Shanghai, China, March 22, 2013 – Nearly two hundred Jews from Asia and around the world will arrive here on April 4th for Destination Shanghai, a four-day gathering of Jewish learning, creativity, and history in Asia. With sixty educational and cultural workshops, a Shanghai Shabbat experience, and a day dedicated to Shanghai’s WWII Jewish history and global Jewish responsibility, the event is a project of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Limmud China, and a volunteer network of Asian Jewish community leaders. Forty regional young Jewish leaders will attend through a partnership with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network. JDC Entwine (JDC’s young adult movement) is bringing a global cohort of young adult activists as well. Participants come from China, India, Japan, Singapore, Israel, the UK, and the U.S.
“Destination Shanghai is a unique opportunity to explore and celebrate what it means to be Jewish in Asia, how we integrate our lives as Jewish expats, navigating between our community and the local culture we are surrounded by. It’s about who we are right now, building a community together and what we want it to be and become,” Rebecca Kanthor, Program Chair of Limmud China and a resident of China for a decade.
Destination Shanghai participants will network; boost local, regional, and global ties; and continue the pan-Asian Jewish gathering started at Limmud Beijing in 2012. What JDC and Limmud International started last year as a one-day event in collaboration with a local community, has turned into a full-blown, grassroots, and volunteer-run conference, incorporating peer-led sessions on the Jewish history of Shanghai and Hong Kong; Jewish/Chinese pickle-making; Creativity in China; the Jews of India; raising third culture Jewish kids; children of Shanghai Refugees; the relationship between Chinese and Jewish people; and Jewish global development projects.
The ShanghaiShabbat will feature worship and celebration with the city’s Chabad, Liberal, and Sephardic Jewish communities. Additionally, the group will also spend a day commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Hongkou Ghetto and explore Shanghai’s Jewish population during WWII, including a special sessions by Asian Jewish Life Editor Erica Lyons on JDC hero Laura Margolis (who cared for thousands of Jewish refugees who had escaped the Holocaust in Europe) and a theater performance by Zalman and Avram Mlotek, leading Yiddish theater experts. The full program can be found at limmudchina.org.
East Asia is home to an estimated 20,000 Jews, including many ex-pats as well as those from indigenous Jewish communities. In China, about 5-6,000 Jews can be found on the mainland and a little more than 4,000 Jews in Hong Kong. Asia is made up of long-standing, organized Jewish communities – like those in India, Hong Kong, and Tokyo – and newer, smaller communities of corporate executives, entrepreneurs, managers, diplomats, and teachers in international schools and colleges. Many Jewish organizations have been active in Asia, including Chabad, JDC, Kehilat Beijing, and the Progressive Judaism movement, among others.