(JTA) — An independent comic book publisher that aims to promote diversity in comics is about to spotlight a historic new character: the Asian-Jewish Leah Ai Tian, AKA “The Last Jewish Daughter of Kaifeng.”
The character is the brainchild of Fabrice Sapolsky, co-founder of the Queens, New York-based FairSquare Comics, which aims to “promote and give more exposure to immigrants, minorities and under-represented creators of the word.” “The Last Jewish Daughter of Kaifeng,” which debuts June 7, is the latest installation of the Intertwined series of comics, which Sapolsky and fellow Frenchman Fred Pham Chuong started in 2017.
Leah, who made a brief appearance in the first Intertwined book, has the ability to manipulate anything water-based and travel through streams — not unlike a certain character in the popular TV show “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
The book tells her complex origin story, which Sapolsky said is meant to “explain the reality of being a minority in a country that does not accept you as a minority.”
At first, Leah lives freely as a Jew in 1970s New York City — she wears a chai necklace, has opened a kosher Chinese restaurant and says her rabbi calls her powers “a blessing” from god. But the reader learns that she had left China to avoid a forced marriage to a mob lord who now terrorizes Kaifeng — a large city in eastern China home to the remnants of the country’s only native Jewish community.
That community, once thought to be at least a few thousand strong, by the time of Leah’s story was thought to be mostly dispersed or assimilated into the non-religious society of the Cultural Revolution. Leah returns home to try to save her parents and bring them to New York, where they could practice their religion freely.
Sapolsky’s interest in the Jewish community in Kaifeng dates back to the 1990s, when he was a teenager and his Jewish camp in France one year held “Kaifeng-themed” activities, meant to educate campers about Chinese Jews.
Born in France to a Sephardic mother from Algeria and an Ashkenazi father with roots in today’s Ukraine, his own background informed his interest in Jewish diversity.
“When working on the original concept of Intertwined, I knew we had to have a Jewish character, and there had never been an Asian Jewish character in comics,” Sapolsky said.
For Sapolsky, it was important to make Leah’s story “real, make it authentic, make it believable.” He talked to consultants about Kaifeng history and culture, making sure even the architecture depicted on the page was realistic.
“The two artists, Fei Chen and Ho Seng Hui, are from China and Malaysia, and never thought about Jews before this project, so they learned while drawing the book,” he said. “Will Torres, a Christian of Puerto Rican descent, helped with the inking, and the coloring was done by Argentines Exequiel Roel and Walter Pereyra.”
The goal of the story was not only to refer to the minority experience in China — but also to the realities in the United States, Sapolsky’s adopted home.
“Unlike in France, where Jews are clearly defined as a minority, in this country they are widely perceived as simply white, which denies the diversity of Judaism,” he said.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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