Though Judaism isn’t even one of China’s recognized religions, there is a growing contemporary expat community in China that exists not far from extraordinary sites steeped in Jewish history.
The story of the Jews in Shanghai begins around the 1840s with the arrival of the city’s first Baghdadi Jewish population. This group was followed by the arrival of Russian Jews, but the story of Shanghai’s Jewish past would have perhaps remained but a footnote had it not been for the remarkable story of the Jewish Holocaust refugees in Shanghai. The city took in and sheltered nearly 17,000 Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust. Their story in Shanghai is one of struggle and survival but also a story of a people who continued to live and thrive despite major obstacles and serious deprivations.
Whereas Shanghai past once boasted 6 synagogues, today, but only two still stand. Neither is in use for its intended purposes. The former Ohel Rachel Synagogue, built in 1917, is now part of the Chinese Education Ministry. Ohel Moshe, built in 1927, now houses the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum in the Hongkou District, once home to the Jewish Holocaust refugees.
Other sites of Jewish historic importance include: the Kadoorie family’s former home Marble Hall, now the Shanghai Children’s Palace, the Peace Hotel, formerly owned by Sir Victor Sassoon, and the Shanghai Jewish Club, now part of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
Former Shanghai Jewish Club