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Taiwan’s longtime rabbi, whose life brimmed with global intrigue, dies at 103

15 9 1

Ephraim Einhorn, a rabbi and businessman who helmed Taiwan’s fledgling Jewish community after a career that included clandestine missions on behalf of oppressed Jews, has died.

Einhorn’s death on Wednesday morning in Taipei, just hours before the beginning of Yom Kippur, came after an extended illness and weeks of intermittent hospitalizations. He had turned 103 three days earlier.

Einhorn was Taiwan’s first resident rabbi and, for 30 years, the only one to serve the community that now includes an estimated 700 to 800 Jews. He was also a teacher, diplomat, businessman, scholar and father whose personality loomed large.

“He was sometimes impatient with people and could be intimidating. But at the same time you felt underneath that layer there was a great deal of kindness and empathy,” said Don Shapiro, a former president of the Taiwan Jewish Community group, who first met Einhorn in the early 1980s. “So he was a very complex individual. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else even closely like him.”

Einhorn’s life spanned a century of upheaval and renewal for the Jewish people.

Born in Vienna in 1918, he attended several yeshivas across Europe before moving to the United Kingdom. (His parents, who remained in Austria, were murdered by the Nazis.) According to his retelling, he gained admission not by applying in the regular manner, but by impressing rabbis with his mature knowledge and remarkable recall of proverbs his rabbi father encouraged him to memorize when he was young.

After earning both rabbinic ordination and a doctorate in philosophy from a London yeshiva that is now defunct, Einhorn began working with the World Jewish Congress, first in England, and later in the United States, where he simultaneously led several congregations as a rabbi in the late 1940s through the 1950s.

His position with the World Jewish Congress (WJC) included “often-clandestine missions to countries in North Africa and the Middle East to try to help Jewish minority communities facing persecution,” according to AmCham Taipei, an American business group in Taiwan that honored Einhorn in 2016.

On one mission to Iraq in 1951, according to WJC archives, Einhorn posed as a Protestant minister to investigate a group of Iraqi Jews who had allegedly been tortured under the suspicion of being Zionists. Einhorn boasted about the mission to local papers in........

© The Times of Israel

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