Melton & More



Date & Time

Thursdays, 10:00-11:30am July 8, 15, 22, 29

Join us as we travel around the world and learn more about the Jewish community in China!


Course Description:

According to a tradition of the community of Jews discovered in Kaifeng, China in the mid-18th century Jesuit missionaries, their ancestors arrived in China from Persia during the Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE.  Other evidence, including documents written in Judeo-Persian, points to Jewish presence in China by the 8th century.  Although the Kaifeng community became less identifiably Jewish in the mid-19th century,  Jewish presence in China would be redefined by Sephardic merchant families such as the Sassoons and the Kadoories, who made their way to China during the British era of British imperialism. Far greater numbers of Ashkenazic Jews fleeing Russia in the 1880s and during Russian Revolution, rose from poverty to the middle class, and contributed to Chinese development. Between 1933 and 1941, about 30,000 European Jews found refuge in China. After the Japanese invasion, living conditions were harsh and unpredictable, but nearly all of Shanghai’s Jews survived World War II. During the Cultural Revolution most Jews were forced to leave, but Jewish communities continued to exist in Hong Kong and Taiwan.  In recent decades, China has encouraged Jewish presence and investment, and in 1992,  China established diplomatic relations with Israel. Today Beijing and Shanghai have Jewish communities comprised of technical experts, diplomats, businesspersons and foreign teachers and students and welcome Jewish visitors. 

  • Week 1:  Jews in Ancient China to the Jews of Kaifeng
  • Week 2: Baghdadi Jewish Merchants
  • Week 3:  Haven from Russian Revolution and the Holocaust
  • Week 4:  From the Chinese Civil War to the Cultural Revolution; China Today

Dates: July 8, 15, 22, 29

Thursdays, 10:00-11:30am (EST)

About the Instructor:

Marsha B. Cohen, Ph.D. is an independent scholar, researcher and writer, who holds Melton’s Deborah and Michael Troner Endowed Faculty Chair. She earned her PhD in International Relations from Florida International University and taught for over a decade, specializing in the Middle East and North Africa and the Role of Religion in World Affairs. Marsha received her BA in Political Philosophy from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Marsha has been teaching for the Department of Adult Learning & Growth as part of the Melton faculty for 20 plus years.