Past – History
The "big aliah" of Jews from China started in the year 1949 and ended in 1952.
These were the years of the biggest ingathering of the exiles from around the world to Israel, and among them the Jews from China, most of the immigrants were settled temporarily in transit camps, "Maabarot", that were put up all over the country.
The Jewish immigrants left China during the final stages of the Chinese civil war, as a result of which its economy was going through a period of very deep inflation. This caused the Jews to arrive in Israel with no financial means at all and in addition to this, with no useful profession. The ages of these immigrants were comparatively high (average age over 40).
The immigration from China to Israel followed two main routes:
- Those from Shanghai traveled by sea, and their journey nearly circled the world. There were three main departures from Shanghai direct to Haifa, two by the ship "Wooster Victory" and the other by the ship "Anna Salen". There were also other sailings from Shanghai, but these ships did not sail direct to Haifa and changes of ships had to be made at several transit ports, eventually all those immigrants arrived to Haifa from Italy on Israeli Ships.
- The Jews from Harbin traveled by several means of transportation: First by train, to Tientsin, by sea to Hong Kong and from there by air via various countries to Israel.
The Main Concentrations in Israel of the Jews from China were in "maabaroth" located in "Migdal Haemek", "Ramat Yishai", "Beit Shearim", "Atlit", and "Pardess Hanna". A small group established an agricultural settlement in "Amikam" and other groups in "Suchmata" and "Kfar Tabor". Housing projects were initiated in "Givat Olga" and "Shikun Shanghai", today known as "Ramat-Hachayal".
In June of 1951 a group of Jewish leaders of several communities of former China residents in Israel founded, "Igud Olei Sin", which was later changed to "Igud Yotsei Sin"- The association of former residents of China. A small office was rented at Mr. King's law offices, on Rothschild Boulvard in Tel Aviv.
During the initial years of its activities the Igud had branches operating in places according to the dispersion of the former China residents in Israel. The largest concentrations during this period were in Nathanya and Migdal-Haemek where clubs functioned every evening for meetings and social activities.
The Iguds approach for help to the American Far Eastern Sciety(This organization existed since the 1930's) resulted in receiving hundreds of "CARE" food parcels, which were than distributed to Jewish refugees around the world, and were distributed by the Igud to needy immigrants from China in Israel.
As time went by other former China resident's organizations were established around the World (San Francisco, Sydney, Los Angeles, etc.). These organizations too offered aid to the Igud in Israel. As a result the Igud began to distribute monthly financial aid and small loans to the needy. This activity is carried on to this very day but on a much larger scale.
In 1951 a convention of the founding committee of the Igud Olei Sin was held, Where, various institutions within the Igud were established and the functionaries chosen.
Up to 1972 the offices of the Igud moved several times in Tel-Aviv.In 1972 thanksto, to a very generous contribution by the Ponve family, two adjacent apartments were purchased on Gruzenberg Street in Tel-Aviv. These apartments were rebuilt and connected into offices and a reception hall.
In 1954, as a result of development projects carried out by the Shanghai authorities, the Ashcenazi Synagogue in the City was demolished. The Chinese Government transferred to Israel via the Embassies of China and Israel in Bern, Switzerland, a sum of money, which was considered equal to the value of the demolished synagogue, with an explicit condition that the money be used to build a synagogue in Israel. The Tel-Aviv municipality donated a plot of land on Golan Street in Ramat Hachayal ("Shikun Shanghai" at that time). With the money that was received from China plus donations from ex-China residents and the Ponve family, a synagogue was built in memory of the Jewish communities of China. It was inaugurated in 1962.
Plaques were attached to the walls of the Synagogue in memory of the leaders of the communities and those of the former China residents in Israel and the World who donated towards the building of this Synagogue. They are remembered every Sabbath by the congregation praying there. This Synagogue is the property of the Igud and is maintained out of the Iguds budget.
For over 10 years, a group comprising Jews who, prior to WWII escaped from Nazi Germany to Shanghai and lived in Honkew, is active in the framework of the Igud Yotsei Sin, they consist of about 120 people. This group organizes various social activities and publishes several pages in the English supplement of the Iguds bulletin.
In 1996 a group from the Sephardi community of Shanghai, consisting of about 120 people, joined the Igud, this group too convenes from time to time in the "Ponve" House and also publishes several pages in the English supplement of the Bulletin.
As a result of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel and with the initiative of the Igud "The Israel-China Friendship Society" was formed. This organization carries out various social activities and hosts delegations from China visiting Israel. It publishes a supplement to the Bulletin under the name of "The Voice of Friendship". This supplement reports on its activities and is distributed to our friends in China and contributes to strengthen the friendship with the Chinese people.
Igud Yotsei Sin is registered at the registrar of societies at the Ministry of Justice as an "association"- A non-profit organization, its financial activities are controlled by an auditor as specified by the law.
The activities of the Igud are performed mainly by volunteers, except for the secretary and a technical aide for the publication of the Bulletin, The "Igud" is able to function thanks to the donations of former China residents in Israel and around the world, which are channeled to various funds by means of which the Igud carries out the following activities.
Since its establishment the Igud distributes monthly monetary allowances and loans at very low interest rates and in special case at no interest at all, to the needy among the former China residents. In later years help was also given to immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were born or resided formerly in China.
In 1956 the Igud began granting scholarships to students who were former China residents, this was made possible by a fund which was established by ex-China residents in New York. In the first year of the establishment of the scholarship fund only one scholarship was awarded. In the year 1999, 115 scholarships were awarded to the offsprings of former China residents - Sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, and even great grandsons and daughters. Up to date 1800 scholarships was distributed reaching the total sum of approximately half a million US dollars.
Holiday Gifts to Soldiers:
For over 20 years the Igud has distributed twice a year (On Rosh Hashana and on the Day of Independence) gifts to soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces who are the offsprings of ex-China residents. Up to date the gifts were distributed to approximately 1500 soldiers.
In 1954, the Igud began to publish a Bulletin - a magazine of Igud Yotsei Sin. Initially in was published in Russian language and later on, Hebrew and English supplementa were added. Today the Bulletin is published in the above three languages in 1100 copies. About 500 copies are distributed in Israel among the former China residents and various institutions and the rest are sent to former China residents abroad. The cost of publishing the "Bulletin" is covered mainly by the fees paid by the subscribers and by various announcements published by families and lastly from the budget of the Igud.
The aims of the "Bulletin" are to maintain a permanent link between the former China resident of the Diaspora with their compatriots in Israel, to strengthen their bonds with the State of Israel, to update the readers on the activities of the Igud, to reconstruct and publish the rich history and culture of the Jews of China, to signify the contribution of the Jews of China to the State of Israel and to maintain the memories of the Jews, ex-China residents, who passed away.
In the offices of the Igud at "Ponve House" there is a collection of historical chronicles in various forms on the history of the Jews in China.
Scientists and researchers from Israel, Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan, China and others were all helped in their various researches by the documents stored in this collection.
The Immortalization of the Heritage of the Jews of China:
Two generations of Jews immigrated to Israel from China. Very few of the elder generation are still here with us. Of the second generation, all are in their fifties and sixties by now. These people are the only ones who can still contribute to the perpetuation of the glorious heritage of the Jews from China.
Plans also exist in China, which are in various stages of execution, to establish museums in Shanghai and Harbin to perpetuate the memory of the Jews who resided in China. There is a wide interest in the academic world and by the press in China on this subject. In Israel, however, nothing is being done on this matter (except on the subject of the chronicles in the archives of the Igud) to perpetuate the memory of this Jewry so that it will be easily accessible to anyone who is interested and especially to the younger generation who were born in Israel to former residents of China.
Recently, the Central Committee of the Igud decided to establish a fund to this end, "The Fund to Perpetuate the Memory of the Heritage of the Jews of China". The money that will be contributed to this fund will be used solely for this purpose in China and in Israel.
The Igud is in contact with "Beit Hatfutsot" who is experienced in matters of perpetuation of the memories of Jewish communities around the world, in order to decide on the most suitable way to accomplish this, with the utilization of the most advanced methods in use today.
Today, the Igud has branches in the three big cities of Israel. The main activities are held in the "Ponve House" in Tel Aviv:
Social meetings of members of the Igud take place there every Sunday. The "Ponve House" also houses the administrative offices of the Igud, where the meetings of the directorate take place.
Lately, a committee was formed with the sole purpose of organizing meetings on various subjects which are of interest to ex-China residents and with the purpose to draw the younger generation, the scions of the founders who are the second and last generation born in China, to participate in the activities of the Igud and thus ensure the continuation of its existence in the future.
Future-Plans and Hopes
The aim of Igud Yotsei Sin is to continue with all the activities mentioned above and in addition have new activities as the need arises and according to its resources at hand, human, financial and others which change continually within the community among who the Igud operates.
The main activity of the Igud today can be summed up at two time levels: Firstour by ties to our past bycaring and distributing monthly grants to the needy of the elder generation, secondly by ties to the future by granting scholerships every year to many tens of students, sons/daughters, grandsons/granddaughters and great grandsons/granddaughters of ex-China residents.
Since its establishment the Igud stands on two main foundations without which it could not have continued with its blessed community work.
Receiving contributions from ex-china residents living todayin Israel and Diaspora.
The active volunteers whose numbers among the elder generation are regretfully dwindling, although their places are being gradually filled by active volunteers of the younger generation. Our hope is that this younger generation will not be the last one active in Igud Yotsei Sin.
Founders of Igud Yotzei Sin
1. Teddy Kaufman
2. Boris Kotz
3. Zvi Nehamkin Niv
4. Esther Yelkin
5. Zelig Belokamin
6. Henrich Davidovich
7. Yosef Fligel
8. Michael Klaver
9. Jimmy Mens
10. Lev Piastunovich
11. Vladimir Zlotnikov
12. Mara Marguleov
13. David Rabinovich
14. Albert Veinerman
15. Vulla Zubitski
16. Yosef Gliberman