Jewish refugees arrive in San Francisco from Shanghai on the USS General M.C. Meigs, 1949 (Photo/Courtesy U.C. Berkeley Bancroft Library)
Jewish refugees arrive in San Francisco from Shanghai on the USS General M.C. Meigs, 1949 (Photo/Courtesy U.C. Berkeley Bancroft Library)

75 years ago this week: San Francisco was ‘Port of Hope’ for Jewish refugees from Shanghai

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In the Aug. 15, 1947 edition of what was then called the Jewish Community Bulletin, we wrote that San Francisco “within the last year … has become the port of hope to more than 2,000 refugees who have come through San Francisco from Shanghai on their way to new homes and new lives.”

The article detailed a visit by an official from the United Service for New Americans, one of the many organizations at the time set up to aid the influx of Jewish refugees into the United States.

“It is through those organizations — USNA nationally and the San Francisco Committee locally — that emigres who have spent years in the Shanghai ghetto under Japanese rule are received here and helped on their way to new homes throughout the country,” we wrote.

In the same issue, we wrote about a new series of USNA-provided visas for Jews in Shanghai.

“The men, women and children who will immigrate with visas based on the agency’s affidavit are a part of a group of some 14,000 refugees who fled Central and Eastern European countries before the war, to escape the nazis [sic]. They were stranded later in Japan and China, and interned by the Japanese in Shanghai after Pearl Harbor Day.

On arrival in San Francisco the newcomers will be provided with a complete program of reception, shelter, maintenance, and resettlement services by United Service, working in cooperation with the San Francisco Committee for Emigres, the San Francisco Section of the National Council of Jewish Women and HIAS,” the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Many of the Shanghailanders, as they were known, stayed in San Francisco and Northern California. We’ve written about them before, including the once-robust community around Congregation B’nai Emunah in San Francisco (now part of Am Tikvah). Now their numbers are dwindling, but their voices are still being heard in the pages of J.

(The first article, back in 1947, was written by Rita Semel, who celebrated her 100th birthday last year. Besides being a reporter for this paper and the San Francisco Chronicle, Semel has been a longtime Jewish leader with the San Francisco Interfaith Council and is the subject of a new biography.)

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.