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After Japan’s invasion of Shanghai in 1941, Germany pressured Japan to murder the Jews in its control, even sending SS Colonel Joseph Meisinger (reputedly carrying a canister of Zyklon B gas with him) to Shanghai to advise various “extermination” plans.

Japan resisted calls to murder the city’s Jews, but they did implement drastic new restrictions: Shanghai’s Jews were no longer able to receive aid money from abroad, and were crammed into the “Shanghai Ghetto,” more formally called the Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees in the Hongkou District, where Jews were forbidden to leave.

China’s ruling Song Emperors welcomed the Jews as welcome guests, bestowing seven family names that these Kaifeng Jews could use – some of which are still carried by their descendents in the town today.

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Smaller Jewish communities sprung up in other towns in China.

Unlike many Jewish communities elsewhere, it seems that China’s Jews faced little or no persecution.

On a visit to Israel they once placed a note asking for help in conceiving a child in the Western Wall – when they returned home, they told their audience, they had a baby boy.

As China has emerged as a manufacturing dynamo in recent decades – and Israel has evolved to become one of the world’s foremost centers of high-tech innovation – links between the two countries have deepened.

When Hebrew University graduate student Lechao Tang appeared on the Chinese show in 2014, he did so well the show became the second-most watched program in all of China.

Tang regaled Chinese audiences with descriptions of life in Israel, while the show’s hosts chimed in with a story of their own.Few other clues remain of the once-bustling community of Jews that called China home. When Elena Kagan, the Jewish law school professor who is now a US Supreme Court Justice, was questioned during her confirmation hearings, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked her what she did on Christmas.Even in these restrictive conditions, Jewish life in Shanghai flourished.Most notable was the Mir Yeshiva, a famous center of Jewish learning that relocated from Lithuania to Shanghai during World War II, and continued to offer classes.(Following the end of the War, the Mir Yeshiva moved to Jerusalem, where it remains one of the world’s premier centers of Jewish learning today.) Following the War almost all of Shanghai’s Jews left China for new lives abroad.

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