Center in China
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years and been fascinated by Singapore since she came upon an unpublished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;
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 http://www.iuniverse.com) $21.95
Reviewed by Beverly Friend
Disparities in the translation of even one word can mark a profound
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, www.paperspider.net) $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
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,
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:
Judaica: $50 (includes postage)
Martin Gilbert's Dent
Atlas of Jewish History, translated by Xu Xin and Kong Defang: $25
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
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.
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
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
Thumbnail Sketches - short reviews from
Judaic Connection, January 1997
Publications Worth Seeing - More reviews
by Beverly Friend
HAVEN IN CHINA
Videos are available from
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