Today's blog comes to us from Abby Spilka.
This morning I had the kind of experience I love having in
. I talked to a stranger. Followers of the blog will note that I talk to uniformed personnel and postal patrons whenever I get the opportunity, so why should today be any different? At the corner of New York City Bowling Green/State Street/Battery Place, a Chinese fellow asked for directions to 36 Battery Place – the . Another woman behind me gave him directions that were pretty helpful, but in the downtown universe that is off the grid, I offered to escort him since I was headed that way. I knew that the New York City Department of Small Business 3rd Annual Procurement Fair for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses was taking place at the Museum, and figured he was okay. Once we established that I was not going to the conference, that I have been working at the Museum for 10 plus years, he asked if I was Jewish. I said I was, but that it is not a requirement to work there. Our conversation was then quite far ranging. He told me about a relative of his who works at a museum in Museum of Jewish Heritage China designed by “the man who designed the glass building in at the Museum?” “I.M. Pei?” I suggested. He went on to describe the Museum as architecturally beautiful. “I just don’t have the words to describe it.” Paris
Continuing the theme of museums in
China, I informed him that many years ago we welcomed guests from the community of Shanghai who wanted to create a museum to commemorate the role that played in saving Jewish refugees during World War II. From 1938 on, some 17,000 Jewish refugees from Shanghai Germany and Austria escaped to , the only place in the world that did not require a visa to enter. The Russian and Sephardic Jewish communities in Shanghai, those that had arrived during previous waves of immigration decades ago, worked together to provide food and shelter for the refugees fleeing persecution in Europe. Our online collection features some interesting objects from that period, including this Chinese marriage certificate for Hugo Landsberger and Ella David. I especially like the butterfly and dragon motif. Shanghai
My companion informed me that everyone in
Shanghai and virtually all of knows this important shared history between the Chinese and the Jews. After being asked about my own marital status, I learned that he has a son in seventh grade who attends middle-school in China Brooklyn. When we arrived at the Museum, soggy but in a refreshing sort of way, I handed him a brochure about the Museum and said that he should find out about the High School Apprenticeship Program on our website. Who knows? In two years time, his son may find an opportunity to write his own chapter about the relationship between Jewish and Chinese culture.
Pictured: A Jewish and a Chinese girl in Harbin, China, circa 1922.