Religion Magazine

Book Review: Pepper, Silk, & Ivory, by Marvin Tokayer and Ellen Rodman PhD

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.
Book Review: Pepper, Silk, & Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East,  by Marvin Tokayer and Ellen Rodman, PhD

I admit that I am basically ignorant about Jews in the Far East. My knowledge of Jews in the Far East is limited to basically the Mir's temporary stay in Shanghai, some other refugees of WWII and the Holocaust who passed through the Far East - mainly Japan, and the existence of a Jewish community in India.
Book Review: Pepper, Silk, & Ivory, by Marvin Tokayer and Ellen Rodman PhDBeyond that? In my mind, Jews just did not seem to live there, except perhaps as businessman passing through. And theories of the Ten Lost Tribes.
After reading Pepper, Silk, & Ivory, I see that I was clearly extremely ignorant of communities that at one time were thriving in the Far East, and of extremely significant and important people and the roles they played in various communities and governments in that part of the world.
Pepper, Silk, & Ivory is well researched, with Rabbi Tokayer having served in Japan as a US Army Chaplain, and then later as rabbi to the Far East communities. Tokayer was connected to many communities and people, and seems to have spent much time learning their history.
This is a fascinating book with descriptions of fascinating people and fascinating communities, and the stories he tells of those people and communities are , simply, fascinating. For example, someone named "Two-Gun Cohen" who was a general in the Chinese army, a baseball player from the US who was a spy in Japan, women like Laura Margolis, Bate ordon and others who were influential leaders, ancient Jewish communities in China and India, a synagogue in Rangoon that had 126 Torah scrolls, a community where they did not know what day on which to observe Shabbos, Jewish prime Ministers, a Jewish guru who started her own ashram and religion, someone Indira Gandhi said mazel tov to, and so many more. There are communities described in the book that I never head of before, in countries I never heard of before.
One thing in particular - the 126 Torahs in Rangoon was a touching story. A custom is described where the community regularly had the family members who donated Torahs in memory of family members stand with their Torah and describe to other community members who that loved one was and talk about them, making the Torah scrolls more personally connected to the community, rather than just faceless scrolls with unknown names on the "mantle". I would like to see such a custom adopted elsewhere, perhaps everywhere. It sounds like such a nice touch to a community.
Pepper, Silk & Ivory is a book that should be included in the study of Jewish history, or it should at least be a base for further study of the history of Jewish communities. The Jewish bookshelf is far richer because of this book. It is a shame that many of these people, who accomplished so much on behalf of their communities, the Jewish people at large, and the world at large, remain so unknown and anonymous to most of us. At least in Pepper, Silk, & Ivory, some of them are somewhat immortalized forever.
buy Pepper, Silk, & Ivory on Gefen Publishing
buy Pepper, Silk, & Ivory on Amazon.com

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.


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Book Review: Pepper, Silk, & Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East,  by Marvin Tokayer and Ellen Rodman, PhD

I admit that I am basically ignorant about Jews in the Far East. My knowledge of Jews in the Far East is limited to basically the Mir's temporary stay in Shanghai, some other refugees of WWII and the Holocaust who passed through the Far East - mainly Japan, and the existence of a Jewish community in India.
Book Review: Pepper, Silk, & Ivory, by Marvin Tokayer and Ellen Rodman PhDBeyond that? In my mind, Jews just did not seem to live there, except perhaps as businessman passing through. And theories of the Ten Lost Tribes.
After reading Pepper, Silk, & Ivory, I see that I was clearly extremely ignorant of communities that at one time were thriving in the Far East, and of extremely significant and important people and the roles they played in various communities and governments in that part of the world.
Pepper, Silk, & Ivory is well researched, with Rabbi Tokayer having served in Japan as a US Army Chaplain, and then later as rabbi to the Far East communities. Tokayer was connected to many communities and people, and seems to have spent much time learning their history.
This is a fascinating book with descriptions of fascinating people and fascinating communities, and the stories he tells of those people and communities are , simply, fascinating. For example, someone named "Two-Gun Cohen" who was a general in the Chinese army, a baseball player from the US who was a spy in Japan, women like Laura Margolis, Bate ordon and others who were influential leaders, ancient Jewish communities in China and India, a synagogue in Rangoon that had 126 Torah scrolls, a community where they did not know what day on which to observe Shabbos, Jewish prime Ministers, a Jewish guru who started her own ashram and religion, someone Indira Gandhi said mazel tov to, and so many more. There are communities described in the book that I never head of before, in countries I never heard of before.
One thing in particular - the 126 Torahs in Rangoon was a touching story. A custom is described where the community regularly had the family members who donated Torahs in memory of family members stand with their Torah and describe to other community members who that loved one was and talk about them, making the Torah scrolls more personally connected to the community, rather than just faceless scrolls with unknown names on the "mantle". I would like to see such a custom adopted elsewhere, perhaps everywhere. It sounds like such a nice touch to a community.
Pepper, Silk & Ivory is a book that should be included in the study of Jewish history, or it should at least be a base for further study of the history of Jewish communities. The Jewish bookshelf is far richer because of this book. It is a shame that many of these people, who accomplished so much on behalf of their communities, the Jewish people at large, and the world at large, remain so unknown and anonymous to most of us. At least in Pepper, Silk, & Ivory, some of them are somewhat immortalized forever.
buy Pepper, Silk, & Ivory on Gefen Publishing
buy Pepper, Silk, & Ivory on Amazon.com

NOTE: I was not paid to review this book. It is an unbiased and objective review. If you have a book with Jewish or Israel related content and would like me to write a review, contact me for details of where to send me a review copy of the book.


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