Sydney Jewish Museum

Glimpses of Shanghai at the Sydney Jewish Museum

by Belinda Chapman & Fiona Starr

Crossroads: Shanghai and the Jews of China
is a colourful, intimate exhibition currently on show at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

This special exhibition explores the Jewish history of Shanghai,
focusing on the city as a haven for Jews during World War II.

Crossroads pays tribute to the exciting international metropolis of Shanghai
and tells the stories of the Jews who created a thriving community
in their new and unfamiliar environment.

Many Shanghai Jews migrated to Australia after WWII
and have made significant contributions to the Australian community.

The personal stories told in Crossroads have been gleaned
from these people and their families,
many of whom generously shared their personal stories
and loaned artefacts for the exhibition.

Fred Gunsberger, who now lives in Sydney's inner West,
escaped Nazism in Austria
and his story of escape is now told in the Crossroads exhibition.

Fred lived in the Hong Kew ghetto in Shanghai
where there was poor sanitation and overcrowded conditions.

Artefacts relating to Fred's journey from Austria and his new life in Shanghai
are on display in the exhibition,
including the trunk brought from Austria by Fred's wife to be, Sabine Sandberg.

Fred took with him prized possessions such as
his Austrian national costume jacket and tools for his work as a chemist in Vienna,
in order to gain work in Shanghai.

The artefacts highlight the different origins of the Shanghai Jews,
including Sephardic, Russian and central European refugees.

The rich silk, ivory and silver artefacts on display represent
the wealth of the Baghdadi (Sephardic) Jews,
many of whom created great empires in Shanghai in the early 1900s.

Others came from Russia escaping pogroms and re-built comfortable lifestyles.

The exhibition also displays a rare exit visa,
tools of trade and small momentoes of Jewish life in Europe
that were brought by European Jews to Shanghai.

Artefacts such as a Jewish prayer shawl with an ornate Chinese embroidered cover
and Chinese silver Kiddush cups
reflect the exotic combination of cultures that met in Shanghai.

Inspired by Chinese art and architecture,
the designers Desmond Freeman & Associates
created a rich red and gold backdrop for beautiful artefacts and a fascinating history.

Visitors can pause in the vintage-style cinema
to watch a film featuring interviews with Shanghai Jews now living in Australia,
or explore the personal stories on the CD Rom The Menorah of Fang Bang Lu.

A walk through Crossroads is a colourful and theatrical journey
from the Shanghai Bund
to the narrow streets of the Jewish settlement of the Hong Kew ghetto.
Enthusiastic guides wandering through
may enrich your experience of the exhibition and the Museum,
with their own stories of the Holocaust.

Crossroads is open at the Sydney Jewish Museum until the end of March 2002.

All are welcome for the annual Open Day, on 27 January 2002, 11am to 5pm.

Admission to the Museum will be free and visitors are invited to enjoy an exciting programme of events including addresses by Miriam Shifreen, Jewish Genealogical Society and Peter Wertheim, Immediate past President of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Special guided tours of Crossroads will be provided for children.

The Sydney Jewish Museum is open 10-4, Monday-Thursday,
10-2 Friday,
11-5 Sunday
at 148 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst,
Phone (02) 9360 7999   email:

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