Liberated Jews in Shanghai Crowd Makeshift Synagogues for Kol Nidrei Services
Menu JTA Search

Liberated Jews in Shanghai Crowd Makeshift Synagogues for Kol Nidrei Services

About 8,000 of the 14,000 Jewish men, women and children liberated from Japanese internment here tonight crowded into seven rooms which had been cleared of beds and furniture and converted into temporary synagogues, so that they might attend Kol Nidrei services.

All of the worshippers were refugees from Germany and Poland who escaped to Shanghai to escape the Nazis, and were stranded here after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They are still confined in cramped uncomfortable quarters in the Hongkew district where they were interned by the Japanese.

Many of the participants in tonight’s services were prayer shawls which they took with them when they left their native lands. The services were conducted by prominent rabbis from Poland and by a Cantor Warschauer of Berlin. Humble Chinese living in the neighborhood, which is extremely poor, stood outside listening silently to the throbbing voices of the cantors and the refrains of their congregations.

Besides the seven makeshift prayer-rooms, three local movie houses in Shanghai donated their premises to the Jews in Hongkew for Yom Kippur services, so that all the 14,000 Jews released from internment should be able to pray. However, most of the liberated Jews preferred to attend services in the makeshift synagogues in their camp, as if the dreary uncomfortable conditions to which they had been accustomed these past few years brought them closer to God. Among them were Jewish refugees who had never been religious before, but who falt that they owed a prayer of thankfulness for their deliverance.

“It is our first Kol Nidrei observed in real freedom and with great hope for the future,” Lutz Wachsuer, leader of the refugee community, told this correspondent. “We have chanted the Kol Nidrei this time as never before. This is the time we have something to be thankful for,” he added as he turned back from the services to the little windowless cubicle he now calls home. He asked the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to inform the Chief Rabbi of Palestine that Jews in Hongkew are grateful to him for his telegraphic inquiry, through the American Catholic Church, concerning the welfare of the liberated Jewish internees, since telegrams to Palestine cannot be sent from here.