2) Asia Society Southern California
3) Short biography of Professor Pan Guang (hand-out)
4) The Reception Desk.
5) Professor Pan Guang at the Speakers Podium
6) Professor Pan Guang answering questions from the Audience
7) Professor Pan Guang with Shanghailander Ralph Harpuder
8) Center of Jewish
Sponsored by the
Pacific Basin Institute
The presence of Jews in ancient and modern China was not well known by many until recently. After the first major reunion of Shanghailanders in 1980 with former Secretary of the Treasury, W. Michael Blumenthal as the keynote speaker, followed by similar reunions in Israel and Shanghai, the ghetto experience of 16,000 Jews in Shanghai became slowly known throughout many parts of the world. Travel agencies also began around that time to conduct tours through the former Shanghai Ghetto of the 40’s while filmmakers produced documents on the screen and on DVD’s of that small but important part of Jewish history.
To shed more light on the subject, The Asia Society Southern California (ASSC) presented on February 1, 2007 a program “Jews in Modern China: “Their Adventures and Sanctuary in Shanghai” with Professor Guang Pan. The society founded in 1956 is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening relationships and deepening understanding among the peoples of Asia and the United States. A brief biography of the professor is included in this report.
Following a breakfast at the elegant Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, a brief introduction to the program and welcome was made by Donald Tang, chairman of the ASSC. Professor Guang Pan was then introduced by Deborah Jordan, Executive Director of the organization. Professor Pan began his lecture by explaining to an audience of approximately sixty guests, including yours truly, how he became interested in Chinese-Jewish studies. It happened, he stated, when a close Jewish friend of his in Shanghai who was a neighbor shared his experience with him.
He then talked on the origin of Jews in China; a documented history of a group of Persian Jews that arrived in Kaifeng, a Silk Road trading center, where they built their first synagogue in 1489.
He continued his lecture on how Shanghai had served as a destination for four waves of Jewish immigration (the first three waves were already discussed by yours truly in previous articles). The fourth wave according to Professor Pan consisted of approximately 1000 Polish Jews including the only complete European Jewish religious school to be saved from Nazi destruction, the Mirrer Yeshiva.
The professor then touched on a subject, which is still not clear even to several Shanghailanders: “Why were visas required for immigration to Shanghai when that city was an open port?” He was referring, of course to the courageous humanitarians, former Chinese Ambassador to Vienna, Dr. Ho Fen Shan, and the Japanese diplomat, Chiune Sugihara that issued visas, which, according to his explanation were designed only to help release Jewish inmates from concentration camps for immigration to Shanghai.
The professor also elaborated on Chinese views regarding anti-Semitism, that it does not exist; the formation of Jewish communities in Harbin, Tiansing and several other northeastern cities; and the assimilation of Jews in China, how they lived harmoniously together in the Shanghai Ghetto going about their normal day to day business. Finally, he spoke on the topic “Jews from China vs. Jewish communities in today’s China.”
The Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai (CJSS) under the direction of Dr. Pan Guang is today the most influential research institution in China on Jewish and Israeli studies. The major academic accomplishments achieved by the members in recent years include:
Israel and Judaic studies (papers), The Jews in Shanghai (album), The Jews in China (album), Shanghai Jews since 1840 (book), The History of the Jewish Community in Shanghai (photo exhibit), and more. Within the last decade, CJSS has hosted many distinguished guests from many parts of the world including Ariel Sharon (1998), Hillary Clinton (1998), Gerhard Schroeder (1999), and Ehud Olmert (2004).
Professor Pan while in Los Angeles also gave lectures on the same subject to several other organizations including the following day at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum.eum.