Pesach in Taipei, Taiwan

Tuesday, 22 May, 2012 - 8:53 am

Pesach in Taipei, Taiwan

We very much wanted to devote our Pesach break to reaching out and helping fellow Jews connect with Yiddishkeit. We heard that the Chabad Shliach (emissary) in Taipei, Rabbi Shlomi Tabib, was looking for help. We quickly contacted him and volunteered.

Jewish life in Taipei has been undergoing a transformation under the leadership of Rabbi Tabib. Before Rabbi Tabib’s arrival less than a year ago, the local Jews didn’t mingle much with each other, except on certain Jewish holidays and special occasions. In fact, when Rabbi Tabib initially inquired about the size of the Jewish population of Taipei, he was told that there were no more than two-hundred. Since his arrival, Rabbi Tabib has already met several hundred Jewish residents who had previously been unaffiliated with the existing Jewish community. He also tends to the spiritual needs of the scores of Jewish tourists and business travellers who pass through.

We flew to Taiwan on 11 Nissan, which marks the anniversary of the Rebbe’s birthday. Rabbi Tabib met us at the airport, and we were quickly introduced to the new culture when the Rabbi flagged down a taxi and began bargaining with the driver over what must have been less than two Australian dollars. Over the next several days, we helped Rabbi Tabib with Pesach shopping, cooking and preparations.

In the past, the Jewish community in Taiwan would conduct an annual Pesach event at the Sheraton Hotel, although it could not really be described as a Pesach Seder. In fact, the menu at these events typically included such items as bread rolls and swordfish. The assimilated Jewish community simply did not know better.

This Pesach – Rabbi Tabib’s first in Taipei – was very different. Rabbi Tabib arranged for the annual community event to be fully Kosher for Pesach, and he organized Matzah and other traditional Seder foods. To that end, we spent two full days at the Sheraton kitchens, making sure it was Kosher for Pesach, and supervising the chefs. The kitchen staff found all the nuances of Kosher quite confusing. They made a number of mistakes, some of which required us to re-Kosher some parts of the kitchen.

Aside from the community event, Rabbi Tabib arranged another Seder at his home for those interested in a more traditional Seder. On the first night of Pesach, Rabbi Tabib attended the community event and infused it with as much Yiddishkeit as possible. At the same time, we conducted the Seder at Rabbi Tabib’s house for a crowd of Israeli and American businessmen and students. By the end of the evening, even the most nonchalant attendees were enthusiastically singing all the Seder songs.

Since there was no community event the second night, Rabbi Tabib led the Seder at his home. It was amazing to watch the diverse crowd of Americans and Israelis – ranging from company CEOs to college students – merge into one cohesive and joyous group.

The rest of Pesach was focussed on individual outreach with local Jews. Just walking the streets was itself an experience. With our hats and beards and Jewish looks, we did not exactly blend into the crowd of pedestrians. This was a good thing, because we became like walking magnets, attracting many Jews who were so excited to see “Chabadnikim” where they would least expect it. This made our job all the more easier. The non-Jews were curious as well, with many of them taking pictures of us.

This year in Taiwan; next year in Jerusalem!

Shopping for Pesach in Taipei, Taiwan

Outreach in Taipei, Taiwan

Koshering the Sheraton for Pesach in Taipei, Taiwan

Koshering the Sheraton for Pesach in Taipei, Taiwan

Chabad House in Taipei, Taiwan

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