Seemingly there is a real tension in Shanghai's
Tilanqiao district. The tension is between
competing interests: historic significance versus
a rapidly growing urban population (in need of
housing and basic communal amenities) versus
businesses looking to expand and cash in on the plethora of
potential opportunities. At the center of the debate over land
use and redevelopment lies the fate of what was once the
Shanghai Jewish Ghetto.
But Shanghai is a city where the tension between sharp
contrasts defines its beauty, where old and new clash to create
something entirely one-of-a-kind, something wholly Shanghai.
Urban growth is often dramatic and the only certainty
often is rapid change. While much of Tilanqiao is rundown
and ramshackle, its notable features include Ohel Moishe
Synagogue, Tilanqiao Prison, Xiahai Temple, Wayside Park
(today's Huoshan Park), the former site of the American Jewish
Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish Settlement in
Ward Road (today's Changyang Road) and the Mascot Roof
Garden. The Ohel Moishe Synagogue, established in 1907,
already recently underwent its own massive renovation and
was re-opened to the public in 2008. It now serves as the
Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and is a true monument
to the friendship between the Jews and the Chinese who
called Hongkou home.
A collaborative project launched in October 2010 is now
well underway to develop a conservation plan for the former
ghetto, within the context and reality of Shanghai's rapid
urban development. The participating students from Tel Aviv
University and from Shanghai's Tongji Urban Planning and
Design Institute of Tongji University will soon present their
proposed designs at a joint forum in Shanghai in October
2011. At the forum, their projects will be presented to the local
government as well as to the general public.
At their heart, the students' designs reflect the understanding
of the historic significance of the former Jewish Ghetto in
Shanghai. While urban renewal can sometimes result in the demolition and destruction of entire neighborhoods and
a burying of the past, the proposed designs reflect a real
sensitivity to the historical significance of the ghetto. But what
really is the value of the memory of approximately 30,000 Jews
who left the city sixty years ago, after inhabiting the ghetto
for a period of time that spanned no more than 16 years, in a
country of one billion with a history that spans from ancient
times to the present? Well, as the popularity of the former
ghetto as a tourist attraction continues to grow, there is a
real economic value that is perhaps easier to quantify than
the value of sentiment, but the importance of this area in the
collective memory of the Chinese of Hongkou and the former
Jewish residents who lived among them can't be dismissed.
This ghetto was not like the infamous ghettos of Europe where
Jews were rounded up and forced to live in squalid conditions
only to await transport to death camps. The Shanghai Ghetto,
though conditions were certainly far from ideal, was a safe
haven that saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews
with literally nowhere else in the world to go to escape the
horrors of Europe. Shanghai was the last open port and its
established Jewish community mobilized to meet the needs
of their brethren as the already crowded city, hit by wartime
shortages and serious deprivations, swelled overnight.
The Jewish refugees lived side-by-side with their Chinese
neighbors and together they weathered the harsh realities of
life in a war-ravaged city and Japanese occupation. It is a story
of true friendship and cooperation between two peoples even
in the most adverse of conditions.
There is an incredible sense of responsibility on the part of
the collaborative team and its visionary leaders that include
Dr. Wang Jun, Architect, Chief Researcher at Shanghai's
Tongji Urban Planning and Design Institute, Tongji University
and Professor Moshe Margalith, Architect, UNESCO Chair on
Modern Heritage and Head of the Tel Aviv Institute for Study
and Research of Architecture, Tel Aviv University. Ultimately,
the upcoming October forum to be held in Shanghai anticipates
the official foundation of the Sino Jewish Innovation Center in
Shanghai that will promote the continuation of the cooperation between the Chinese and Jewish people. The Institute will
lead with the theme "learning from the past looking forward to
the future" and will present the continuous and unique role of
Shanghai as a multi-cultural city, a center where dialogue and
understanding between diverse peoples is evident.
The founders of the Sino Jewish Innovation Center also hope
to encourage the responsible conservation of the entire
area. A "mixed use" environment is envisioned consisting of
residential, business, tourism and commerce. This "mixed use"
concept actually mirrors the world of the former Jewish ghetto.
According to Hila Sofrin, one of the students participating in
the project from the Tel Aviv University team, "This notion
existed very much so in the days of the Jewish Ghetto. The
Jews brought with them the cafes from Austria and many other
institutes of education and culture."
The titles of the Tel Aviv University students' work alone speak
to the complexity of the task at hand, "Slated for Demolition"
by Adi Mor, "Small touch big difference" by Oded Narkis,
"MiroShanghai" by Erez Gross & Dori Sadan, and "redefining
0.00+" by Hila Sofrin. In their briefs they discuss the competing
forces at work and the delicate balances between modernity
and history, technology and authenticity, and Chinese and
European influences that the ultimate design will need to
encompass. In the true spirit of multi-cultural cooperation
and sensitivity, the Tel Aviv student team indicated that, "the
Chinese propositions tried to embed Jewish aspects into
their projects and the Israeli propositions tried to embed the
Chinese spirit into their projects." Each project raises different
questions regarding conservation, modernity, community and
urbanism but all reflect common ground and unified visions
achieved through the yearlong multi-disciplinary research of the
area's historic and contemporary populations. This research
broadened the Chinese and Israeli teams' understanding that
the redevelopment of Tilanqiao is not just about places but is
about people, their culture, values and heritage.
From the students' designs (clockwise)
by Hila Sofrin, Adi Mor, Adi Mor, Adi Mor
Together the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research
for the Asia and the Pacific Region (WHITRAP), Tangji University,
Tel Aviv University and the Zalman Shazar Center will jointly
study all the proposals for the conservation plan. Throughout
2012, the joint cooperative will move forward with the
formulation of strategic planning for the Ghetto's conservation
and the foundation of the Sino Jewish Innovation Center in
the former ghetto area. By the end of 2012, an exhibition of
the Ghetto's past and future will feature in Beit Hatfutsot, the
Diaspora Museum on the campus of Tel Aviv University.
Proposed designs by Oded Narkis
Ultimately a development plan will be created that will aim
to blend the modern, urban landscape with the historical
and the East with the West and will combine elements of all
the proposed designs. Whereas previous proposals for the
redevelopment of the area have not gone forward, Ms. Sofrin
reflects the collaborative teams' view that, "cooperation of
Jews and Chinese might just be the solution."
|In spite of the project's noticeable achievements, the
financing is rather difficult. Contributions to this project
should be extended to the order of: Tel Aviv University,
Prof. Moshe Margalith, Head Tel Aviv Institute, Shanghai
Ghetto Project. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.