web analytics
August 2, 2014 /
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
Sponsored Post
Ultimate Mission – November 2014

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore Israel off the beaten track, feel the conflict first hand, understand the security issues and politic realities, and have an unforgettable trip!

Home » Sections

The Jews Of Harbin

        Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert went on a political mission to China and was greeted with much pomp and ceremony. During the visit Olmert took time to visit the city of Harbin, a city in the northeastern section of China, bordering Russia. Olmert’s family had lived there in the late 19th and early 20th century. In honor of his visit, the Chinese government renovated the Jewish cemetery in Harbin at the cost of $385,000. Few Jews realize that there was a thriving Jewish community in Harbin that at its peak had more then 25,000 members during the 1920′s.


         Harbin was important when it became the juncture of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Chinese-Eastern railway. Many Jews came to the area during the Russo-Japanese War and were demobilized in the area. Others came to escape the pogroms in European Russia as well as the harsh Russian decrees against the Jews that were not enforced in the far eastern provinces. Harbin was considered a haven for Jews.


         When Israel Cohen, a British Zionist leader, traveled around the world to collect money for the Zionist cause in 1920, he made sure to put Harbin on his itinerary. He found the community as diverse as any in Europe with synagogues, talmud Torahs, schools, orphanages, societies for helping the poor as well as all the social trappings one would expect to find in an established community.


         The meetings he held to raise money and convince people to move to the land of Israel were very well attended. In his book about his travels he states, “I soon realized that there were not scores of Jews in Harbin who were eager to go to Palestine.” This was the atmosphere in which the father of the present Prime Minister of Israel grew up.


         The community was made up of many notable personalities. In 1913 the chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Harbin was Alexander Kisilev (1866-1949), author of several works on halachah and books (Natsionalizm i evreistvoNationalism and Judaism) which were published in Russian in 1941. Family dynasties, such as the Bonner, Kabalkin, Krol, Mendelevich, Samsonovich and Skidelsky families, played an important role in the development of the local industries, especially wood and coal industries.


         During the Second World War the community was influential in helping Jewish refugees coming from Europe settle in Shanghai.


         Between 1945-47, Harbin was under Soviet occupation. Jewish community leaders were then arrested and sent to the Soviet interior. Most Jews of Harbin emigrated to the West in the years after World War II. During 1951-53, about 3,500 of the former “Chinese” Jews, most of them from Harbin, settled in Israel where they established a society of Chinese Jews. The cemetery was moved from its old location to Huang Shan during 1968-72, the years that marked the end of the Jewish community of Harbin. The last Jew in Harbin left in 1985. Old Jewish schools, streets, and houses are kept intact or have been renovated. Among these old buildings are two synagogues, a rabbinical school and the biggest Jewish cemetery in the Far East, in which there are about 700 gravestones with Hebrew inscriptions.


         For more information, go to www.jewsofchina.org, the website of Igud Yotzei Sin – the Association of Former Residents of China in Israel.

About the Author:

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Jews Of Harbin”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Cleared for Release: 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin Abducted by Hamas, 2 IDF Soldiers Killed
Latest Sections Stories

For many, contemplating our exile from our homeland is more of an intellectual endeavor than an emotional one.

I encourage all singles and their parents to urge their shadchanim to participate in ShadchanZone.

People definitely had stress one hundred and fifty years ago, but it was a different kind of stress.

It is inspirational to see the average Israeli acting with aplomb and going about daily routines no matter what is happening.

Participants wore blue and white, waved Israeli flags, and carried pro-Israel posters.

To support the Victor Center for Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases at Miami Children’s, please call 305-666-2889 or visit www.mchf.org/donate and select the “Victor Center” fund.

The course will be taught once a month for seven consecutive months and is designed for women at all levels of Jewish knowledge.

Like many of his contemporaries, he went through some hard years, but eventually he earned the rewards of his perseverance and integrity.

The president’s message was one of living peacefully in a Jewish and democratic state, Jews of all stripes unified as brothers, with Arabs or citizens of other religions.

What Hashem desires most is that we learn to connect with each other as children in the same family.

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

Spending time in a society as different as the Far East, expands a person’s perspective.

More Articles from Shmuel Ben Eliezer

For the last few weeks, I have been writing about the efforts of survivors and second- generation Jews from Piotrkow in going back to their hometown to preserve/restore the remnants of the town’s Jewish history.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/the-jews-of-harbin/2007/01/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: