A old journal and letters written to friends in Israel were all that remained
when Moshe Kaveh arrived in Shanghai 14 years ago and searched for traces of his
family, one member of which was among the 22,000 Jews saved by China during the
Today the president of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan,
Kaveh grew up the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor who fled for Russia during
World War II, and met his wife in a Siberian labor camp.
Moshe’s father was certain that all 11 brothers and sisters were killed in the
It was only a generation later, when Moshe Kaveh was part of a
Bar-Ilan delegation to China, that he found that his father was not the only
sibling to survive the Nazis.
Searching the database of a museum of the
Shanghai Jewish community, Kaveh found his Uncle Menashe registered as part of
the community, where he lived around 15 years before passing away.
father cried so much when he heard that we found Menashe. He was certain he was
the only one who survived,” Kaveh said on Sunday, adding that in his opinion the
people of China are “among the righteous gentiles of the world for what they did
during the war.”
Each year his family would read the journal on the
anniversary of Menashe’s death, and would marvel at the advanced level of Hebrew
shown in his letters to his old yeshiva friends in Israel, and his yearning to
reach the Land of Israel. Though Menashe did not manage to have a family or to
make his way to Israel, he is one of the thousands who were put beyond the
Nazis’s grasp by China.
Kaveh spoke ahead of an event at Bar-Ilan titled
“Celebration of Sino-Judaic Friendship,” held to mark 20 years of official ties
between China and Israel. The event included the unveiling of a modest plaque
that commemorates “the selfless acts of friendship; and solidarity which the
people of Shanghai bestowed upon 22,000 Jews during the
During the unveiling of the plaque at Bar-Ilan on Sunday, Gao
Yanping, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China, spoke of China’s rescue
of European Jews, saying “If the tragic Nazi massacre of Jews exposed the most
ugly and dark side of humanity, then the Jewish experience in Shanghai showed
that even in the endless darkness, there are still sparkling flashes of the
bright side of humanity.”
Though residents of the “Shanghai Ghetto” left
for the State of Israel after WWII, China’s sheltering of European Jews remains
etched in Jewish history as one of the greatest examples of gentiles saving
European Jews facing annihilation.
Beijing did not open diplomatic ties
with Israel until 1992, following the Sino- Soviet split and China’s forging of
diplomatic relations with the US in 1979.
While in 1992 trade between the
countries amounted to only some $30 million, today mutual trade totals more than
$9 billion per year, making China Israel’s biggest trade partner in Asia.