Growing up Kosher in the early 90’s meant that my first introduction to Chinese food was at King Solomon’s Table, a buffet restaurant in North York Ontario. It was nothing that we made (or bought from Perl’s (z’l)), constructed into different shapes and sizes. The workers were a mixture of Jewish and Chinese staff, the latter speaking in a weird, sing-songy tone. I not only left that restaurant full and satiated, but the seeds were planted that blossomed into a lifelong friendship with the Sinic people.
It is easy for us to make friends with Chinese people since we do not need to explain ourselves too much. Much is taken for granted, especially our dedication to family, education, and community. The pandemic was a scary time for many of my Chinese friends, unsure of who would turn on them. This means that while many are apprehensive about approaching strangers in general, they will often appreciate someone taking an interest in them. Sadly, many of my students are scared to talk to “Bai Ren” who may harbor prejudicial views.
Does this sound familiar?
Do you ever wonder, who agrees with Kanye West and his antisemitic tirades?
Do they make Jewish jokes behind your back?
Sure they are your friends now, but what if the economy turns and I have more than they do?
We are two of the oldest civilizations in the world, sprouting from the Yellow River and the Fertile Crescent. We have never been at war with one another, often trading amicably along the Silk Road. While there remains an indigenous population in Keifeng, the main influx came from the Russian Empire, who were fleeing Facism in the West. Today there remains a synagogue in Harbin. While it isn’t populated by local Jewish worshippers, the building serves as a Chinese Jewish Museum. This says nothing about the Jewish Museum in Shanghai, which used to house thousands of Yidden, including (but not limited to) the father of former Israeli PM, Mr. Ehud Olmert.
While other countries are spreading libel against us, China is an eager partner in technology, medicine, and media. Jewish and Chinese students grow up together in Markham-Thornhill, developing lifelong friendships in the process. My zaydie z’l worked closely with a Chinese colleague, recounting the positive encounters he shared with him on a regular basis. He explained the history of Toronto, and how we used to live together in the Ward and Kensington Market. I thought it was quite interesting that we moved north together, now sharing the “southern” fringes of York Region.
Jewish Neighbors in Thornhill Markham
Some of us get offended when an outsider makes a generalization about us, even if it is positive in nature. I once asked a student why he thought that Jewish people were smart. As opposed to giving him a diatribe against making broad generalizations, I took a breath and listened to him respond. “It is because I have so many Jewish teachers and they love to learn with me.” What a profound statement, at least from my vantage point. While Kanye and Dave Chappelle are talking about our “supposed” greed, this student is emphasizing our central attribute, which is our love for learning. The Muslim’s don’t call us The People of The Book for nothing.
We Sure Love Learning!
With America on the decline, many Jewish professionals are heading to the Middle Kingdom, searching for opportunities of all sorts. While many come for teaching, many are involved in the robotics, space, and academic fields. While many have been drawn to learning French or Spanish, Moshe and Rivka are now learning Mandarin Chinese, hoping to sell their idea to a Han venture capitalist. It is important to note that Chinese people (generally) do not use the same social media as us, having mirror copies which are suited to their specific cultural palate. In other words, by “not learning” Mandarin, businesses are missing out on a huge part of the domestic economy. With a population that holds philo-semetic views–and also features the largest growing economy–there is no reason not to open the door to Chinese friendship.
This is not only from an economical point of view, but also from a cultural and strategic position. While Israel is being attacked by Islamic enemies at the border, China has to face armed militants who are insistent on ripping the country in half. This would mean that Afghanistan would take over the two adjacent provinces, giving the Taliban license to pull a Ghankis Khan. These security concerns are mutual, with Israel supplying Beijing with Iron Dome deliveries, ensuring that their cities are safe from foreign aggression.
China cannot stand with Israel on the world stage, despite being willing to work with Jews at all levels. For example, China might vote against us at the UN, while (on the same day) organizing to extend the Israel-China Business Park. On Erev Shabbat Beijing might tweet some weak comment against our campaign in Gaza, but subsequently hires Israeli educators to set up their curriculum. Even if China were to side with us, doing so would come at a great price to both of us, with us both losing access to their supply chain.
The left is always talking about allyship, so I am going to steal their term. If someone comes out and makes vulgar attacks on Chinese people, we should come out and show support for them. Likewise, we can encourage Chinese people to participate in our communal cultural events, giving them an opportunity to learn about us “beyond the stereotypes”. While some will be against this-since we should not make a splash, due to our own threats-this will signal to them that we are on their side, fighting in their corner.
Yes. There is a Chinese Kosher restaurant in Toronto.