|The Menorah of Fang
Bang Lu is a brass menorah (a Jewish religious candelabra), probably dating
from the late nineteenth century. It was found on a second hand stall
in a Shanghai antique market, in October 2000, more than forty years after
the last Jews had left Shanghai. In its base is a wind-up music box, playing
out a tune that has yet to be identified. Its simple chords evoke the
many cultures of Jewish China. The antique market stands near the main
entrance gate to Fang Bang Lu (or Fong Pang Road as it was known when
there was a Jewish community in Shanghai from the 1840s to the 1950s).
Fang Bang Lu is the main street in the old Chinese city (just south of
the former French Concession and International Settlement), and leads
to a tea house the original that has haunted western fantasies of China
since the eighteenth century.
This computer based project explores the patterns that link four Australian families to Shanghai, families whose paths crossed many times, but who never met there. These four families will be joined by three more over the coming months - their lives entered through the flames of the Menorah. Through common themes of arrival, community, economy, place, interactions with China and the Japanese occupiers, and then the tenuous journeys to Australia, we begin to sense the intertwining of serendipity and design that mark their pathways. From the Moalems, key figures in the Sephardic (Babylonian/Spanish) religious community, to the Krouks, active participants in the vibrant Russian Jewish community, the Gunsbergers, surprising survivors of Kristallnacht and an escape across Europe to Manchuria, to the Weyland Jakubowicz family in their arduous struggle through the USSR and Japan, we begin to understand the rich fabric of cultural heritage of these diasporic people, who came at last as refugees to Australia. We discover the stories of Leisl Rosner (Gerber), a girl from Vienna who became a woman in Shanghai, Rachel Kofman, a Russian woman from Harbin who returned to China from her studies in California, and settled in Shanghai, and the Szekeres, mathematicians living in limbo on the edge of the world. The arrival of all these families in Australia from 1946 was in circumstances of hostility that are not overwhelmingly different from those facing today's refugees and tells us much about not only where they came from but what they found in the new land.
Writer/ Producer: Andrew Jakubowicz is Professor of Sociology at the University of Technology Sydney; his parents arrived in Australia via Shanghai in 1946 most of their families had perished in the Holocaust. He now works in the area of multicultural affairs, and was the executive producer of Making Multicultural Australia a multimedia documentary (1999).
Creative Director: Tatiana Pentes, a multimedia designer who created the AIMIA award winner (2000) Strange Cities, an interactive CD-ROM built around memories of Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s, and the music of her grandfather, Shanghai band-leader Sergei Ermolaeff (Serge Ermoll), a Harbin born Manchurian Russian.