Mon, Feb 14, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Taipei's Jewish community has deep roots

MAKING A HOME Taiwan has had a small Jewish community since the 1950s. The nation's only rabbi tells of its history and touches on links to the Holocaust

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ephraim Einhorn, longtime resident of Taipei and the only rabbi in Taiwan, points to a book about Jewish history that was published in Taiwan in this photo taken on Feb. 2.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

As the world watched Holocaust survivors gathered at Auschwitz last month in memory of the 60th anniversary of its liberation, thousands of kilometers away in Taiwan, members of Taipei's small Jewish community still felt the sting of horror that has haunted their families for more than half a century.

The existence of a Jewish community in Taiwan may be little known to locals. However, it has been here since the 1950s, when US troops were stationed in Taiwan.

The current community dates as far back as the mid-1970s, when foreign corporate executives began bringing their families with them to Taiwan while on international assignments.

Dr Ephraim Einhorn, Taiwan's one and only rabbi, has dedicated himself to serving the Jewish community for decades.

Even in Taiwan, it almost seems difficult to come across a Jewish person who cannot tell of a family tragedy that is linked to the Holocaust.

The massacre ended the lives of 6 million Jews, almost one-third of the Jewish population prior to World War II.

The rabbi's granddaughter every year pays homage in Auschwitz to a great-grandparent -- Einhorn's mother -- that she never managed to meet in person.

In addition to his mother, Einhorn's father was killed in Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp outside of Berlin.

Einhorn condemned governments for turning their backs on desperate Jews.

"The world stood by and did nothing. All countries, by and large, shut their doors, [while] people were desperate to get visas to go to other countries," Einhorn said in a low tone, a marked contrast to his normally cheerful demeanor.

But the Austrian-born rabbi also tells the story of Dr Fengshan Ho (何鳳山), a Taiwanese diplomat to Vienna and Germany between 1937 and 1938 who issued 1,200 visas to desperate Jews.

Ho's unwavering sense of righteousness helped rescue thousands of Jews, many of who managed to flee to Shanghai.

`Chinese Schindler'

"Dr Ho was `the Chinese Schindler.' He was honored by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial with the title `Righteous Among the Nations,'" Einhorn said.

Another congregation member, Don Shapiro, who is editor in chief of Topics, a magazine published by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, said members of his family who had survived the Holocaust usually kept mum about the pain and sorrow of their past.

But as the number of living survivors able to recount the tragedy is decreasing as years go by, he said, passing on these memories in other ways is crucial.

"In another 10 years, maybe no one [will be] there to directly tell the stories. However, that incident is something that every generation should know," Shapiro said.

synagogue at the Ritz

When Einhorn started his work in Taipei it was at the US Military Chapel. Later, he moved to the President Hotel, which no longer exists.

"And then they built the Landis. Some of the people who used to stay at the President started to move into the Ritz [Landis] Hotel," Einhorn said.

So the rabbi made a proposal to the chairman of the Ritz Hotel Chain, asking if he could move the service over there.

That was some 25 years ago.

Every Friday and Saturday Einhorn performs Sabbath services at this one and only synagogue in Taiwan.

The present-day synagogue, which is complete with a Torah and a Holy Ark, is located in a small room in the Ritz Landis Hotel on Minchuan East Road.

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