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In Memorian - Theodore "Teddy" Kaufman

Points East
29 November, 2012

September 2, 1924 – July 15, 2012

Compiled from material in Haaretz, Aug. 15, 2012, the Igud Bulletin and Jewish Times Asia, Oct. 15, 2012.

Theodore-"Teddy"-Kaufman was born on September 2, 1924 in Harbin, Manchuria, into the secular Russian Jewish family of Dr. Abraham Kaufman. His father is remember for his role as heal of the Far Eastern Jewish Council, under whose auspices he helped save approximately 20,000 European Jews from Holocaust by assisting their temporary resettlement in Kobe, Japan and the Shanghai ghetto.

Throughout his long life, Teddy Kaufman emulated his father by playing a very active role in Jewish communal affairs. His first such position was as a personal secretary to Harbin''s Chief Rabbi A.M. Kiselev, where he served as a conduit between Kiselev, a staunch Religious Zionist, and the secular Zionist  segment of the local community led by his father.

He emigrated to Israel in 1949 and, though employed as a Tel Aviv municipal employee in a variety of positions for some 35 years, Kaufman''s focus in life was the preservation of the heritage of China''s Jewish communities and fostering and development of warm ties between Israel and China.

In 1951, Kaufman established, along with 16 other former Jewish residents, the organization know as the Association of Former Residents of China – Igud Yotzei Sin. The organization is comprised of residents and descendants from Harbin, Tianjin, Shanghai and Dalian.

Initially the Association aided with the resettlement of Jewish immigrants from China in the years immediately following Israel''s birth. Once resettlement efforts were completed, the Association shifted focus to providing scholarships to the descendants of former China residents pursing post-secondary studies in Israel. The Association also became the main body dedicated to the preservation of the memory of the Jewish communities that existed in 19th and early 20th century China. Kaufman was chairman for almost 50 years.

Kaufman took a particularly active role over the years in maintaining regular correspondence between the Association in Tel Aviv and its sister landsmanchaften located in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sydney, Australia and Montreal, Canada.

Thanks largely to his efforts, today the Igud Yotzei Sin maintains a head office in Israel, with branches in the United States and Australia. It is an active organization that binds the traditions of the past history of the communities in Israel, the US and Australia and China, namely assistance to students, senior citizens and the distribution of the Bulletin that desiminates information on past and present lives of the former residents of China. It also maintains a highly informative website.

After the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and China, in 1992, Kaufman founded and served as president of the Israel-China Friendship Society (ICFS) and was instrumental in bringing a deeper understanding between the two nations. The ICFS has played an important role in people-to-people relations between Israel and China, maintaining ties with Chinese friendship societies, universities and academic institutions. As president of the ICFS from its founding until his death, Kaufman frequently hosted Chinese, diplomats, students and visiting academics at ICFS events and at his home in Ramat Gan.

In an official statement, the Chinese Embassy in Israel lamented the death of Kaufman, lauding the instrumental role he played in promoting the development of Sino-Israeli relations:

"Mr. Kaufman, as president of the Israel-China Friendship Society, had long been committed to promoting China-Israel exchanges in varied fields and maintained friendly relations with the Embassy and Chinese people," asaid the statement. "He was like the still water, running deep in his efforts to develop relations between China and Israel

"Mr. Kaufman represented the spirit of selfless giving back," the statement continued. "As an old Chinese saying goes, ''Don''t forget the well-diggers when drinking from the well.'' Mr. Kaufman never forgot his well-digger, by showing his deep affection to China where he was born and lived for 26 years. He then became a well-digger himself and set an example for younger generations. Mr. Kaufman worked until the last hours of his life promoting the Israel-China relationship."

Kaufman imparted much of his extensive knowledge of the Jewish community in Harbin in his memoir, The Jews of Harbin Live on in My Heart. The book was published in 2006 with editions in both Hebrew and English.

Teddy is survived by his wife Rasha in Israel and brother Isai Kaufman in San Fancisco, USA. He will be missed by all who knew and respected him as a giant in understanding and promoting China-Israel relations.


Points East, Vol. 27 No. 3, Novermber 2012.

A publication of the Sino-Judaic Institute.