The (other) Jewish corner of Asia 311.
With print journalism all but dead, and electronic journalism still experiencing
considerable growing pains, starting a new media outlet may raise an eyebrow –
but that’s exactly what Erica Lyons did in 2010.
longtime resident of Hong Kong published Asian Jewish Life, a quarterly magazine
with a 6,000 circulation distributed at Israeli embassies, on El Al flights and
at Jewish institutions around the continent.
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Speaking on the sidelines of
the ROI Young Leadership Summit in Jerusalem last week, she said the publication
draws thousands more readers through its website each month.
statement is fairly broad, and maybe a bit ambitious, but one of the things I’m
trying to do is connect the Jewish communities in Asia – these small pockets of
Jewish life,” she said. “Your Jewish neighbors may be a country over, maybe two
countries over, but we have community members who travel a lot and have shared
histories.“ The territory her publication covers is tremendous, with nominal
resources. To provide content for her magazine, she relies on a network of
“It’s kind of an emerging network of Asia-focused Israelis
and Jews worldwide, and like any other network, once you to start speaking to
one person, several names come out of that,” she said. “My writers are based in
the US, and pretty much every country in Asia and Israel.”
Looking at the
current state of Asian Jewry, Lyons said dual forces are at work: While some
Jewish communities in the region have been shrinking for decades, others are
growing rapidly – especially over the past decade.
“In India, people say
it’s a dying community, but I don’t like the phrase ‘a dying community,’” Lyons
explained. “Most of them are making aliya, others are going to the States. It is
a real crisis for that community, and the best defense we really can have is
another angle I’m taking with this magazine, [which is the] preservation of that
history and culture. The other communities in Asia are very different. They’re
They’re expats. For example, the community in Shanghai is very international: Israelis, Americans, British, French and they are going to grow.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Lyons said some of the most avid readers of
Asian Jewish Life
are not Jewish.
“In China, there’s never been a history
of anti-Semitism, and there’s a real thirst for knowledge and information about
Jewish history,” she said. “The magazine provides a good platform for
Lyons said she hopes in the future to translate the magazine to
Chinese, and to create a website in that language mirroring the existing one in
Another participant at the ROI summit whose interests lie in
Asia is Rebecca Zeffert.
As the founder and executive director of The
Israel- Asia Center, an Israeli nonprofit created in 2009, she works diligently
to advance cooperation and understanding between the Jewish State and India,
Southeast Asia and China.
“We have a website and newsletter providing
news features and analysis on Israel-Asia affairs covering economic, foreign
policy and cultural issues,” said the British-born Zeffert.
“We have all
kinds of events in Israel, Asia and the US, [including] briefing seminars and
Zeffert became captivated with Asia as a college
student, where she studied Japanese and Mandarin. The idea for a center
cultivating ties between Israel and Asia came from several similar institutes
abroad, said Zeffert, who added that the center depends on donations from the US
and Hong Kong – as well as the work of its 30 volunteer members.
summer the organization will launch its latest initiative, The Israel-Asia
Leaders Fellowship, a program that will introduce Asian students to Israeli
leaders in business, diplomacy, science and technology.
It will also
create internships for them at local firms.
Zeffert encouraged Asian
students currently in Israel, or those who will be studying here in the
2011-2012 academic year, to apply before the deadline in July
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