Netanyahu in China with kids 370.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
SHANGHAI- As a Chabad emissary in Shanghai, Rabbi Abraham Greenberg has abundant experience putting
tefillin on other people. But even Greenberg was surprised when Avner Netanyahu,
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s youngest son, approached him during his
father’s tour of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and asked if he had a pair
of tefillin on Tuesday.
The younger Netanyahu, a 12th-grader in
Jerusalem, told the rabbi that he did not have time in the morning to pray, and
asked if he had any tefillin handy. Greenberg did.
So as his father and
mother were touring the museum that tells the tale of some 18,000 Jewish
refugees from Europe who found shelter in the city during the Holocaust, as a
Chinese woman was playing a languid tune on a violin in an atrium and as the
press and invited guests were milling around, Avner went into the small Ohel
Moshe synagogue that makes up part of the museum complex and put on
The word “synagogue” in this context is a bit of a
The structure, built in 1927 by Iraqi Jews who predated the
influx of refugees from Europe, once did serve the Jews in Shanghai as a central
place of worship, but has since been restored not as a living, breathing
synagogue, but rather as a museum.
There is a bima (podium), an ark and
even a purple ark cover – donated by Israel’s consulategeneral in the city –
inscribed with the words “Tribute to the Hongkou People who provided refuge to
Jews in time of need.”
But there is no Torah inside the ark. The Chinese
government, apparently, is not interested in turning the site – located in the
city’s Hongkou district – into an active synagogue, but rather wants to preserve
it as a historic site and keep it as a museum.
There are, however, three
Chabad houses in the city that do serve as synagogues. One of those Chabad
houses provided the Netanyahu entourage with kosher food during the prime
minister’s two-night stay in Shanghai, a city not blessed with an abundance of
Since Ohel Moshe does not function on a regular basis as
a synagogue, Avner did not find a prayer book there. Instead, he pulled out his
cellular phone and called up a prayer book on his phone.
clicked, the younger Netanyahu prayed, covering his eyes during recitation of
the Shema, and taking three steps backward and then forward for the Amida,
seemingly oblivious to those watching him Among those looking on was a Chinese
official, intrigued by what the young Netanyahu was doing. After Netanyahu
finished, the man approached him and politely asked what he had just wrapped
around his arm. Avner, who regularly wears a knitted kippa, briefly explained in
English the morning ritual, and ended by saying, “It reminds us daily of who we