The 2010 Reunion

By

Sigmund Tobias


 

The 2010 Shanghailanders reunion Caribbean cruise was attended by 69 people, approximately half of whom were in Shanghai with us and their spouses or friends.  Attendees hailed from many parts of the United States, Australia, and Tess Johnston journeyed all the way from Shanghai to join us.  Gary Naftaniel and his wife Sydelle, as well as Ruth and Marcel Spiegler formed the Arangements Committee.  They worked hard and did a superb job of arranging an interesting itinerary filled with both new and nostalgic events which were enjoyed by all.  A complete list of attendees is available by names15.htm.

 

Many of the non Floridians flew into Fort Lauderdale on January 23, and boarded the Westerdam, a big Holland American cruise ship with two nice swimming pools, an excellent kitchen and gym, with many daytime and evening activities.  We had approximately 1900 passengers aboard, and finding friends was a bit of a task, so the Committee made advance arrangements for a private meeting room so that our group had enough time to meet and share experiences.  We boarded the ship on Sunday before noon, had lunch while our luggage was brought aboard, and sailed late that afternoon. The Committee had arranged for a meet and greet meeting Monday morning where the Shanghailanders reintroduced themselves and summarized what had happened in their lives after leaving Shanghai, while also covering a bit of their lives before and during World War II.

 

Peter (Nachemstein) Nash, joined us from Australia, and has become a knowledgeable genealogist.  On Tuesday morning he presented an interesting talk about how he documented his familyís history from Germany, Shanghai, and Australia.  Peterís task was facilitated by the fact that his father had been reluctant to discard pertinent information and he was able to display documents and correspondence of their lives before, during, and after Shanghai.  Peter and his wife Ricky (Rieke) had also taken the time and invested the resources to journey to the genealogical center at Salt Lake City to supplement his family's documents.  He unearthed a HIAS list dealing with those who found refuge in Shanghai and surprised us by giving each of the Shanghailanders on the cruise a copy of the page on that list dealing with their own family.

 

On Wednesday the Westerdam docked in Aruba and the Committee arranged for us to visit a lovely, small Synagogue on the island.  We were given a summary of the Jewish communityís life and activities on Aruba by a member of the Synagogue.  Similarly, on Thursday the ship docked in Curacao and the Committee had arranged for a visit to the liberal Synagogue dating back to the 17th century where we were addressed by the spiritual leader of that congregation.  An unusual feature of that Synagogue is that it's floor is covered with sand.  We were told that the sand floor may be attributable to three possibilities.  Perhaps it symbolized the wandering of the Israelites in the desert after their liberation from Egypt, or it may also symbolize Godís promise to make the Jewish people as numerous as sand pebbles.  Finally, and this possibility is given the least credence by historians, it may have been intended to keep services quiet during the Inquisition when anyone known to have participated in Jewish services was executed.  Curacao also has a smaller Orthodox synagogue that was not on our official itinerary.

 

On Friday we started our return journey to Fort Lauderdale and that morningís group meeting began with the presentation of awards, in the form of framed plaques to two people who have done much to keep us together as a group.  Rene Willdorff, our webmaster was recognized for his creativity in starting our website and continuing to maintain it in fine shape.  Yvonne Harpuder accepted an award for her late husband Ralph who had reported so often about the developments of our community. For the rest of the morning three authors of books about our experiences in Shanghai (Betty Grebenschikoff, Evelyn Popielarz Rubin, and yours truly) described how their books came to be published and some of the ensuing events.  We then saw another film about Shanghai featuring a number of members of our community there, including Fred Freud who was on the cruise.  That evening many members of our group attended a Kabalat Shabbat service and were joined by other Jewish passengers who happened to be aboard the Westerdam.

 

On Saturday morning Tess Johnston, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer and prolific author spoke to us.  She lives in Shanghai and has a great deal of interest in our story.  Since we were all familiar with that part of Shanghaiís history, Tess gave a very entertaining talk about the history of Shanghai since the middle of the 19th century.  She said that since Shanghai had been governed by three countries for over 150 years no country had ever bothered to exercise visa control permitting our entry into Shanghai.  Tess also convered the colorful history of Shanghai as one of the more notorious cities of pre World War II days.  That evening our group gathered for a farewell dinner in a separate part of the main dining room.

 

Sunday morning dawned all too quickly, and we said our goodbyes with hope to see each other soon at a succeeding reunion.