When Jewish traders from Persia and India traveled overland across the Silk Road in the 10th century to settle in the Tang Dynasty capital of Kaifeng, they could scarcely have imagined they would become the stuff of legend, and that all these centuries later their story would be told.
China Orientations retraces their steps and goes beyond, taking you from the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng, to 19th century Jewish traders from Baghdad and Bombay who built the iconic architectural landmarks still seen along the Bund today, to Russian Jews fleeing pogroms, making their way through Siberia to settle in the Northern Chinese cities of Harbin and Shanghai, and to the last wave of Jews -- refugees from WWII Europe, all converging upon Shanghai in the 1930s and 40s.
Together, these later waves of Jews called Shanghai home, bearing testimony to the long and rich connection spanning centuries, linking two of the oldest civilizations on earth.
China Orientations brings you their story. With lectures, cultural orientations, mini courses and unique travel kits for those planning a modern day sojourn to the Middle Kingdom, China Orientations prepares you for the journey, and inspires with stories a thousand years old.
Dr. Wendy Abraham has lived, studied, traveled, and worked in the People's Republic of China and Taiwan since the 1980s. A leading expert on the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, she has given educational and inspirational talks on Jewish life in China at synagogues, universities, museums and cultural organizations for over thirty years.
In 1985 she gathered oral histories of the oldest generation of Chinese Jewish descendants in Kaifeng -- the last generation to have witnessed first-hand Jewish religious observances and traditions in the early 20th century. For contacting people who did not officially exist, she was detained by the Public Security Police and forced to write a confession before being released. The tapes were spirited out on a five-day overland journey through Mongolia, Siberia, and the Gobi Desert, and were later donated to the Sino-Judaic Archives at Stanford University. A blue roof tile from the last synagogue in Kaifeng was likewise donated to the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv.
Dr. Abraham holds a Bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies from Hunter College, a Master's degree in Chinese from Georgetown University, Master's and Doctoral degrees in International Educational Development from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a PhD/ABD in Chinese from Stanford University. She has conducted post-graduate research on Shang Dynasty oracle bones and bronze inscriptions in Taiwan, directed Chinese language programs in Beijing and Shanghai, and taught courses on Chinese language, literature, history, and culture at universities throughout the United States. Creator and director for five years of Jewish Historical Tours of China, Dr. Abraham is a founding Board member and former Vice President of the Sino-Judaic Institute. She is also the proud author of Chinese for Dummies.