This fine, surprising addition to the history of the Jewish people awakens readers from the Eurocentric and Near East visions of Jewish culture and influence. Researched by Rabbi Tokayer over many decades and narrated in his voice, the stories are wonderfully varied. Many focus on the achievements of important individuals while others uncover pockets of Jewish community life in unexpected places. Everywhere, the authors evidence their great passion for their subject.
Not many people know that Polish-born Morris Abraham Cohen, who grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home in London, was awarded the rank of general by Chiang Kai-shek for his great contributions to China’s nation building during the 1920s. More may have heard of Moe Berg, the Jewish major leaguer who spied in Japan on behalf of the United States. But how many have heard of the once-thriving, influential Jewish community in Burma that had a major synagogue with 126 Torahs? Or of Wolf Ladejinsky’s efforts that helped modernize agriculture across Asia? . . .
To read the full review, as it appears on the Jewish Book Council’s web site and will appear in a future issue of the council’s fine journal, Jewish Book World, click here: Pepper, Silk & Ivory by Marvin Tokayer and Ellen Rodman | Jewish Book Council