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Chinese Canadians are heartened by a longstanding friendship and alliance with the Jews

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The two characters on promotional matchboxes of the Ginsberg & Wong deli in Toronto represented a brotherly alliance between two nations (Image: Amazon.ca)

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Torontonians of a certain age remember Ginsberg & Wong. Part deli/part Chinese eatery, this restaurant, formerly located in downtown Toronto, served kosher hot dogs that came with curly fries in a bamboo steamer! Even as recently as three years ago, former patrons published nostalgic reviews online, despite the fact that this iconic establishment folded decades earlier.

The restaurant’s graphic was memorable and, I suggest, symbolically meaningful: a short middle-aged Jewish guy and a tall Chinese young fella, side-by-side, partners, representing, I would suggest, a brotherly alliance between two nations, an alliance that goes back millennia.

Historically, Jews scattered around the world have met with adversity. Dispersed, they dealt with anti-semitism and other challenges in countries that were often reluctant hosts. In contrast is the Jewish experience in China, characterized by respectful interest, minus the hatred. Jews were welcomed, invited to assume important civic positions and often became scholars in Chinese studies. Many Jews assimilated, finding in Chinese culture decidedly feminine values that aligned with their own. Both cultures revere virtue, value cooperation and industry, venerate the role of the elder in the community, and more.

Unsurprisingly, when European Jews fled the war under duress, China accepted more displaced Jews then the total number of Jews who fled to Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa combined.

What is the special relationship between these two peoples? It’s not just about Jews eating Chinese food on Sunday night or ladies who play Mah Jong. I’ve reflected on this issue, living and working within the Toronto Jewish community for decades.

Surrounded by Jewish neighbours and Orthodox traditions in Thornhill, I’m acclimated to the Jewish calendar, the huts in October, the pious who walk in Sabbath finest on Saturday. Having run a busy Chinese medical clinic, family-operated, in the heart of the Jewish community, we have had a window into the lifestyle, worldview and lives of Jews. We are simpatico. I’ve been curious about the commonalities between the cultures and areas of intersection, places where values and vision meet. In fact, in China, there is a longstanding admiration for the Jewish people.

You may not know: Chinese bookstores are lined with books written in Chinese with titles like, “How and Why to Become like a Jew,” or “The 10 Commandments of Jewish Success.” Jews are perceived as highly successful, valuing discipline and hard work and sharing the Chinese priority of family loyalty. Further, we have, as people, areas of shared experience. The Chinese who immigrated, like the displaced Jews who came, faced prejudice and difficulty settling in foreign lands. Despite barriers, many Jews have succeeded against all odds. Chinese are keen to learn from your example.

Dr. Roger King in his TED talk, “Overseas Chinese and the Jewish Diaspora,” points out many commonalities between the Chinese who migrated away from China and the Jews who were scattered around the world. Both peoples value education and have adopted a posture of self-reliance. Jewish and Chinese immigrant parents often had to create their own jobs when they arrived, launching family businesses and working tirelessly to make success. The Chinese respect the success the Jews have achieved, not just accumulating wealth but also the virtue of being generous and philanthropic; also knowing how to spend carefully.

Further, as a minority, Jews have represented their community priorities assuming a voice in the political landscape whereas the Chinese have struggled to find that voice and to express a unified message. There are shared priorities; also much to learn.

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Given the shared values, our communities have formed alliances over the years. Jews are grateful for the actions of one Chinese Consul General who rescued thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. Also the support of the people of Shanghai who welcomed the refugees.

Of late, the Chinese community has appreciated the support of the Jewish community. In February 2020, almost 100 Jewish organizations, some American, others international, signed a letter of solidarity with the Chinese community, concerned about the rising xenophobia linked to the outbreak of COVID 19. In the U.S., Jewish delegations were sent to local Chinatowns to show support.

In these difficult times, Chinese Canadians are dealing with an unprecedented amount of racism. One Chinese young man now equips himself with mace, having been jeered and cat called when walking the streets of Toronto. Some are afraid to go out. There has been support, such as the demonstration which just occurred in Montreal, attended by Chinese and others, denouncing anti-Asian prejudice and the recent Atlanta attacks.

At this time, Chinese Canadians are heartened by a longstanding friendship and alliance with the Jews. Two peoples have united around shared values and priorities over the generations. Especially now, we are grateful for your support.

Lee Zhang, currently a realtor with Bay Street Group, has been living and working within the Jewish community in various capacities for the last 20+ years. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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