Survival in Shanghai
November 15, 2015
New York, NY
Your Excellencies,
Ambassador ZHANG Qiyue,
Ambassador LIU Jieyi,
Deputy Consul General Amir Sagie,
Mr. SONG Jiongming,

We are heartbroken and pray for the French people who faced a brutal terrorist attack once again, the worst in Paris since WWII. ISIS, the radical Islamists have devised a new warfare aimed at civilians. We mourn the innocents’ deaths and pray for the recovery of the injured. Once again the world is confronted with the ultimate evil.

We still live with the painful memories of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in New York and Washington, and most recently Beirut, the destruction of the Russian airline over Egypt, stabbings of civilians and terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, bombings in London, Milan, Madrid and Amman.

In contrast to man’s inhumanity to man, we celebrate the Chinese people, particularly the people of Shanghai, for their humanity in saving lives of 25,000 European Jews fleeing Nazi tyranny.

My mother and I almost got to Shanghai on an Italian ship but we would have had to wait for one year, so we fled to Hungary which in 1944 was occupied by Nazi Germany and resulted in the deportation of half a million Hungarian Jews, including my grandparents, to the gas chambers in Auschwitz.

I am a Holocaust survivor who in my birth place Vienna, experienced Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, the night of horror when the anti-Semitic attack against Jews was unleashed with furor.

On Thursday November 10th, I walked on broken glass of Jewish stores and homes; I saw my synagogue set on fire and Torah scrolls shredded. What started on Kristallnacht with burning synagogues throughout Germany, ended with the burning of human beings in the crematoria of Auschwitz.

It was clear that Hitler wanted a judenrein Germany. Until the end of 1939 Jews were able to leave but most countries limited the entry of Jewish immigrants. Ho Feng-Shan, Consul General of China in Vienna, the hero diplomat, defying orders issued visas for Shanghai, a welcoming city for European Jewish refugees. He earned to be recognized as “The Righteous among the Nations” in Yad Vashem.

In Shanghai they were able to rebuild their lives, establish synagogues and schools and practice their professions.

This is why in 1994 I led an Appeal of Conscience Foundation mission with a group of Jewish men and women who survived in Shanghai; in gratitude we dedicated a monument in Hongkou District with inscriptions in Chinese, Hebrew and English.
In 1998, as one of the three American religious leaders appointed by President Bill Clinton to meet with President Jiang Zemin (who hails from Shanghai) to start the first dialogue on religious freedom, we met many Chinese leaders in government, academia, religion and music who recalled their immigrant teachers who contributed much to their education.
The welcoming response of the Chinese people in providing a safe haven to Jewish refugees reminds us of the teachings of the Torah “we are our brother’s keeper, we are responsible for one another” principles that have also forged the bond of friendship between the world’s two oldest civilizations.

The recent state visit of President Xi Jinping has further enhanced the bilateral relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China on the principle of “we are responsible for one another” in guiding the world in pursuit of peace, security and development.

Since 1981 the Appeal of Conscience Foundation has been encouraging people-to-people relations between our countries, in education, student exchanges, and cooperation between religious communities of our two countries. In a spirit of cooperation First Lady Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Madelaine Albright joined me in the opening of the Ohel Rachel Synagogue and Museum where we placed a Torah scroll from Park East Synagogue into the Ark (1998.)

The premiere of the film and photo exhibit will contribute to strengthening people-to-people relations between the United States and People’s Republic of China.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation and Park East Synagogue welcome the support of Consulate Generals of People’s Republic of China and the State of Israel which is indicative of the friendship between the two countries appreciated by the Jewish people everywhere.

We are honored that Ambassador Zhang Qiyue, a star in China’s diplomatic service and former ambassador to Belgium, will address us followed by Deputy Consul General Amir Sagie who served with distinction as the spokesperson of the Israeli Embassy in Beijing. We are grateful to Ambassador Liu, the distinguished Permanent Representative of the People’s Republic of China for joining us on this historic occasion. We also thank the members of the diplomatic corps in attendance.

We thank the Shanghai Media Group, we are grateful to Peter Reisman, CEO of C-Bridge Capital Partners, co-organizer of this evening’s program, who will introduce our distinguished speakers, some of the Shanghai survivors present and their families and give credit to the hard working teams of Deputy Consul Ms. Zhang Meifang, Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky and Meixing Ren.

All of us here today can be gratified that we have made a contribution to the furtherance of friendship and mutual understanding between China, Israel and the United States. The moving rendition of the Chinese, Israeli and US national anthems by the children of the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School is an example how through education our children can help cement this cooperation to future generations.
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