Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Jews of Hong Kong

Hong Kong spreads itself below you, and if you're up there as night falls and the lights come on, the view is especially spectacular. The path is lit, so it's safe to walk after dark.

And the city has quite a Jewish history. Indeed, Jews established a presence in Hong Kong in 1842 when the Kadoori and Sassoon families, two Sephardic dynasties, moved their businesses here.

Jews played a quiet but important part in the area's growth as a mercantile and financial center, and the Kadoori Farm, now a botanical garden, and bustling Nathan Road are just two of the many reminders of Jewish contributions to Hong Kong.

The Ohel Leah Synagogue, on Hong Kong Island, opened in 1901. This small but beautiful building survived the Japanese occupation during World War II (when it was used as a stable) and continues to serve the Orthodox Jewish community.

There are also temples for Reform and Conservative congregations elsewhere, and the adjacent Jewish Community Center offers a kosher market, a pool and gym, a kindergarten, a kosher restaurant and a milk bar, and many events for members and visitors. Just come, tell them you're Jewish, and you'll be welcomed.

If you're planning a visit, note that the equestrian events for the summer Olympics will be held in Hong Kong, attracting visitors from around the world.

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