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Pepper, Silk and Ivory
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About the Author

Rabbi Marvin Tokayer began his rabbinic career in 1962 as a U.S. Air Force chaplain stationed in southern Japan. In 1968, he returned to serve as rabbi of the one-thousand-member Jewish Community of Japan, a post he held until 1976; he remains Lifetime Honorary Rabbi of the community. He also served on the Federation of Jewish Communities of Southeast Asia and the Far East and as Founding Board Member of the Sino-Judaic Institute. Consummate storyteller Rabbi Tokayer contributed seven articles on rabbinics and the Orient for the Encyclopedia Judaica; authored twenty books in Japanese on Judaica and Japan; and coauthored (with Mary Swartz) The Fugu Plan The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews during World War II. Ellen Rodman, PhD is a writer, producer, and the president of LN Productions LLC, a production and media consulting company based in New York. Prior to founding her own company, Dr. Rodman served as an executive at NBC, where she launched the first missing children's campaign in connection with the broadcast of the made-for-television movie Adam, and at Group W where she accepted a DuPont Columbia Award for Whispering Hope, the company's outreach program on Alzheimer's disease. The former family entertainment reviewer for The New York Times, Dr. Rodman is also the author of numerous magazine and newspaper articles on subjects ranging from education and health to animals and culture.

Reviews

..".obvious that the book was painstakingly researched, and the author's passion for his subject is obvious."

..".the history and legacy of the Jewish people in the Diaspora is monumental and truly global."

"with the rise in global power of such Asian countries as China, Japan and India and their inroads into the Middle East and the significant improvement of their relations with Israel, the book is both timely and relevant."

--Hilary Daninhirsch"The Jewish Chronicle" (01/21/2015)

This fine, surprising addition to the history of the Jewish people awakens readers from the Eurocentric and Near East visions of Jewish culture and influence.

Amazed as I am about this enormous area of ignorance in my own Jewish education, I am hopeful that this volume reaches every Jewish library and every library of Far East history.

While I appreciate the relaxed scholarship that informs the book, it is valuable simply as a collection of highly flavorful stories. These stories, and others like them, must be retold for children.

This fine, surprising addition to the history of the Jewish people awakens readers from the Eurocentric and Near East visions of Jewish culture and influence. Researched by Rabbi Tokayer over many decades and narrated in his voice, the stories are wonderfully varied. Many focus on the achievements of important individuals while others uncover pockets of Jewish community life in unexpected places. Everywhere, the authors evidence their great passion for their subject.

Not many people know that Polish-born Morris Abraham Cohen, who grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home in London, was awarded the rank of general by Chiang Kai-shek for his great contributions to China's nation building during the 1920s. More may have heard of Moe Berg, the Jewish major leaguer who spied in Japan on behalf of the United States. But how many have heard of the once-thriving, influential Jewish community in Burma that had a major synagogue with 126 Torahs? Or of Wolf Ladejinsky's efforts that helped modernize agriculture across Asia?

Though traditional Judaism is largely a man's world in terms of decision-making and influence, many Jewish women earned significant influence in Asian communities. Find out about Beate Sirota Gordon, who wrote the women's rights section of the post-War Japanese constitution, one of her many accomplishments. Discover Laura Margolis, "assigned to tackle one of the largest and most complicated migrations of refugees the world has ever seen." Meet Emily Hahn, a prolific writer whose years in the Far East shed light on both China and the U. S. for readers in both countries.

Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo hold many of the stories about important Jewish contributors to the welfare of their adopted or, in so many cases, native homelands. There were even Jewish dynasties, such as the Kadoories and the Sassoons, in the Far East. Many important municipal and national posts were held by Jewish citizens.

Amazed as I am about this enormous area of ignorance in my own Jewish education, I am hopeful that this volume reaches every Jewish library and every library of Far East history. While I appreciate the relaxed scholarship that informs the book, it is valuable simply as a collection of highly flavorful stories. These stories, and others like them, must be retold for children.

-- (09/01/2014)

"fascinating stories of Jews who left a mark on the Far East."

"There is a proud and significant Jewish history in the Far East. It should not be forgotten. This book goes a long way in reminding us of that past."

For many of us knowledge of Jewish history in the Far East draws a blank, except perhaps for the fact that the Mir Yeshiva found refuge in its flight from Nazi persecution. Marvin Toyaker, a former U.S. Army chaplain and for seven years a rabbi in Tokyo, tells fascinating stories of Jews who left a mark on the Far East. The author's research is extensive, and his writing style makes reading this book a worthwhile experience.

From 1938 to 1943 there were some 25,000 Jews living in Shanghai, the vast majority of whom were refugees. Ten thousand of the refugees came within one six-month period. Conditions were primitive. Boil the water before drinking. Inspect bread for worms. Beware of melon injected with (polluted) water to make it heaver. But, there was a placard that summed up life in his hole called home, "Now you are no longer Germans, Austrians, Czechs, or Romanians. Now you are Jews, only Jews." That was written in the positive sense. Shanghai was a refuge where Jews could live proudly and openly. That was Shanghai where the Mir Yeshiva would find a home until after the war.

If you are a rare book collector, a cherished piece in any library is the "Shanghai Talmud," a standard Shas printed in traditional format and released on 10 October 1941. The celebration was double --- the publication of the Gemara, and ---- chol hamoed Succos (19 Tishrei 5702).

Japan controlled Shanghai, and when the Nazis asked the Japanese to hand over the Jews, they refused. Why?

Turn back the clock to Jacob Schiff (1847-1920), a Jew born in Frankfurt, Germany, whose family suffered the anti-Semitism of the czars. Schiff eventually moved to New York and established a remarkable financial enterprise. In 1904 Japan and Russia went to war. The Japanese were financially strapped and sent an emissary abroad to collect funds. Tokayer describes how Jacob Schiff remembered the cruelty of the czar and became a key factor in financing the Japanese war effort. A Japanese ambassador would relate years later that Schiff's generosity was one of the factors in Japan's refusal to acquiesce to the Nazi demand.

Not all Jews in the Orient were Ashkenazi. Lawrence Kadoorie (1899-1993), of Iraqi background, was born in Hong Kong and served for many years as the head of the local Jewish community. His brother, Horace, founded the Kadoorie School in Shanghai to educate the children amongst the refugees. There was virtually no limit to the family's generosity, for example financing food and travel for refugees after World War II, and setting up schools and hospitals.

There is a proud and significant Jewish history in the Far East. It should not be forgotten. This book goes a long way in reminding us of that past.

-- (10/02/2014)

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