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Thank You, Shanghai

Shimon Breitkopf, Shanghai, China

Less than a month before they would sit down to the Seder to celebrate the holiday of liberation, an unusual delegation headed by Rav Chaim Walkin set out to the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai. Seventy years before, their families had found an unlikely refuge from the Nazis in this foreign city. Now they’d returned — to say thank you.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

To the Chinese hurrying along the streets of Shanghai, we must have seemed a strange group: about 30 people, including a prominent mashgiach and rosh yeshivah, a rebbetzin, family members, businessmen from America, Israel, and Turkey — and reporters, lots of them. The delegation of Shanghai survivors was headed by Rav Chaim Walkin, mashgiach of Yeshivas Ateres Yisrael, and Rav Yosef Sorotzkin, rosh yeshivas Meor Eliyahu. Both had been born in this city, far from the Lithuanian Torah citadels yet safe from the European inferno; and both brought along their wives and sons on their journey to the past. Rebbetzin Chaya Small, Rav Walkin’s older sister, made the trip from her Chicago home. Mickey Abraham of New York, another “Shanghai baby,” came along with his son. Turkish businessman Morris Bildirici, close friend of the Walkin family, dropped his business dealings for the week to join the historic expedition. And Mishpacha publisherEliPaley, who’d set the journey in motion, watched his idea become reality — to come back to this pulsating city and remember a time, decades ago, when it echoed with Torah learning. We’d try to capture the last strains of the Mirrer Yeshivah’s golden era. We’d find old haunts and try to pass the inspiration forward. But most of all, we’d share our gratitude to a nation under occupation that still opened its doors to a desperate band of Jews.

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