- Our Synagogue
TBS Sisterhood and Men’s Club are co-sponsoring Professor Sigmund Tobias, author of Strange Haven: A Jewish Childhood in War-Time Shanghai. Dr. Tobias is a distinguished professor of education from SUNY Albany who will address his life in the Shanghai Ghetto during this critical period. He has spoken about this topic to many audiences and on PBS-TV.
In the wake of Kristallnacht, Sigmund Tobias and his parents fled their home in Germany and relocated to one of the few cities in the world that offered shelter without requiring a visa. For most, it was the last place in the world that would take in Jewish refugees. Between seventeen and eighteen thousand Jewish refugees flocked to Hong Kew, a section of Shanghai ruled by the Japanese, and they created an active community that continued to exist through the end of the war.
European Jews learned to live in barracks or crowded rooms, used chamber pots, sometimes ate only one hot meal a day from a communal kitchen, and walked teeming streets filled with hawkers by day and, in the early hours, trucks picking up corpses. But they also had schools, cultural institutions, and thriving social life, complete with Viennese cafes. And they survived.
Tobias’s coming-of-age story unfolds within his descriptions of Jewish life in the exotic sanctuary of Shanghai. Depleted by disease and hunger, constantly struggling with primitive and crowded conditions, the refugees faced food, clothing, and medicine shortages. Tobias also observed the underworld of Shanghai, the prostitution and black-market profiteering, the brutal lives of the Chinese workers, the tensions between Chinese and Japanese during the war, and the paralyzing inflation and the approach of the communist “liberators” afterward.
Join us for a fascinating glimpse of life for these foreigners in a foreign land. Hear about the changes that Dr. Tobias observed when he returned to Shanghai forty years later as a visiting professor.
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