By Blair Donner
The Jewish people’s history past has undoubtedly been one inundated with great tragedies. Many scholars, both Jew and gentile, have grappled with explaining the persistent trends of anti-Semitism that have plagued the Jewish people since the first forefathers left Egypt. However, while it is important to acknowledge and remember these painful condemnations, it is also important to recognize that Judaism is highly respected in many parts of the world. There are, in fact, places which see the local population understands the Jewish people and their practices in a most friendly and welcoming way.
One would expect such places to obscure and insignificant, but the reality is quite different. The Chinese people, who according to the The Atlantic online magazine currently consist of a solid 20% of the world’s population, traditionally view the Jewish people as being incredibly intelligent. In similarity to the Jewish values of studying the Torah, the Chinese people also view studying as very important. Moreover, during the Holocaust the city of Shanghai welcomed Jewish refuges within its borders. Accordingly, the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum still stands to this today to honor their memory. Top colleges within China also offer Hebrew studies as a major to all interested students such as Beijing University and Tsinghua University. There are also a total of ten Chabad centers located within China.
Another people who have welcomed the Jewish people are those of Haiti. Just like China, during the Holocaust, the island of Haiti welcomed 70 Jewish refuges families, or about 300 people as reported by the World Jewish Congress. Furthermore, for those in Germany unable to escape to Haiti, the Haitian government issued Haitian passports to persecuted Jewish people so that they may flee the oppressive Nazi regime. As a result, the community of Jews living within Haiti until about the 1950s to avoid assimilation and a loss of strong Jewish tradition. To this day, Christians in Haiti honor the Jewish religion by seeing them as the chosen people. They are taught to treat the Jewish people with respect as G-d originally bestowed them with his word. Today, Israel and Haiti remain have a great diplomatic relationship.
Lastly, though many more yet to be named, a final place in which Jews are able to flourish is in South Africa. Today, information from the Jewish Virtual Library reports that nearly 70,000 Jewish people reside within this country, and within the city of Johannesburg there are kosher restaurants and learning centers. Additionally, about 80% of the Jewish people living within South Africa claim to be orthodox. As members of this community hold positions in the government and even have a nationally acclaimed Jewish newspaper, it is evident that South Africa is another place in which Jewish people can thrive.
While China, Haiti, and South Africa all serve as paradigms for places in which Jewish people can have, or already have, established communities, it is also important to note that unfortunately the Jewish population in these countries make up a small portion of the country. Nevertheless, it is reassuring to know that at least in some places of the world anti-Semitism is not the norm. Chabad caters to Jewish people throughout the world, having 3,900 centers established globally and envisions a time in which these countries’ affinity for the Jewish people is not an exception, but rather the standard. The one at Rutgers is just a branch located within Central New Jersey. For more information about how to get involved and about Chabad House at Rutgers, visit us on the web at http://www.chabadrutgers.com, http://www.chabadnj.org, or call 732-296-1800.