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25 October 2010

The Jews of Kobe Japan

One of the signs that the Knowles Collection is continuing to grow is the locations where records are coming from. Today, the records of a family who at one time resided in Kobe, Japan arrived on my desk.
It is not at all surprising that Jews would have been in Kobe, as it has been a major port city for about 700 years. Anywhere you have a major port, merchants and traders are sure to be close behind. The first Jews arrived in Japan the 1860's, when Japan was opened to merchants from the west.

The majority of those first Jews lived in Yokohama, then Nagasaki. Nagasaki was a major port for those involved in Russian trade, which caused it to be the largest Jewish community into the 1900's. Kobe became a large Jewish community after 1923 when a major earthquake hit Yokohama.

The Jews of Kobe, was a mixture of groups. There were Sephardic Jews from Baghdad and Syria. The Sassoons were part of this group. The Ashkenazic Jews from Russia and Poland also had their community.

Kobe became a safe haven for those who were fleeing Poland and Lithuania. Those refugees were on their way to Curacao (see earlier post on Curacao). They were allowed to stop in Kobe as long as they needed, and most never left for Curacao, however many settled in Shanghai. the Jewish population of Shanghai, approached 20,000 people during World War II.

These Jews of Kobe will be part of the Jews of Africa and the Orient database as they are added.

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