I took Dvir's tour of Jewish Shanghai at the beginning of a 10 day stay in the city, and it haunted me the entire time I was there. A dear colleague of mine (now deceased) had told me the story of how his family escaped the Holocaust by moving to Shanghai, and how he grew up in the city as a child, but I was never able to really wrap my head around it. I travel the world often for work and have visited many of the historic sites relating to the Jewish experience in Europe and South America, but somehow the Shanghai tour escaped me even though this was my third visit to the city. Besides the fascinating stories, perhaps the best part of this tour is Dvir himself. He is from Israel and has lived in Shanghai for about 15 years. He was originally a journalist, and he has a very special way of delving into his subject and looking at it from every possible angle. He's extremely smart, funny, a fabulous storyteller, and his tours are very interactive. Dvir constantly challenged the group by asking us questions, which forced us to rethink things that we may have taken for granted. We were not just passive observers listening to a lecture and being shown the sights. Dvir has a burning passion for his subject, and it is palpable. He's obviously done this tour many times, but he made us feel like this was a special experience for him too. Several members of our group were not Jewish, and it is definitely not a requirement to be Jewish for this tour! I found that it helped me see the city in a different way for the rest of my visit, viewing it through the lens of the Jews that thrived here from the 19th century until Mao's "Great Leap Forward" around 1958.
In addition to the Jewish Shanghai tour, Dvir also does a "From the very old to the very new" tour of Shanghai, and also a "Shanghai's weekend special" tour, including a visit to the open air "marriage market," which I saw on my own, but surely could have used an insider to explain it to me. I will be returning to Shanghai for work every July for the next few years, and will definitely take both of these tours next time I go. There is probably no city in the world that is changing as rapidly as Shanghai, but Dvir has his finger on the pulse of what makes this fascinating and bewildering city tick.