Friday, September 14, 2007

Rosh Hashanah... in China?

I was going to start my post about a rather strange Jewish New Year by pointing you to an older blog post about "The Matzah Incident", but upon leafing through the old posts, I couldn't find it. So let me start from the beginning, and tell you all about "The Matzah Incident".

For Passover, it is customary for Jews to eat Matzah a delicious unleavened bread substitute that is essentially a glorified crunchy version of corrugated cardboard. It may surprise you, but this stuff is somewhat difficult to come by here in the People's Republic.

My parents, keenly aware of this, arranged a package to be shipped to me through the Beijing Chabad (which is more than likely the only Jewish organization in China). I had no idea it was coming, so I wasn't surprised when it didn't show up on time for the celebration.

Turns out, it was somehow delivered to a Jewish Family living in the Dalian suburb called Kai Fa Qu. This family spent a shocking amount of time trying to track me down, eventually getting the package delivered to me at school. I shared some Matzah with my curious Chinese coworkers (they said they liked it, I said they were liars), and thanked these mysterious "other Jews" for going out of their way to get my package to me.

I'm really surprised this story never made the blog. I apologize, and am now crippled by the fear that I may have left out other such amusing anecdotes.

Anyways, we sort of remained in touch, when I was invited to celebrate the Israeli Independence Day, which I had to decline on account of work.

That was the last I had heard of them until a few weeks ago. I was invited up to Kai Fa Qu to celebrate the New Year with a motley assortment of Jews who are also displaced here in China. With Corey and two token Israelis in tow, I made the trip out to the 'burbs for a Chinese infused Jewish New Year.

All the staples were there:

Apples and Honey

Pomegranet Seeds (an Israeli thing... but a fairly tasty one at that)

And Sweet and Sour Fish to replace the otherwise bland Fish Head.

And no, dipping apples into Honey is not made easier by Chopsticks.

They'll probably never wind up reading this, but I'd really like to thank the Manes family for inviting my friends and I to celebrate with them. I am far from the most observant Jew you'll find, even from the ones here in Dalian, China, but this was a really nice celebration, and an interesting and new twist on the old classic of Rosh Hashanah.

Happy New Year,
- Shawn


Matthew said...

I'll say that I don't come to this blog to read the New York Times..I want short and to the point with a lot of pictures... But, this was a good article. I think it was interesting and educational. Pomegranate seeds are all up in California..

Friendly, Chinese, Jews..interesting

Apples and Honey...perhaps explaining your love for Apple Juice?

I'll try your bread stuff if you try the body of christ

I say reply to me on facebook, though i'll try to maintain the sanctity of this thing and see if you reply here

Shawn said...

Glad you... enjoyed it... but if you want something REALLY educational, you should try schoolhouse rock, or Hooked on Phonics.

I'd never make you try the Matzah, but lets take this over to Facebook anyway.

Miles said...

Interesting! I actually stumbled on your blog looking for the translation of Rosh Hashanah in Chinese. Any ideas?

Shawn said...

Hi Miles,

Glad to hear you've found the blog interesting. I've sent your question out to a bunch of expats and Chinese friends I have in China, and this is what they came up with:

岁首节 sui shou jie, which could mean year,commence, festival.
犹太历的新年 youtau li de xin nian, meaning, Jewish Calendar 's new year.

If you're talking to a Chinese person, chances are they'll have no idea what you're talking about, since their general knowledge of Judaism is fairly nonexistant.

Hope this helps, and Happy New Year!

Lily said...

This is a long shot, but I hope you still check your comments. I'm currently in Dalian for a semester and have been completely unsuccessful in finding any sort of Jewish community to observe the holidays with and I'm hoping that you might be able to point me in the right direction. Thanks so much for your time!

Shawn said...

Hi Lily,

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I got an email letting me know you had commented here. I do still have the contact information for family that was kind enough to invite me to dinner on Rosh Hashannah. And I'm sure they would be delighted to have you join them. For obvious reasons, I don't want to post their contact info on the web, but if you send me an email at shawn.abraham [at], I would be happy to put you in touch with them.

Happy New Year!