the Shanghai Ghetto
In the city of Shanghai, thought in the
late 30‘s as a strange and distant land, Jewish refugees were also
celebrating the Festival of Purim with all its gaiety as described
further in the article.
The ancient festival, celebrated this
year on March 24, marks the deliverance of the Jews in the Persian
Empire from a plan by Prime Minister Haman, to commit genocide. A
painting by Jankel Adler called “The Purim Play,” is illustrated on a
postage stamp from Israel in figure one. A Purim play at the Kadoorie
School by children in costume is shown in figure 1A.
The plan by Haman was opposed by the
intervention of Queen Esther who revealed to King Ahasweres that she was
Jewish, and that the plan aimed to annihilate her people is diabolic.
The Book of Esther is depicted on three stamps, also from Israel,
perforated on a souvenir sheet, shown in figure two. During the Festival
of Purim, it is customary to engage in merriment.
Many of the stateless Jewish refugees in
Shanghai began to celebrate the Jewish festivals almost immediately
after disembarkation even in the primitive conditions that greeted them
upon their arrival.
An example is a whimsical newsletter
called “Allotria” that was released in the Hongkew Ghetto in 1940,
illustrated in figure three. Dedicated to the Celebration of Purim, it
portrayed several entertainers and well known refugees of the community
by way of caricature drawings. The center page of the newsletter is well
illustrated in figure four.
A Purim happening that was sponsored by
a Jewish sports organization called AHV (Alte Hernn Verein), took place
shortly before the War at a popular restaurant in the Shanghai ghetto.
The announcement is shown in figure five.
After the war had started, celebrations
and performances began to slow down. The realization of the war began to
surface as refugees from Nazi Europe were focusing primarily on how to
survive the war.
One of the few performances that still
took place before liberation was a Purim matinee at the Broadway Cinema
on Wayside Road, starring, then, the popular Rosl Albach Gerstel, Raja
Zomina, and well loved comedian, Herbert Zernik The announcement can be
viewed in figure six.
The end of the war in September, 1945
brought new hope and vitality to the performing arts in the ghetto. Two
Purim performances in 1946, one at the Kadoorie School, the other at the
A/cock Saal, both starring Gerhard Gottschalk along with other popular
entertainers, are shown in an announcement in a local newspaper in
figure seven and figure eight respectively.
The Shanghai Jewish Youth Community
Center (SJYCC), established under the guidance of the American Jewish
Joint Distribution Committee, has also contributed to the spirit of
Purim with plays and dances. In the center‘s monthly newsletter,
Future, illustrated in figure nine, an article appeared about their
Purim Ball Dance held in March of 1947, a time when many of its members
already left Shanghai. The article is shown in
A number of musicians and comedians that
were among the 18,000 refugees that came to Shanghai in the late 30‘s,
continued to entertain audiences after they settled in America. An
example is a Purim celebration that took place in San Francisco in 1948
starring several former entertainers of Hongkew. A brief column in a
local newspaper telling about this event is shown in
figure 11. Another
Purim carnival that took place in Oakland, California in March of 1950
can be seen on the backside of a postcard in
Most of the remaining Shanghailanders
have by now become well assimilated, and today belong to different
synagogues and cultural groups where they can continue to celebrate
Purim and other festivals with people of different backgrounds and