Fig.1

 


 

  

Now that the Jewish High Holidays are soon upon us, let us turn back the pages for a moment and recall how and where our knowledge of Hebrew and our first observance of the Jewish New Year began.

 

For most of us Shanghailanders of the Jewish faith that are still alive today, it began in the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto. We remember how our dear parents and spiritual leaders in the Designated Area known as Hongkew encouraged us to attend afternoon Hebrew school. In a climate of uncertainty experienced by those living in the ghetto, the practice of religion and teaching of Judaism has played a vital role. In spite of the incarcerate by the Japanese authority, the opportunity to learn and practice our respective faith was there, with several prominent Rabbis offering to teach afternoon religious school, or preparing boys for their Bar Mitzvah.

 

Rabbi Georg Kanterowski, a liberal Rabbi, who served the refugees during the High Holidays, taught afternoon Hebrew school at the Freysinger School building on Dalny Road. A report sheet, printed and filled out in German, is shown in figure one. It shows how yours truly faired in reading Hebrew, prayer, and Pentateuch interpretation, and Bible study. Comments by Dr. Kanterowski, who taught the subjects, were added at the end of the report.

 

A more solid Jewish education was provided by the Talmud Torah, established in December 1939 with the help of Rabbi Ashkenazi and a committee of his Russian and Sephardi supporters. The former Talmud Torah that was located at 62 Ward Road is illustrated on a current pamphlet for tourists in figure two. The photos illustrated in figures 2a and 2b were shot on my return visit with my wife to Shanghai. They show a classroom at the old Talmud Torah School with a Mezuzah still attached to the door- post, and an outside view from one of the windows on the second floor.

Also shown on a photo is Mr. Wang Fa Liang of the Ohel Moshe Synagogue (now a museum) Administrative Department.

 

Essentially an afternoon religious school, by 1944-45 Talmud Torah reached a maximum of close to 300 students that came from all elements of Shanghai Jewry. Students of the afternoon classes were required to wear zizith and recite Minhah (afternoon prayer) before end of class. Talmud Torah provided students that conformed to the rules and rituals of Orthodoxy with a pair of leather shoes each year, something most parents in the ghetto could not afford. On a personal note, yours truly, not yet at the time of Bar Mitzvah age, was asked by a Talmud Torah teacher one Sabbath morning to carry his eye-glass case from the Ohel Moshe Synagogue to his flat at 343 Ward Road Lane.

 

Two announcements illustrated in figure three lists the schedule of classes at Talmud Torah; a schedule of Sabbath services at other locations, and an announcement of two Bar Mitzvahs.

 

Hebrew and scriptures were also taught at SJYA regular day school, and Freysinger‘s Elementary and Middle School, the later providing a more Jewish-oriented education, as illustrated in figure four. An additional and important subject, Jewish History, was included in Freysinger‘s curriculum.

 

Perhaps less known to Central European Jews at the time was Rev. M Lewkowitz, known within the circle of the American Joint Distribution Committee as a hard working assistant administrator, and educator. Among one of his tasks was preparing boys for their Bar Mitzvah. In figure five we see a certificate issued by Rabbi Lewkowitz to yours truly stating that his student has successfully completed the Bar Mitzvah studies. The Bar Mitzvah ceremony took place a month later in my new country, at a synagogue in Los Angeles to a crowd with standing room only. There was not a dry eye among the throng of congregants when that frail little boy from the Shanghai Ghetto recited completely the Maftir and Haftahra prayer; a true testimony to how much our spiritual leaders gave of themselves for the youngsters to maintain and practice our Jewish heritage.

 

May all of us in the year 5764

Be inscribed for a Year of Health,

Happiness and Peace 


Endnote:
This report is about how we acquired our Jewish education in Shanghai. The reader of this report is reminded that there were also a number of non-Jewish refugees from Central Europe that were living among the Jews in the Ghetto. They went to Shanghai for the same reason as stateless Jews did, to escape persecution from the Nazis. They fled because they saw something evil about the Nazi regime, or they had a Jewish spouse from whom they did not want to separate. A few non-Jewish and well- educated men were inducted into the infamous SS, but instead fled to Shanghai realizing the consequences they would have faced had they refused

 

All of us Shanghailanders, Jewish or non-Jewish, are “One” and share a common bond by our Shanghai experience.


Fig. 2a
 


Fig.2b
 


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Fig. 4
 


Fig. 5