When I met Sara Imas, I was immediately amused by her high engery level and felt that she has so much passion about life and people in Shanghai.  The more I gets to know her, the more suprises I got. 

Sara’s father Leiwi Imas was the President of Shanghai’s Jewish Club. In 1939, at the age of 43,  to escape Adolf Hitler’s holocaust, Leiwi arrived in Shanghai among the more than 30,000 other displaced Jews that floated into the city between 1937 and 1939. With no money in pocket, he sold his only gold watch and opened a small bakery on the city’s French concession.  By the 1940s  he owned a dozen businesses, including two bakeries, three wine shops, a carpet shop and a truck-rental firm.  In Shanghai, he married to a Polish woman and had Sara as her only daughter.

Leiwi Imas chose to stay in China when most other Jewish refugees left after World War II.  At an old age, the businessman, customs officer and ex-president of the Jewish Club in Shanghai died peacefully in a downtown villa in 1962.

His daughter, Sara Imas, grew up among her Chinese peers without a Chinese passport, speaking only Mandarin with a local accent. After living through upheavals in Chinese history, including the “cultural revolution” (1966-76), and failing to find love despite three failed marriages to local men, in each of these three marriages, she had one child. With 2 teenage sons and one younger daughter, she migrated to Israel in 1991 at the age of 41 and made a living selling spring rolls.

Once there, the Jewish woman, who lacks a college degree, demonstrated an amazing ability to provide for herself and family:

She learned to speak fluent English and Hebrew, found a job in an Israeli court, sent her three children to Israeli colleges, returned to Shanghai 10 years later as the chief representative of a diamond firm to the Greater China area, and married a local government official. All of her 3 children also become very successful in life and business.

To learn more about Shanghai’s Jewish history, click here.