A Handbag Awaiting Its Owner



A Handbag Awaiting Its Owner

According to Jin Wenzhen’s memoir published on Xinmin Evening News on May 29, 2015, her grandfather opened a rice store on East Changzhi Road (formerly East Seward Road) and the number was something above 500. The neighborhood had many poor Jews who often came to their store to borrow rice and flour. “As my grandfather was very friendly with the Jews, and took pity on them feeling that they were even worse off than the local Chinese, my grandfather would give them whatever they asked for. Sometimes, he did not require the borrower to sign an IOU. Some Jews had failed to pay back, but he was not upset. He would even give them other help, including necessities free of charge.”


One evening in 1940, it was dark and raining, and a worried Jewish couple came to Mr. Jin’s store, carrying a kid with a high fever. Obviously, the kid was seriously ill and had to go to the hospital, but they could not afford to pay the fee. They asked Mr. Jin for help, and gave him a beautiful handbag as a guarantee. “They told my grandfather that the handbag was a family treasure, and they would redeem it as soon as they had enough money.” Mr. Jin gave them a big sum of cash, which amounted to one month’s income of the store. He had never seen them again. “My grandfather was concerned about the kid, and hoped that the money he had given the couple could save the kid.”


More than 10 years later, Mr. Jin gave the handbag to Jin Wenzhen, asking her to take good care of it as it was the treasure of a Jewish family. As she got older, Jin Wenzhen thought more and more of looking for the Jewish family. She believed that displaying the handbag at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum would help her find the offspring of the Jewish couple.


“It is too old, so the threads were bare. The beads on a thread on the outside of the bag fell as the thread broke.” Jin Wenzhen also found with surprise a silver bracelet in the bag. After she brought the worn handbag and the bracelet to the Museum, the staff connected with China Silk Museum in Hangzhou which promised to repair the bag free of charge after hearing its story. 


So, the bag regained its splendor after 75 years. It is waiting to go back to the hands of its original owner, which is the wish of Jin Wenzhen and her grandfather.