, MD 20706, paperback, $68) [reviewed by Beverly Friend]
  • Jews, Opium and the Kimono, The Story of the Jews in the Far East by Ezra Yehezkel-Shaked, translated from the Hebrew by Yosef Yaakov. (2003, Rubin Mass, Ltd, P.O.Box 990, Jerusalem, 9`009 Israel, $25. Tel: 972-2-6277863; FAX 972-2-6277864) [reviewed by Beverly Friend]
  • Yee Hah! Remembrance and Longing, by Albert H. Yee, Bookman marketing, 33 Industrial Drive, Suite 104, Martinsville, IN (800) 342-6068 [reviewed by Beverly Friend]
  • Two-Gun Cohen: A Biography, by Daniel S. Levy (reviewd by Abbey Newman.
  • My China: Jewish Life in the Orient, 1900-1950, by Yaacov Liberman (reviewed by Eleanor Parker)
  • Jews in Places you Never Thought Of, edited by Karen Primack
  • Far From Where? Jewish Journeys from Shanghai to Australia, by Antonia Finnane, published by Melbourne University Press

Short Reviews

Thumbnail Sketches - short reviews from China Judaic Connection, January 1997 

Publications Worth Seeing - More reviews by Beverly Friend 



Videos are available from Third World Views of the Holocaust: An International Symposium held at Northeastern University, Boston which includes Xu Xin's report on Holocaust Studies in China. $20 payable to the Stotsky Symposium, Janet-Louise Joseph, Coordinator, 303 Meserve Hall, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115. 

Two 30-minute videos are available from the China Judaic Studies Association:

  • "ANOTHER TIME ANOTHER MOSES" - Shanghai survivor Martin Moses is interviewed by Beverly Friend
  • "ONE IN A BILLION: A Judaic Scholar in China," Xu Xin is interviewed by Beverly Friend