Tom Lewinshon spoke to hundreds at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Exhibition in Houston on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at the CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL coordinated and sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (ACJ), Congregation Beth Israel and Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Tom was a Shanghai refugee and now US citizen and with his family lived comfortably among their non-Jewish neighbors in Berlin. Throughout the 1930s Tom experienced early Nazi persecution of the Jews. He was forced to attend an all-Jewish school, his father was only allowed to treat Jewish patients, and in 1938, the family hid through Kristallnacht. Though his parents considered sending their children on a Kindertransport, the family eventually chose to stay together and remain in Germany until January 1941, when a police official informed his father that the family was about to be deported. Boarding a train in the middle of the night, they fled to Shanghai – the only place then open to Jews – where they lived in a ghetto of 17,000. In 1948, Tom emigrated to the United States. He served in in the US Army during the Korean War and lives in Kansas City, MO.
Joining Mr. Lewinshon was Ambassador Qiangmin Li, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China, Houston, Zhou Taitong, Vice Chairman of The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Shanghai Committee, who heads a 13 person delegation arriving from Shanghai for the exhibit, and Rabbi David Lyon, senior rabbi, Congregation Beth Israel
American Jewish Committee has worked with Chinese communities for over 50 years, including a recent AJC Project Interchange -led delegation of 10 prominent Chinese leaders and officials to Israel for intensive dialogue and briefings. During this trip, Chinese leaders met with their Israeli counterparts to discuss politics and life, to bridge cultural differences and communication gaps, and to discover that ultimately, when we all share in our common humanity, no one is very different from any other.
From 1933 to 1941, Shanghai became a modern-day “Noah’s Ark” accepting around 30,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust in Europe. In the “Designated Area for Stateless Refugees” in Tilanqiao area of Shanghai, about 20,000 Jewish refugees lived harmoniously with local citizens, overcoming numerous difficulties together. By the time the Second World War ended in 1945, most of the Jewish refugees had survived. Dr. David Kranzler, a noted Holocaust historian, called it the “Miracle of Shanghai” and commented that within the Jewry’s greatest tragedy, i.e. the Holocaust, there shone a few bright lights. Among the brightest of these is the Shanghai haven.