Jewish immigration to New York is a well-researched phenomenon, but thousands of Jewish immigrants also traveled east from their homes looking for new freedom and opportunity. In this talk, China Institute and the Museum at Eldridge Street explore the oft-forgotten history of Jewish diaspora communities in Harbin and Shanghai—refugees and fortune seekers from Odessa and Bukhara to Baghdad—that have now all but disappeared. Come hear historians James Ross and Irene Clurman share stories in the museum’s spectacular sanctuary, in conjunction with its exhibition, Harbin, China | Past/Present.
The Museum at Eldridge Street is housed in a magnificent National Historic Landmark synagogue built in 1887 as the first great house of worship for Eastern European Jews in America. The building was nearly lost to neglect in the mid-20th century before a painstaking 20-year, $20 million restoration. Today, it is the only remaining marker of the great wave of Jewish migration to the Lower East Side that is open to a broad public. Exhibitions, tours, cultural events and educational programs tell the story of Jewish immigrant life, explore architecture and historic preservation, inspire reflection on cultural continuity, and foster collaboration and exchange between people of all faiths, heritages and interests.
Jim Ross is associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University. He received his BA from Yale University and his MA in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University. He is the author of three books including Escape to Shanghai: A Jewish Community in China (Free Press, 1994), and an editor of The Image of Jews in Contemporary China (Academic Studies Press, 2016).
Irene Clurman has been a journalist, arts writer, yoga teacher and synagogue education director. She lives in Evergreen, Colorado, where she leads dream workshops and maintains a website on the history of the Harbin Jewish Community.