The Menorah of Fang Bang Lu: Shanghai Modernity and the Jews of China
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
Prof. Andrew Jakubowicz
Professor of Sociology, Transforming Cultures Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney