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In partnership with the Museum at Eldridge Street, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is thrilled to introduce its distinguished MOCA TALKS speaker, Scott D. Seligman. He will discuss his riveting book Murder in Manchuria: The True Story of a Jewish Virtuoso, Russian Fascists, a French Diplomat, and a Japanese Spy in Occupied China. Venture into an enigmatic, unsolved murder set against the backdrop of a turbulent China on the cusp of World War II. The narrative unravels in Manchuria, sometimes referred to as China’s “Wild East,” highlighting the explosive mix of nationalities, religions, and ideologies. Central to the story is the tragic account of Semyon Kaspé, a promising Jewish musician. His abduction, torture, and eventual murder at the hands of antisemitic White Russians reveals deeper conspiracies, as they secretly follow the directives of their Japanese military overlords, drawn by Kaspé family wealth. As local authorities dawdle in their pursuit of the kidnappers, a tenacious French diplomat takes charge, embarking on a quest for justice.
Blending the allure of a cold-case investigation with a deep dive into social history, Seligman offers a vibrant portrayal of the twenty thousand Jews who made Harbin their sanctuary in the early twentieth century. With masterful storytelling, he chronicles their arrival, hasty exodus, and ultimately, solves a crime that has perplexed historians for decades.
This virtual talk is presented in partnership with the Museum at Eldridge Street.
The Museum at Eldridge Street is housed in the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue. Built in 1887, it is an architectural marvel and a symbol of immigrant aspirations realized. The building is the first grand synagogue purpose-built by Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the United States, and was nearly lost to neglect before the Museum’s 20-year, $20 million restoration project returned the space to glory and for public use as a 21st-century Museum in present day Chinatown. Exhibits, tours, public programs, and education tell the story of Jewish immigrant life, explore architecture and historic preservation, inspire reflection on cultural continuity, and foster collaboration and exchange between people of all faiths, heritages, and interests
Scott D. Seligman is a national award-winning writer with special interest in both Jewish and Chinese history. A former corporate executive, he spent much of his career in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, is fluent in Mandarin and reads and writes Chinese. He has also worked as a legislative assistant to a member of the U.S. Congress, lobbied the Chinese government on behalf of American business, managed a multinational public relations agency in China, served as spokesperson and communications director for a Fortune 50 company and taught English in Taiwan and Chinese in Washington, DC. He holds an undergraduate degree in American history from Princeton and a master’s degree from Harvard.
He has written four books on early Chinese-American history, including Tong Wars: The Untold Story of Vice, Money and Murder in New York’s Chinatown and The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo. And his first Jewish-themed book, The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902, won gold medals in the 2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards and the 202-21 Reader Views Literary Awards and was a finalist in the 2020 National Jewish Book Awards.