27 October 2009

China: Kaifeng Jews arrive in Israel

A group of seven descendants of China's Kaifeng Jewish community has moved to Israel with the help of Shavei Israel, according to this report.

Kaifeng was home to a Jewish community for more than 1,000 years.
"I am very excited to be here in the Holy Land," said Yaakov Wang, one of the new immigrants. "This is something that my ancestors dreamed about for generations, and now thank G-d I have finally made it."

Wang said that he eventually hopes to become a rabbi, so that one day he can help other Kaifeng Jewish descendants to learn more about their heritage.
Shavei Israel chair Michael Freund said it took more than two years to get the Interior Ministry to grant special permits for a one-year tourist visas, as they prepare for conversion. Following conversion they will receive citizenship. The group is staying at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, near Beit Shean, where they will study in the Hebrew ulpan.

Said Freund, "This is an historic event. Kaifeng's Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people, and it is very moving to see the remnants of this community returning to their roots."

At its peak, during the Middle Ages, Kaifeng Jewry numbered about 5,000 people. But widespread intermarriage and assimilation, as well as the death of the community's last rabbi, brought about its demise by the middle of the 19th century.

Scholars say there are still hundreds of people in Kaifeng who cling to their identity as descendants of the city's Jewish community. In recent years, a growing number have begun to express an interest in studying Jewish history and culture.

Persian Jewish merchants were among the founders of Kaifeng. The ancient synagogue, in preserved drawings, indicates inscriptions in Hebrew, Farsi and Chinese. The rabbi was called "ustad" or master (Farsi). Ancestral stones indicate some Persian given names.

Tracing the Tribe hopes some of them want to open a real Chinese restaurant in Tel Aviv.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:25 AM

    You know what you get when you subtract the Chinese calendar year from the Jewish calendar year?

    1,063 years that Jewish people had to wait for Chinese food.