When you think of where Jews might live you might think of Brooklyn, Israel or Baltimore. A city that certainly didn’t come to mind is Seoul, South Korea. Yet in an April 1989 issue of the Jewish Times, writer Gabriel Levenson covered just that.
Of the 200 or so Jews living in Seoul in 1989, Larry Rosenberg, president of the Seoul Hebrew Congregation, lived with his wife Chong Cha and their three girls. At the time of the article, two of the three Rosenberg girls had had their bat mitzvot in the Seoul synagogue.
Rosenberg escorted Levenson around Seoul, showing him the “physical and spiritual nourishment” that “Jewish visitors can enjoy.”
The services are held at the Youngsan military base, which, Levenson describes, is a drive from the hotel where he stayed but walking distance from another nearby hotel where “traditionally observant worshippers” can stay.
Before attending Shabbat services, Rosenberg and his family introduced Levenson to the “robust, spicy, vegetable-oriented cuisine of the country.” The vegetarian focus of most meals, Levenson explains, makes it easy for Jewish visitors and residents alike to keep kosher while eating out.
The article grants a glimpse into a past age, before globalization introduced the everyday eater to the likes of kimchi and bulgogi.
“[Kimchi] is a combination of highly seasoned and fermented cabbages and radishes which have been pickled in salt bring and stored underground in earthen jars,” writes Levenson, explaining this foreign dish to American readers.