China’s Forgotten Plan to Resettle Jewish Refugees from the Third Reich

Officials of the then-Republic of China, under President Chiang Kai-shek, drafted a plan in 1939 to open the country’s borders to stateless Jews—of whom there were many in Europe, most of them having had their citizenship revoked by Germany or Austria—and settle them near the Burmese border. Although the proposal made it to the cabinet and was approved in principle, the government deferred and eventually dropped the idea. Aharon Shai writes:

In addition to humanitarian considerations, Chinese officials listed four major reasons for the initiative. One was assisting small ethnic groups in the spirit of China’s policy [toward its many ethnic minorities]. Another was the hope that assisting the Jews would evoke the British public’s sympathy toward China, [then at war with Japan], mainly because, as is commonly known, many British financiers and bankers who worked in East Asia were Jews.

China also expected that helping the Jews would increase the American public’s sympathy to China’s distress. Finally, the absorption of Jews, who had considerable economic means and talents, would be a welcome contribution to China, the planners said.

They decided to designate an area close to the southwestern border, appoint an official committee to run the project, enlist Jewish leaders from China and abroad to support the initiative, and register Jewish professionals to advance certain fields in China.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: China, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Refugees, World War II

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

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More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays