Thursday May 1
The Jewish Refugee Museum
This museum was amazing, as John said it would be (he was here before).
Shanghai opened its doors to 18,000 Jews from 1933 to 1941. The official refugee ghetto in Shanghai became a thriving Jewish community of about 14,000, with shops, schools and a synagogue, and the Refugee Museum is at the center of that site in the Hongkou District.
The Ohel Moshe Synagogue, part of the museum, is still used for weddings and celebrations.
Yitzhak Rabin visited the museum in 1994. “Thanks to the people of Shanghai for the unique humanitarian act of saving thousands of Jews during the Second World War. Thanks in the name of the government of Israel.”
The museum’s free personal tour guide, Jean, a young woman probably in her mid-twenties, took me around and answered questions. She spend three years in Israel; her English was excellent – and she even knew Hebrew.
My most meaningful conversation with Jean had to do with Mao and the Cultural Revolution – a natural extension of the conversation on the Jewish holocaust, since the toll in human lives in China during the decades which followed the Cultural Revolution (starting in 1966) far exceeded the number of Jews killed in the holocaust.
M: We’ve always wondered why Chinese don’t respond when we ask about the cultural revolution and about what Mao really did.”
J: Most Chinese are afraid to talk about it openly. They fear consequences.
M: Did you parents and grandparents talk to you about it?
J: Yes. But they always said, “We can talk about these things in our family, but not outside of our family. It is dangerous.”
M: What did you learn at school about this part of Chinese history?
J: Practically nothing. The history books (even today) have a single line about the Cultural Revolution – the whole ten years. One time a classmate of mine insisted that the teacher tell him what really happened during that time, and the teacher refused to discuss it.
M: Why do they sell posters of Chairman Mao on the streets today?
J: It’s not because they necessarily revere him. It’s sort of a pop art thing.
M: Do you think this will change? That people will demand to know the truth about their past?
J: I hope so…
“The past is in the present, but the future is still in our hands.”
– Elie Wiesel (on the exit to the museum).
The Shanghai Museum of Arts and Crafts
79 Fenyang Road
This place offered an enormous gift shop on the entire bottom floor (prices very inflated), and the other two floors of the beautiful building offered booths with people who were supposed to be artisans demonstrating tapestry making, paper cutting, clay molding, etc. The trouble was, not one of these people acknowledged me when I walked into their “studios,” and all of them were either eating their lunches or texting on their phones. Wow, where are those insistent product pushers when you need them? I was actually interested in this booth on woolen tapestries but this girl never looked up from her iPhone. Must be on hourly salaries.
Here’s our tapestry expert on her iPhone.
The South Bund Fabric Market
No trip to Shanghai would be complete without one last personally tailored shirt or two. I had these two Chinese-style blouses made and we picked them up on Saturday – well one actually wasn’t done and was delivered to our hotel Saturday night. Cost, about $52 each. I thought I should wear something Chinese for John’s retirement in June!
We had dinner in the Thai restaurant which I liked so much on a previous visit, the Paradise Coconut, 38 Funin Lu. Tom Yum soup was hot but good. Not as good as the Thai restaurant in Lizzy and TJ’s new home town, Salisbury, NC!
Martha – Madly Traveling Asia with Faucet Marketing Husband