Jews And The Far East


Pepper_101014AOn Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 11:30 a.m., Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and Ellen Rodman will be at the Sid Jacobson JCC, East Hills for a book event and signing on their recent volume, Pepper, Silk & Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East.

According to the authors, there is a chapter missing from Jewish history. While most people know the stories of the Jews of Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, few are familiar with the colorful and captivating stories of Jews and the Far East.

To bring this overlooked part of the Jewish experience to life, Tokayer and Rodman have researched and published their book, one being brought out by Gefen Publishing.

“Every part of the Far East has a relationship with Jews. Their stories remind us all that in the most unexpected and amazing ways, 4,000 years of Jewish history also includes Asia,” Tokayer said.

Rabbi Marvin Tokayer
Rabbi Marvin Tokayer

He first became aware of these little-known stories when he served as rabbi to the Jewish community of Japan. The book reveals layer after layer of forgotten Jewish history, including:

• Two-Gun Cohen was known as the “uncrowned Jewish King of China” and served as a general in the Chinese Army.

• The only woman in the room was Beate Sirota Gordon who refused to leave until the Japanese Constitution included rights for women and children.

• Elected the first Chief Minister of Singapore, David Marshall earlier served as president of the Jewish community and advocated for Singapore’s independence from the British before his ground-breaking election.

• A militant Marrano of India in the 1500s, Garcia d’Orta’s publication of his famous volume on botany and pharmacology in 1563 caused as much excitement as the discovery of penicillin did in the late 1930s.

• Smart and generous describes the Kadoorie and Sassoon families who were known for attention to details, praised for foresight and appreciated for philanthropy, all of which improved the quality of life for residents of Hong Kong.

• A synagogue with 126 Torahs? Why did the synagogue in Burma have so many Torahs and what happened to them?

• Meet Mr. Mills and Emily “Mickey” Hahn, the brilliant, eccentric writer who introduced China to the West with her ever-present pet gibbon at her side.

“In the most unexpected ways, Jewish history includes the Far East too,” Rodman added. The authors traveled the world to collect the details of these amazing stories from official state records, historical accounts and eyewitnesses.

Many of the facts they relate have never been published—until now. The book spins tales of beauty queens, royalty and feisty primates, sacred texts and state secrets—the forgotten, but important, part of Jewish history.

Ellen Rodman
Ellen Rodman

Rabbi Tokayer served as a U.S. Air Force chaplain before becoming the rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan, a position he served in for eight years before being named Lifetime Honorary Rabbi. Rodman is a writer/producer and president of LN Productions LLC, a production and media consulting company based in New York. She has written or coauthored numerous books and articles and was the family entertainment reviewer for The New York Times.

For more information, call 516-484-1545, ext. 144. The Sid Jacobson JCC is at 300 Forest Drive, East Hills.


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