Shanghai can claim a great many records. It is the most populous city in the world. It is one of the busiest ports of the world. It is a center of Chinese culture, finance, and relations. But did you know that Shanghai has the distinction of being one of the few safe havens for Jews during World War II?
As more countries fell to Nazism and Jews found it increasingly hard to escape their homes, one place didn’t require entry papers and had diplomats who were friendly toward Jews: Shanghai.
Though there had been a small community in Shanghai since 1907 when some Russian Jews had escaped pogroms, the community sprouted almost overnight, and soon there were Jewish businesses and synagogues for the new arrivals; the community reached a peak of 13,700 members. The peace was short lived, when the Japanese invaded and occupied Shanghai the Jewish community was interned in a ghetto. But despite this, the Japanese resisted pressure to deport the community and they mostly survived the war intact.
After WW2, most Jews in Shanghai moved to the newly formed State of Israel. Today you can visit one of the surviving Synagogues, now functioning as the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, which chronicles the influx and effects of the Jewish refugees. Walk the streets that comprise the former Jewish Ghetto, or the so-called Designated Area for Stateless Refugees. All around you will see surviving pieces of Jewish interest that speak to the short-lived but outsized influence the Jewish community had here. Let our Milk & Honey guides take you on a journey through a Jewish refugee story like you’ve never imagined.