The Menorah of Fang Bang Lu: Shanghai Modernity and the Jews of China

Prof. Andrew Jakubowicz
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In November 2000, I found an old menorah with a music box in its base in a second hand market in Fang Bang Lu, in the old Chinese city in Shanghai. There was no information available about the provenance of the menorah, only that the music box was probably of European origin, and the piece itself was probably from the late 19th century. That is should still be in existence nearly fifty years after the last major settlement of Jews in Shanghai was dispersed, prompts this exploration of seven families whose lives crossed in Shanghai, and all of whom settled thereafter in Sydney Australia. The central theme of the paper discusses the value of the concept of modernity as a framework for exploring the interaction between the Shanghai Jews and the wider Chinese society. Seven families of very different Jewish origins met for the first time together in Sydney Australia in 2000. Yet their paths had crossed many times in Shanghai in the years between 1938 and 1948. How did culture, politics and religion fashion these survivors during their times in China? In particular the paper draws on Chinese memorabilia of the Jewish presence, and Jewish memorabilia of the Chinese sojourn, to argue that the interaction was more than a momentary collision, but rather left significant and unintended consequences. In contemporary China and the Jewish diaspora, the labour of memory continues. The paper will be supported by the multimedia interactive, "The menorah of Fang Bang Lu".

Keywords: China, Australia, Jews, Refugees, Intercultural interaction, Racism
Stream: Immigration, Refugees
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof. Andrew Jakubowicz

Professor of Sociology, Transforming Cultures Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney

Andrew Jakubowicz is Professor of Sociology at the University of Technology Sydney. He has an Honours degree in Government from Sydney University and a PhD from UNSW. Since the early 1970s he has been involved in action research and race relations, and has been centrally involved in the development of materialist theories of cultural diversity. He has taught at universities in the USA, Europe and Asia, and was the foundation director of the Centre for Multicultural Studies at the University of Wollongong. He has published widely on ethnic diversity issues, disability studies and media studies. In 1994 he led the research team that produced "Racism Ethnicity and the Media (Allen and Unwin), and more recently has been involved in multimedia documentaries such as "Making Multicultural Australia" (1999) and "The Menorah of Fang Bang Lu" (2001-2002). He was historical adviser to the exhibitions on the Jewish communities of Shanghai, at the Sydney Jewish Museum (2001-2002), the National Maritime Museum (2001-2003) and the national travelling exhibition "Crossroads: Shanghai and the Jews of China" (2002-2003). He is a member of the UTS Trans/forming Cultures Research Centre. In 2004 he was Visiting Scholar in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, Cambridge, USA. He is research director for the educational website Making Multicultural Australia (

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