Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Arrival of the Mir Yeshiva Boys from Shanghai – An Interview

5 Towns Jewish Times    by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Their ordeal is well known and well-documented. Students from the Mir Yeshiva escaped the clutches of the Nazis by a hairsbreadth – and went to Kobe, Japan and then spent the war years in Shanghai, China. But how did these Yeshiva boys arrive in the United States? An 18 year old Sally Cohen (now Mrs. Hirsch) traveled with the Mir Yeshiva from Shanghai to the United States. The ship they traveled on was the SS General M.C. Meigs, a US Navy ship. It departed on January 1st, 1949 and arrived on January 24th, 1949. The Mir students and Miss Cohen traveled third class. She shared her experience with the Five Towns Jewish Times.

YH: Mrs. Hirsch, how did you come in contact with the Mir Yeshiva?

SH: While we were in Shanghai – the Mir students gave classes and taught the local Sefardic Jewish community all sorts of Torah classes. They would teach us in the main Sefardic shul in Shanghai. They were single bochurim and they made us all frummer. One of their names was Rabbi Schechter, another Rabbi Borgen.. I don’t remember all their names anymore but many of them became important Rabbis later on in America.

YH: Are you still in touch with any of them?
SH: I did run into them throughout the years, but there is hardly anyone left anymore.
YH: Where did the Mir boys stay?
SH: In Shanghai they lived in a ghetto called Honque. They would come to the Sefardic community often and they had their own minyan for Maariv later in the Sefardic shul.. They also had all their weddings there during the night.
YH: The Japanese had occupied China at the time?
SH: Yes. All the American Mir bochurim had to wear a big A on their clothing.. The British had to wear a B. They called us Naquni – which meant All foreigners in Japanese.. But the Mir boys were all in the Honque. [...]

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