Sunday, June 28, 2015

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: The Talmud is a Best-Seller in South Korea


Last week The New Yorker published a fascinating article about the Talmud being a best-seller in South Korea, finding a place in most homes.

According to the author, Ross Arbes, who studied the Talmud in a day school in Atlanta, the Talmud's presence in Korea is attributable to Marvin Tokayer, a 78-year-old rabbi who lives in Great Neck, New York.

In 1962, Rabbi Tokayer served as an Air Force chaplain in Japan and South Korea, and returned to Tokyo in 1968 as the rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan.

In the June 23 issue of The New Yorker, Arbes writes:
In 2011, the South Korean Ambassador to Israel at the time, Young-sam Ma, was interviewed on the Israeli public-television show “Culture Today.” “I wanted to show you this,” he told the host, straying briefly from the topic at hand, a Korean film showing in Tel Aviv.
It was a white paperback book with “Talmud” written in Korean and English on the cover, along with a cartoon sketch of a Biblical character with a robe and staff. “Each Korean family has at least one copy of the Talmud. Korean mothers want to know how so many Jewish people became geniuses.”
Looking up at the surprised host, he added, “Twenty-three per cent of Nobel Prize winners are Jewish people. Korean women want to know the secret. They found the secret in this book.”
Here is a clip from the interview:

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